Behold now, this city is near to flee to, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither…
The natural conclusion from God's mercy, which he acknowledges, would have been trust and obedience. "Therefore I can escape," not "but I cannot escape," would have been the logic of faith. The latter is irrationality of fear. When a man who has been cleaving to this fleeting life of earthly good wakes up to believe his danger, he is ever apt to plunge into an abyss of terror, in which God's commands seem impossible, and His will to save becomes dim. The world first lies to us by "You are quite safe where you are. Don't be in a hurry to go." Then it lies, "You never can get away now." Reverse Lot's whimpering fears, and we get the truth. Are not God's directions how to escape promises that we shall escape? Will He begin to build, and not be able to finish? Will the judgments of His hand overrun their commission, like a bloodhound which, in his master's absence, may rend his friend? "We have all of us one human heart," and this swift leap from unreasoning carelessness to as unreasoning dread, this failure to draw the true conclusion from God's past mercy, and this despairing recoil from the path pointed for us, and craving for easier ways, belong to us. "A strange servant of God was this," say we. Yes, and we are often quite as strange. How many people awakened to see their danger are so absorbed by the sight that they cannot see the cross, or think they can never reach it? God answered the cry, whatever its fault, and that may well make us pause in our condemnation. He hears even a very imperfect petition, and can see the tiniest germ of faith buried under thick clods of doubt and fear. This stooping readiness to meet Lot's weakness comes in wonderful contrast with the terrible revelation of judgment which follows. What an idea of God, which had room for this more than human patience with weakness, and also for the flashing, lurid glories of destructive retribution! Zoar is spared, not for the unworthy reason which Lot suggested, — because its minuteness might buy impunity, as some noxious insect too small to be worth crushing; but in accordance with the principle which was illustrated in Abraham's intercession, and even in Lot's safety; namely, that the righteous are shields for others, as Paul had the lives of all that sailed with him given to him. God's "cannot" answers Lot's "cannot." His power is limited by His own solemn purpose to save His faltering servant. The latter had feared that, before he could reach the mountain, "the evil" would overtake him. God shows him that his safety was a condition precedent to its outburst. Lot barred the way. God could not "let slip the dogs of" judgment, but held them in the leash until Lot was in Zoar. Very awful is the command to make haste, based on this impossibility, as if God were weary of delay, and more than ready to smite. However we may find anthropomorphism in these early narratives, let us not forget that, when the world has long been groaning under some giant evil, and the bitter seed is grown up into a waving forest of poison, there is something in the passionless righteousness of God which brooks no longer delay, but seeks to make "a short work" on the earth.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold now, this city is near to flee unto, and it is a little one: Oh, let me escape thither, (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.