The Issue with Isolation
“For two of his five years in a Vietnamese POW camp, Senator John McCain was locked in a tiny isolation cell, cut off from all human contact. He was beaten regularly and then denied adequate medical treatment for two broken arms, a broken leg, and chronic dysentery. But for McCain something was far worse than physical pain—the pain of isolation. McCain said, ‘[Isolation] crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment.’
Medical doctor Atul Gawande points to McCain's experience and then describes a study of nearly 150 U.S. naval aviators who returned from imprisonment in Vietnam: they reported that social isolation was as agonizing as any abuse they had suffered. But what happened to them was physical. EEG studies going back to the 1960s have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement
Some prisoners whose only social contact was a food tray shoved through a slot became catatonic or developed autistic features. … Still others had panic attacks or became extraordinarily aggressive. These symptoms suggest neurological damage. Neuroimaging studies confirm that isolation creates the same level of activity in the brain as does physical distress; the neural signs of social pain look a lot like the signals created by physical pain. Even months after they were released, MRIs of prisoners of war in the former Yugoslavia showed the gravest neurological damage in those prisoners who had been locked in solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic head injury.”
Source: Adapted from Susan Pinker, The Village Effect, (Spiegel and Grau, 2014), pg. 100-101.
Family Life, Weekend To Remember
Judy and I have attended the Weekend To Remember for many years now
It’s a great way for us to stay connected to the Lord and to each other
“If couples are not intentionally moving toward oneness, their marriages will drift toward isolation.” [Weekend To Remember Manual, 20]
“The goal of marriage is not isolation; it’s oneness.” [Weekend To Remember Manual, 20]
The natural drift toward isolation
Romantic phase (dating or honeymoon)
Reality phase (honeymoon or early marriage)
Renovation phase (working over our spouse to adapt to their own preferences)
Retaliation phase (resentment and bitterness turn into hurtful words and actions)
Rejection phase (emotional separation or divorce)
The path to oneness . . . leads to hope
God’s purpose for marriage
God’s plan for marriage
God’s power for marriage
God’s process for marriage
God’s product for marriage
Our desire and goal as a married couple is to intentionally move toward oneness
How have we experienced isolation in our lives?
What has that isolation done to us?
We may not think clearly
We may make decisions that we would not otherwise make
We can become irrational, agitated, angry, aggressive, frustrated, depressed, anxious, hopeless, suicidal, etc.
Today finishes the story of Lot and his family. He is not mentioned again in the Genesis account. We will see that he and his two daughters were isolated from the rest of society and the effect that had in their lives. Isolation caused them to compromise their morality. We will learn today that . . .
BIG IDEA – Compromise leads to immorality.
GOD (Genesis 19:30-38)
Move to Isolation (v. 30)
Out of fear, Lot and his two daughters leave Zoar (tso’ar/tso’air) and head to the mountains
We’re not given the reason for Lot’s fear of staying in Zoar
We can speculate and say that perhaps he noticed, rather quickly, that Zoar was just as wicked as Sodom and he knew the end result of that
It is possible that Lot believed that God would also destroy Zoar sooner than later and he didn’t want to try to establish a dwelling there, only to be uprooted again
It was out of fear that Lot had petitioned the angels to allow him to flee to Zoar instead of the mountains
Now we find Lot and his daughters right where they were originally supposed to be
It is amazing how that happens, right?
PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s plan is always best for us.
Has that ever happened to you?
God has made it clear to you what He wants you to do or where he wants you to go
In our humanness, we believe we know better than God, so we don’t obey His Word immediately
Instead we try to accomplish it a different way or try to do something completely different
Many times, when we finally come to our senses, we obey the Lord’s original message to us and find ourselves right where we were supposed to be
Sometimes that journey is short, while other times it is long and difficult
I do not know about you, but the older I get, the shorter those journeys become, because I have learned to follow the Lord, first, and not try to do my plan
Where are you at today?
Are you on a long, difficult path right now, because you are trying to do something in opposition to what God has told you?
Remember Jonah’s story (went opposite direction, endangered others because of his rebellion, spent 3 days in the belly of a large fish, got regurgitated onto land, repented, and finally he obeyed the Lord and went to Ninevah)
Do you need to recognize that God’s plan is best for you?
Do you need to abandon your plans and begin following God’s plan?
Are you glad that God is loving, compassionate, forgiving, and patient?
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Acknowledge that I am following my own plan instead of God’s, and begin to follow God’s plan, today.
