When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, "Flee for your lives! Don't look back… Genesis 19:16-17
Are you familiar with the Bible story about the wife of a man named Lot? When Lot and his family were told to run away from the city of Sodom as God was destroying it, God told them not to look back. Lot's wife looked back and instantly turned into a pillar of salt! Jesus himself made a reference to this woman whose life was taken in judgment but what Jesus said leaves a lot unsaid. Its context is found in a discussion Jesus had with His disciples about the end times, and how God would eventually send judgment upon a world who has rejected His offer of life.
He spoke but three words: "Remember Lot's wife." He didn't elaborate or go into detail. He made an allusion to a woman who had lived more than 2000 years earlier, yet her memory was so imbedded in the psyche of those who listened that to make a point all he had to do was to say, "Remember Lot's wife."
To understand this powerful allusion, you need some background. Who was this woman? Why did the lightning of judgment strike her? What do we learn from her that relates to our lives today?
When Moses wrote about the drama in the book of Genesis, he identified her as being the wife of Abraham's nephew whose name was Lot. This man had left Haran with Abraham and was part of that entourage that walked hundreds of miles together. They were family. They sat by the campfire at night and looked up at the stars and talked and joked together. Once they entered into the land that we know as Israel today, God blessed them. Their flocks and herds grew. Finally, there wasn't enough pasture and water for both Abraham's flock and Lot's, so being the peacemaker that he was, Abraham said, "Lot, take your choice. If you go left, I'll go right. I want no conflict between us."
That was when Lot looked towards the fertile Jordan Valley and chose the green pastures near Sodom, probably at the southern end of the Dead Sea. There he prospered, but there he also faced a dilemma which also confronts parents today. How do you raise Godly kids in a depraved world, for Sodom was known for its rampant, sexual sin.
God is patient, but there is an end to his patience. Eventually, God sent two angelic messengers instructing Lot and his family to leave. The message was simple: "Flee for your lives! Don't look back, and don't stop anywhere in the plain!" The record tells us that as they were fleeing, Lot's wife looked back, just once, thinking, "Surely one last fleeting glance can't matter," but it did, and she faced the consequences of her failure.
What does this teach us today? In the context of what Jesus was saying, it is a sober reminder that we must maintain a loose attachment to the things that seem so important to us here--homes, cars, investments and things. Relationships, especially relationship with God, are more important than things.
A second lesson is that a divided heart can never please God. Remember, Jesus also said that no person can serve both God and the world system. The Christian writer and speaker, Corrie ten Boom, used to say that we ought to hold loosely to our possessions because it hurts too much when God pries them out of our hands.
Jesus’ three simple words, "Remember Lot's wife," tell us that God means what he says. He never says, "Well, we'll forget about it this time, but next time I really mean it."
If she could have only seen that God was preserving them and protecting them from the judgment which was to fall on Sodom, how forward focused, with eyes on God, she might have been. The bottom line: Don’t look back at what you’ve left to follow God.
Resource reading: Genesis 19:1-29