How should we report about Justin Bieber, Kanye West and other cases of well-known personalities who are considering the Christian faith?
The Bible never ducks sexual issues. Within its pages you will find stories of adultery, rape, and, as here with Lot’s daughters, incest. These subjects are dealt with openly, but always in a matter-of-fact way and never sensationally.
I don’t know how it is in other countries, but in Britain it seems that the soap operas on TV need to find story lines that are ever more lurid, violent or sexual, in order to attract viewers to watch them.
They start out by claiming to be a record of the everyday lives of ordinary people, but end up featuring events which are far from everyday and which most of us might come across once or twice in a lifetime. But there again, if your or my everyday life was turned into a TV soap opera, would it really be interesting enough to persuade large numbers of people to watch it?
Much of the Bible also is a record of the everyday lives of ordinary people, but with a difference – these ordinary people had encounters with the living God, and that changed everything. For some of them, this encounter had a very positive effect – we could think of Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and so many more. But for others, the outcome was far from positive – and Lot’s two daughters fall into that category.
All that we know about Lot’s daughters from the Bible is in Genesis 19. They and their father were the only three survivors from God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and their narrow escape so traumatised them – especially their father – that they went and lived in a cave in the mountains, well away from human society. After a time, like so many women, they reached an age where they really wanted children – but there were no eligible men in sight for them.
So they devised a plan: they got their father drunk one night and the older daughter slept with him, then the next night they got him drunk again and then the younger daughter slept with him. Lot was so inebriated on both occasions that he had no awareness whatsoever of what had happened. Nevertheless, both women became pregnant; nine months later they each gave birth to a son; and these boys grew up to become the fathers of the Moabite and Ammonite nations.
I remember as a young Christian our pastor, an older, rather conservative man, preaching a sermon series on Leviticus. When he came to the chapters on prohibited sexual behaviour, he said rather provocatively to his congregation, many of whom were much more conservative than him, “You may ask me, ‘How explicit will I be on these sexual matters?’ Well, I will be as explicit as the Bible – and that will be too explicit for some of you!”
The Bible never ducks sexual issues. Within its pages you will find stories of adultery, murder as a result of a sexual triangle, rape and, as here with Lot’s daughters, incest. These subjects are dealt with openly, but always in a matter-of-fact way and never sensationally. The focus is always on the consequences of actions, which seem not to have been taken into consideration by Lot’s daughters.
Leaving aside the possibility of disabled children being produced through an incestuous union – for it seems at that time that not so many genetic impurities had entered the human race – the consequences of these women’s actions were disastrous. They were probably delighted that they both had a son to nurture and to preserve their family line. But 4,000 years later, the shame of what they did remains upon them – and upon their father too, for he was far from innocent, allowing himself to get paralytically drunk not once, but on two consecutive nights.
Sexual immorality occurs at many levels, ranging from the breaking of almost universally accepted taboos such as incest, to the committed sexual relationship outside marriage which is now widely accepted in Western society.
Whatever the level, for Christians who have tasted something of God’s goodness and holiness, it so often brings deep shame, even disgust. We can feel dirty, unworthy, impure, but are ashamed to bring the matter out into the open; therefore it often remains hidden, festering away, destroying the vitality of our relationship with our heavenly Father.
The consequences of the sexual immorality of Lot’s daughters also stretched way beyond their own lifetimes. For in due course, the nations which their sons fathered became bitter enemies and stumbling blocks to God’s people, the Israelites (see e.g. Numbers 25, Judges 11, 2 Samuel 10, 2 Kings 24:2, Zephaniah 2:8). It is with same with us today: the effects of one person’s sexual immorality are capable of being transmitted through the family line and polluting generations of their descendants.
Thankfully, that is not the end of the story for us. The blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sin. And if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will not only forgive us our sins but also purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:7,9).
Through Jesus, we can make a new start, whatever we have done or thought in the past, and we can pass on a positive inheritance to our children and to future generations.