The story of Sodom and Gomorrah’s destruction is quite familiar with many Christian disciples. God destroys the cities with fire and brimstone due to their wicked ways. Equally famous is the fact that Lot and his family were rescued from the city’s doom by the visiting angels. Yet, the Bible says Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt. This phrase has always fascinated me. Why was Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt because she looked back? What is its significance to the greater story of God’s word and to the Lord’s disciple?
When the angels brought Lot’s family out of Sodom they said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you, and do not stay anywhere in the valley, escape to the mountains, or you will be swept away.” (Gen. 19:17) Even Lot, in the verse prior, hesitated to the leave the city. The angels had to seize the hands of Lot, his wife, and his daughters and physically lead them out of the city. This shows the allure that Sodom still held upon Lot and his family. Once Lot reached Zoar, a small village on the outskirts of the mountains surrounding the valley, the Lord rained down destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot had safely reach Zoar, yet in verse 26, it says, “But his wife, from behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” The verb, “to look back” means more than just a passing glance or a peek over the shoulder as you are running away. Lot was in Zoar, but his wife had not reached it yet. She was “behind him”. Lot’s wife tarried behind her husband not wanting to leave the city she had grown to love.
Even though Sodom and Gomorrah were known for its wickedness, there was something about those two cities that drew Lot and his family to it. Lot moved to the region of those cities when he separated from Abram in Genesis 13. By the next chapter, Lot was living inside the city when it was captured in the war of the kings of Canaan. When the angels visited Lot and his family before the city’s destruction, Lot was sitting in the very gate of Sodom. This most likely signifies that he had attained some leadership position in the city. His family became so enamored and enmeshed in the city culture that he became a city leader. Most likely, Sodom was known for its wealth and high culture. Perhaps it was a trading center in Canaan, and those who grew to prominence there could impose influence over the entire region. This appealed to the family of Lot, for at Sodom, they were in the center of the action. They had their hands on the pulse of activity in all of Canaan. Their spiritual awareness of the sin and degradation in the city were dulled by the promise of significance, wealth, and comfort.
Lot’s wife might have been thinking as she was being dragged from the city, “These men say they are angels of the Lord, but can we trust them? There seem to be no signs that destruction is imminent! Why should we leave everything behind…all that we have worked for…all that we have accumulated…the people we have grown to know so well!” She did not just glance back at Sodom as they were leaving. She kept delaying, turning back, hesitating and thinking that it might still be best to return. When the destruction came, she was not in the place of safety preserved by God; she was still in the valley and was consumed. All that was left was a pillar of salt.
Why is this story significant for us today? Jesus himself instructs his disciples in Luke 17:32, “Remember Lot’s wife!” Immediately following that instruction, Jesus says, “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” The disciple of Christ must understand that this world is passing away along with all its desires, alluring culture, entertainments, fascinations, and wisdom. In the very same passage we find this warning from Jesus, “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out, and likewise the one who is in the field must not TURN BACK.” (Luke 17:31) May we not be so encumbered by the world with its enticements and glamour that we are hesitant to run to the call of God. When Christ says to you, “Come follow me!”, do not be like the man who said in response, “Lord, permit me first to say goodbye to those at home.” Jesus replies, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and LOOKING BACK, is fit for the kingdom of God.” What has the Lord called you to do in your life? Has He called you to salvation? Has He called you to start a ministry? Does it seem to be a crazy notion, some “hair-brained” idea according to the wisdom of the world? Don’t you know that the Lord will empower those whom he calls? Be nimble enough, free enough from the cares of this world to be able to respond to God’s calling in your life. Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:13-14) Forget what lies behind, dear brother and sister, and press on toward the goal the Lord Himself has given you! Reach God’s haven of rest, safety, and reward before it is everlasting too late!
-this article was published in the 11/2/2021 edition of the Weakley County Press [Martin, TN]