You probably know what is sodomy. You probably also know that the word stems from Sodom and Gomorrah, two cities that have become synonymous with sin. When God wanted to destroy the sinful cities, for Abraham‘s sake He gave Lot and his family a simple directive: go forward, go straight ahead, don’t look back, don’t stop, or you will die. Lot’s wife looked back – not only disobeying the Lord’s command, but also signifying that she was unable to let go of her past in the city, and the possessions that they had. The sins of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are well worth discussing; but in today’s verse we’ll be simply looking at how costly are our lingering feelings to sin when it leads us to disobedience to God.
Lot, nephew of Abraham, lived in Sodom upon separating from Abraham (then called Abram) and choosing the direction that was well watered [Gen 13:10]. In Genesis 14, Abraham rescued Lot, who got embroiled in a tussle between the kings of the neighboring cities because he was living in Sodom. When the angels heading toward Sodom to see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry [Gen 18:33], they stopped by Abraham‘s place and the Lord’s intention to destroy the city was revealed to him. Abraham, like a professional haggler, made God promise to spare the city if 10 righteous men can be found [Gen 18:32]. When the angels arrived at the city, they were welcomed by Lot, but all the men of the city of Sodom surrounded the house and wanted to have sex with them [Gen 19:5]. The angels struck them with blindness, told Lot to get all his family and flee the city. His son-in-laws from the city did not heed the counsel, and Lot left with his wife and daughters, having been given the instruction, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!” [Gen 19:17]. Lot argued to flee to Zoar instead, in the process saving the city from God’s wrath, but his wife looked back, and she turned into a pillar of salt.
The Bible does not tell us a lot about Lot’s wife – her name wasn’t even revealed. We don’t know why she looked back, yet we can probably speculate intelligently on that. It was said that she was a native of Sodom, as were the husbands of Lot‘s daughters, who were so used to the sins of the city that they were unmoved by Lot‘s warning [Gen 19:14]. They were destroyed along with the city. Many people argue on how Lot’s wife died – in the Bible all it says was that she became a pillar of salt. Maybe she was swept into the burning sulphur that rained down out of the heavens. Maybe she was struck by fire and brimstone. Maybe she saw the glory of God when she turned and became a pillar of salt out of the mightiness of the Lord. I don’t know, and to be honest, I don’t care. How she died doesn’t matter to me. What matters is why she turned back.
Imagine someone set a bomb somewhere in your apartment, and it’s ticking fast. Someone comes along to urge you to evacuate, and you’re hurried along. In the panic of the moment, you rushed out with your husband, but managed to take nothing else with you. As you’re hurrying along, and you remember the jewelry that you’ve stashed under your bed – what would you do? As you recall the memories that you’ve had while living there, what would you do? Perhaps Lot’s wife was like that. Perhaps she looked back because she was worried about what would happen to the house of her father. Perhaps she looked back because she couldn’t bear to part with the possessions that they owned in Sodom. Perhaps she looked back only because she wanted to make sure her daughters were alright. Whatever the case, she was tempted to look back, and she did.
Metaphorically speaking, looking back bears a lot of connotations. With the destruction of Sodom and its neighboring cities, it was a new start that God has provided for Lot – a new start away from sin. Looking back symbolized a lingering desire for sin or for worldly possessions. Looking back was an inclination to go back. Looking back was an act of disobedience. Looking back hindered her progress forward, and she paid for it with her life. She wasn’t just simply struck dead. She became a pillar of salt, a monument of God‘s wrath to all who passed by. Lot’s wife, even without a name, became symbolic to the heart of disobedience in the Bible, that Jesus would simply mention her to warn others against what she did [Luke 17:32].
The Bible makes it quite clear that Lot‘s life was spared only because God remembered Abraham [Gen 19:39]. He was a man who was righteous enough to welcome the angels, though he lived amongst the unrighteous and dealt daily with men with incredible acts of sin. Imagine Lot and his wife and daughters running away on the plains. Lot would likely be leading the way. Maybe he held the hand of his wife, maybe his daughters, maybe he didn’t. But he followed God‘s instructions. Can you imagine running halfway and suddenly feeling that your wife may no longer be following you? I wonder how he managed to not turn back. Or maybe he was so anxious that he ran straight ahead. I wonder, then, how he felt when he arrived at Zoar and his wife was not there. Often, even if we do manage to keep running ahead and follow God‘s words, we find people who were running with us at the beginning dropping out one by one. When that happens, the temptation to look back and to figure out what exactly happened to them will be great. The temptation to stop for their sakes would be great. Had Lot turned back to check on his wife and daughters, he would have been another pillar of salt. If the Lord tells you to go forward and don’t look back, leave your worries with him, even if you end up the only one at the finishing line.
When he spoke about the coming of God‘s Kingdom, Jesus warned, remember Lot’s wife! [Luke 17:32]. The pillar of salt may seem like a fantastical tale that will never happen to us. But its implications are real. Don’t look back, don’t turn into a pillar of salt.