My guess is that God’s plan to move Lot to an isolated location was completely different than the outcome we will see in a moment
Lot moved out of a nice home in Sodom and is now living in a cave
PRINCIPLE #2 – God’s design for His people is relationship and fellowship, not isolation.
What we see next is how isolation can cause us to become irrational
Isolation Irrationality (vv. 31-32)
The older daughter recognizes that their father is old, which likely means that they believe he will not remarry (there is no hope of additional siblings)
No man around here
“To the best of the daughters’ knowledge, the loss of life at Sodom has been total: there is not a man on earth to come into us.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 51]
PRINCIPLE #3 – Isolation breeds misinformation.
We see this with the two daughters
Even though Zoar is not destroyed they still feel like they are the only people left on earth
If their fiancés’ in Sodom were any indication of the moral fiber of the men in Zoar, then they probably didn’t even consider them as potential husbands
Certainly they were aware of Abraham and Ishmael by this point
There were also many other towns and cities besides the five cities in the plains
We saw this with the pandemic shut downs in our own country
When we were isolated, our only form of information was from the major news outlets
The isolation that we experienced only bred misinformation
It was difficult to know what was true and trustworthy and what was not
Were certain prophylactic (preventive) drugs successful against the coronavirus or not?
Certain viewpoints and beliefs were labeled as “misinformation” and some individuals were “cancelled”
While in isolation we were left to figure it out on our own, which bred misinformation and fear
The misinformation and fear then caused some people to think and act irrationally
When have you experienced misinformation, because of being isolated?
It happens in our work environment when we have to work remotely
It can happen in our families when we live far apart
It can happen at church when we aren’t able to attend consistently (we hear news about the church, second-hand, with the individuals perspective and understanding of what they heard, which may not always be accurate)
It can happen with our friends when we text them and they misread or misunderstand what we were saying (sometimes we miss a text or don’t receive it immediately after it is sent, which can breed fear and anxiety about what the other person is thinking)
It can happen at school, if we miss several days (we may not get the right information about what is due and when)
When we are misinformed, we can become irrational in our thinking and actions, which is what we will see in verses 32-35
The only way to combat misinformation is to go to the source
Judy does a great job with this, and then she keeps me informed
During the election cycle, she would try to listen to the whole speech from a candidate instead of listening to the opinion pieces or media spin
When she did that she avoided the hazard of misinformation and therefore could make an intelligent decision about which candidates to vote for
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Avoid misinformation and becoming irrational, through regular fellowship with others.
The two daughters were perhaps not even in fellowship with the Lord, which is evident by their statement about the customs all over the earth
Custom all over the earth
The daughters were looking to the customs of their society to dictate and justify what they were about to do
They were not relying on the Lord to provide a miraculous and moral solution to their problem
How many of us would admit that sometimes we have chosen the societal customs of the earth to dictate and justify our irrational behaviors and/or decisions
We do not rely on the Lord to provide a miraculous and moral solution to our problem
I want to encourage us, today, to rely on the Lord to help solve our problems – turn to Him in prayer, read His Word, seek the advice of godly family members and friends
That is not what Lot’s two daughters did, instead they turned to trickery
The two daughters know that what they are proposing is immoral, which is why they conspire to get their father drunk
Compromise leads to immorality
“The intent to ‘preserve our family line’ (vv. 32, 34) was honorable, but the means of incest was deplorable (e.g., Lev 18:6-18; cp. Tamar 38:13-26). That it was so understood by the daughters themselves explains why they had to trick their father through drink.” [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 245]
Read Leviticus 18:6-18
While their desire to have a family was not immoral, the way in which they proposed to have a family was
Isolation Immorality (vv. 33-35)
Lot’s two daughters got their father to drink wine two nights in a row
The first night, the older daughter went in and laid down with him – she had sexual relations with him
The second night, the younger daughter went in and laid down with him – she too had sexual relations with him
To even think about what they are doing should make our skin crawl
That is what compromise does, it leads to immorality – it makes us think that what is immoral is acceptable (the ends justify the means)
“Earlier the father was willing to use his daughters for sexual purposes without their consent. Now they will use their father for sexual purposes without his consent.” [Hamilton, 51]
PRINCIPLE #4 – Isolation can lead to immorality.
