I remember the story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt being taught to me in my Sunday school class as a child and back then I thought it was simply a matter of curiosity. After all, wouldn’t you want to see the calamity going on behind you? It would be so very tempting to just turn your head for a quick peek! Just think of all those who slow down to look over an accident scene, or those who follow a fire truck to find out where the fire is. Isn’t that why we are glued to the TV when a crisis hits and the news stays on all day? Curiosity can get the best of any of us. Right?
But I’m not so sure that’s what happened to Lot’s wife. Why did Lot’s wife turn and why was she turned into a pillar of salt? I’m hoping to answer both those questions for us today.
Let’s take a look at Genesis 19:12-25 :
12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”
16 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. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “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!”
18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”
21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)
23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
The truth is we won’t ever know exactly why she turned, but by looking into the Scriptures a bit more closely, we may be able to narrow it down.
The first clue is found in the Hebrew word for “looked back”. It means far more than to quickly glance over one’s shoulder. It means to regard, to consider, to pay careful attention to. So we see that she wasn’t just glancing back quickly out of curiosity, but pausing to consider the destruction.
The second clue is found in the Hebrew word for pillar. It’s the word, “natsab” and means: something stationary, i.e. a military post, a statue — garrison, pillar. Salt is a purifying agent to keep something from decaying. Matthew Henry writes: “She was struck dead in the place; yet her body did not fall down, but stood fixed and erect like a pillar, or monument, not liable to waste nor decay, as human bodies exposed to the air are, but metamorphosed into a metallic substance which would last perpetually.”
My final clue was found in Luke 17 beginning in verse 20: “And when He [Jesus]was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, He answered them …” The Pharisees were the religious rulers of the day and were to be revered and respected by all as such, but Jesus knew better. You see, though they walked among the people as spiritual pillars in their society, Jesus could see that their hearts were far from God and was forever confronting them, but rather than turning to Him, they eventually chose to have Him put to death. So here, as Jesus is describing when God’s kingdom will come to not only them, but His disciples and others who loved Him, He adds: “Remember Lot‘s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (verses 32-33)
God’s Word bids us to “Come, behold the goodness and severity of God” (Rom. 11:22), towards Lot, a righteous, yet not perfect man (II Peter 2:8) who went forward, goodness; towards Lot’s wife, who looked back, severity. Though she was related to a righteous man, though she was better than her neighbors, those privileges did not secure her from His wrath and will not secure us either.
Jesus’ words, “Remember Lot‘s wife.” are a warning, when we think of those He is addressing. Jesus was not only speaking to the Pharisees, but to His disciples and others who loved Him. She left Sodom with Lot on the day when Sodom was destroyed; she looked back towards the city from behind her husband, against God’s express command and she was struck dead at once, and turned into a pillar of salt. And the Lord Jesus Christ holds her up as a beacon to His church.
It makes me think about the verse in 1 John 2:19; “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.” I believe this verse also describes Lot’s wife. Though she dwelled among the righteous, she was never one of them. God knew her heart and where her devotions laid and Jesus, in Luke 17:22 does not merely say, “Beware of following or imitating Lot’s wife.” He uses a different word: “remember”. He speaks as if we are all in danger of forgetting the subject and becoming too confident in our own righteousness and cautions us, both those for Him and against, to “Remember Lot’s wife” and question just where our devotions lie.
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God bless you,
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