“So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, ‘Up! Get out of this place, for the LORD is about to destroy the city.’ But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting.” Genesis 19:14
When Lot warned his sons-in-law about the coming destruction of wicked Sodom, they laughed because they did not think he was serious. Since Lot seemed to be jesting, they did not act upon his exhortation to flee the city of destruction.
We might speculate about why they thought Lot’s warning was a joke. The text, of course, doesn’t tell us, but several possibilities emerge with a moment’s consideration.
Lot’s sons-in-law may not have been serious men. Some men are incapable of having a discussion unless sarcasm and ridicule are invited. No topics—election or reprobation, heaven or hell, the reality of eternity, the certainty of a coming judgment day—make humor inappropriate in their eyes. “Let the conversation be light,” they say. “I like his preaching,” says another, “because he has such a good sense of humor.” “No hellfire and brimstone. Keep the people laughing.” Did Lot’s sons-in-law laugh when the city went up in flames?
Another possibility is that Lot’s sons-in-law may have been incredulous about the place of such fanciful subjects in friendly conversation. Levity is a likely response to (perceived) fantasy. Lot can’t be serious. How could anyone be so foolish to believe that there is a righteous God in heaven who is angry with the wicked every day (Psalm 7:11) and will bring sure and certain judgment in his own time? They may have doubted that God would judge Sodom seeing as there were other cities that were guilty of immorality that did not meet the same fate and considering that Sodom had enjoyed its sin for so long making it seem improbable that it would come to such ruin.
We cannot but think that Lot himself may not have been convincing in the way that he addressed his sons-in-law. Was Lot persuaded in his heart that the report of the angels was true? When he does leave the city, he lingers, which may indicate his indecision in the matter (Genesis 19:16). Perhaps there was something about Lot’s tone that betrayed his lack of assurance. Lot himself may have been known for telling jokes. His sons-in-law simply may have thought that he was up to his usual antics.
Although we may speculate to no avail concerning why Lot’s sons-in-laws thought he was jesting, we can say with certainty that the reason that they did not flee the wicked city but perished in it along with the other sinners is because they did not think the coming judgment was to be taken seriously. If sinners do not think that we are serious in our warnings about the coming judgment, then they will not respond in repentance and faith.
There is no doubt that some sinners are foolish people who seem incapable of talking about eternity for even a single moment. But if we shall spend eternity in either heaven or hell, the subject deserves more than a moment’s reflection.
Others are unwilling to take such solemn subjects as anything more than the punch line of a bad joke. Everything is trivial to them. Laughter is commonplace among the sons of men; trembling is a rare virtue even among the sons of God.
Many are the occasions when preachers do not warn with the earnestness becoming the man of God who is convinced that God will do as he has said. Sodom is wicked, and its destruction is not asleep. Yet the preacher does not seem to believe what he preaches. David Hume was once asked why he listened to the preaching of George Whitefield even though Hume did not believe. Hume responded, “He does.”
When we believe in the reality of the coming judgment (for the destruction of Sodom is an example of what shall happen to all the ungodly, 2 Peter 2:6), sinners will know that our warnings are not jokes but passionate pleas for them to flee the city of destruction and come to Christ in whom there is deliverance and life. But do we seem to them to be joking?