Lot’s two daughters knew that no one else was around to judge or hold them accountable for their actions
The other inhabitants in the region would never have to know how they became pregnant
Isolation can do the same thing for us
The internet and personal devices have allowed us to be isolated, even in a crowd (we completely ignore those around us, while we on our phones/devices)
We can lock our phones so no one else can access them to see what we have been looking at
We can even browse the internet with the “private” setting engaged, so that no one will know what we have been searching for
We can engage in emotional affairs online, without having to really tell the other person who we are
The move to isolation has taken a major toll on the morality of our society
If anyone is struggling with immorality because of isolation, I want to encourage you find an accountability partner that will ask you the tough questions, that will be there for you when you are tempted to give in to immoral behaviors
God did not design us to live in isolation, but rather in fellowship with others
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Admit that I am dealing with immorality, and commit to finding an accountability partner.
Lot’s two daughters had allowed isolation to lead them to irrational decisions about immorality
Lot was not even aware of what had happened with he and his daughters
We are not told if Lot every found out how his daughters became pregnant, but we see the results of their isolation immorality
Result of Isolation (vv. 36-38)
Both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant
“‘Moab’ was apparently derived from the combination of min (‘from’) plus ʾāb (‘father’), which becomes mēʾāb, ‘from [my] father (v. 37); mēʾāb is a reflection of the previous mēʾăbîhen (v. 36), meaning lit., ‘from their father.’” [Mathews, 245]
The older daughter was not very discreet in naming her son
Moab’s descendants became the Moabites
“The Moabites worshipped a fertility god and indulged in orgies which beguiled the Israelites on their way into the promised land (Nu. 25).” [Baldwin, The Bible Speaks Today, The Message of Genesis 12-50, 80]
They caused the Israelites all kinds of problems as they attempted to possess the Promised Land, and yet, God protected the Moabites from the Israelites
Deuteronomy 2:9, Then the Lord said to me, “Do not harass the Moabites or provoke them to war, for I will not give you any part of their land. I have given Ar to the descendants of Lot as a possession.
The younger daughter probably followed in her sisters footsteps
“‘Ben-Ammi,’ born to the younger daughter (v. 38), is ‘son of my [paternal] kinsmen’ or singular ‘kinsman.’” [Mathews, 245]
The younger daughter was no less creative or discreet in naming her son
Ben-Ammi’s descendants became the Ammonites
“Ammon became noted for cruelty not only in war (Am. 1:13) but even in religious observance (Lv. 18:21), for Molech was the Ammonite god who demanded child sacrifice.” [Baldwin, 80]
They too caused the Israelites headaches, but God also protected their land
Deuteronomy 2:19, “When you come to the Ammonites, do not harass them or provoke them to war, for I will not give you possession of any land belonging to the Ammonites, I have given it as a possession to the descendants of Lot.”
While Lot was unaware of when his daughters came in to him to lay with him, my guess is that he knew what had happened when both daughters became pregnant at the same time and then named their sons the way they did
Through this Bible passage today, we have learned that isolation can cause us to think and act irrationally and that compromise leads to immorality
Are you currently on a long and difficult path, because you have chosen your plan over God’s plan?
Have you given in to irrational behavior due to misinformation and the lack of fellowship
Do you need to find an accountability partner to help you with immorality in your life?
As a body of believers, we need to seek God’s face for His plan for Idaville Church and not allow our plans to take precedence
We need to make sure that misinformation does not spread by going to the sourced
God’s Word tells us not the neglect meeting together (Heb. 10:25), so we need to make sure we are obeying God’s Word – the fellowship of believers is so important
“The Europeans who came to settle North America found it vast and unexplored. ‘Self-reliant’ was the watchword, and the scout, the mountain man or pioneer, with his axe and rifle over his shoulder, became the national hero.
In the early days the government gave away quarter sections of land to anyone who would homestead, in order to encourage settlement. People flocked west from crowded cities and villages to have their own land at last. Before they could farm the land they had chosen, their first job was to build a sod hut to live in, and most families built them right smack-dab in the middle of their quarter section. The reason was obvious. People who had never owned land before had a new sense of pride and ownership. They wanted to feel that everything they saw belonged to them.
But that custom changed quickly. This chosen isolation did strange things to people. Occasionally, photographers went out to record life on the frontier and returned with photographs of weird men, wild-eyed women, and haunted-looking children. Before long most of these families learned to move their houses to one corner of their property to live in proximity with three other families who also lived on the corners of their property. Four families living together, sharing life and death, joy and sorrow, abundance and want, had a good chance of making it.”
Source: Chuck Swindoll, Dropping Your Guard (Word Books, 1983), p. 23; quoting Bruce Larson, There's a Lot More to Health Than Not Being Sick.