Luke 17 records the teaching of Jesus concerning His coming again. He describes the unreadiness in which many hearts are going to be found. Then suddenly, as Jesus speaks to His disciples about the last days, He says, “Remember Lot’s wife.”
Lot’s wife professed faith in God. Her husband (according to 2 Peter 2:8) was a righteous man. They had moved to the very wicked city of Sodom. Not even ten righteous souls could be found in the City, and God’s judgment fell. Just before the fire and brimstone was rained from heaven, the angels took Lot and his wife by the hand and led them out of the city. The angels said to them: “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay . . . in the plains; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” As they journeyed toward the mountain, Lot’s wife disregarded the command of the angels, and stopped, and turned, and looked toward the doomed cites. And in that moment she became a pillar of salt. There are lessons to be learned from this incident in the Bible account.
1. The Privileges She Enjoyed
Lot’s wife enjoyed many privileges. In the days of Abraham and Lot, there were no Bibles, no vast number of preachers, no churches, and no missionaries. The knowledge of God was confined to a few favored families, and Lot’s wife was related to one of these families. Most of this world’s inhabitants were living in darkness and superstition; very few had the privileges that Lot’s wife had. She was united in marriage to a man who with all his faults was a righteous person. She had Abraham, the father of the faithful, for her uncle through marriage. Certainly the faith and prayers of these two righteous men were a real blessing to her. It is impossible that she could have lived in company with the family of Abraham without knowing that he was a real servant of God. Religion with Abraham was not a mere formality; it was the ruling principle of his life and the mainspring of all his actions. To live with people like this certainly was a great privilege.
When Abraham built the altar alongside his tent between Ai and Bethel, Lot’s wife was there. When Melchizedek, king of Salem, came forth to meet Abraham, the Bible says she was there. When the angels came to Sodom and warned Lot to flee from the city, she was there. In fact, the angels took her and her husband by the hand and led them out of the City. Think of it—angels from heaven took her by the hand and led her out of the City! What a great privilege!
Yet, what effect did all these privileges have on her heart? In spite of all her opportunities, she lived and died an impenitent and unbelieving woman. She conformed to religion on the outside (she made a profession of religion), but her heart was wrong in the sight of God.
Just like Lot’s wife, many of us have lived in the midst of great privileges. It is a great privilege to live in a home where the fear of God is manifested. It is a real privilege to be brought up in a family that has an altar of prayer each morning. It is a great privilege to be able to go to church services and hear the Word of God preached and spend a quiet Sunday afternoon in fellowship with God’s people. But remember that great privileges always bring on great responsibilities. Take, for example, the city of Capernaum in the Bible. Capernaum was a place of great privilege. It was at Capernaum that the palsied man was let down through the roof, because so many people had crowded to hear Jesus that there was no room to get him in at the door. No city in Palestine enjoyed so much of our Lord’s presence as the city of Capernaum. The people were amazed at what they saw. They were astonished at His miracles. The Bible says they were filled with wonder at His mighty works, but they were not converted in spite of all their privileges. And the people of Capernaum drew the heaviest condemnation from our Lord that He ever pronounced against any city (except Jerusalem). Read Matthew 11:23. The greater our privileges have been, the greater the condemnation if we fail to shoulder the responsibilities that go with them.
2. The Sin She Committed
The account of the sin of Lot’s wife is given in just a few words. The Bible says “She looked from behind (her husband) and she became a pillar of salt.” We are told no more than this. The substance of her transgression lies in the words, “She looked back.” It seems small in our eyes. It seems like a trifling thing to be visited with such a mighty punishment, but there is far more in that backward look than we might first think.
First of all, the account tells of disobedience. The command of the angel was clear and unmistakable. Genesis 19:17 states that the angel explicitly said, “Look not behind thee.” This command Lot’s wife refused to obey.
God expects obedience, and those who disobey Him draw His wrath like steel draws lightning. It is true that Lot’s wife probably did not understand why this command was given, but we are expected to obey God’s instruction whether or not we understand why a commandment is given. Never call into question the commandments of Holy Scripture. Always be ready to obey the commandments of God even if you do not understand. Pray like the native in one of our African churches. He said, “Dear Lord, you be the needle, and I will be the thread; you go first, and I will follow wherever you lead.” The sin of Lot’s wife tells of disobedience. Let us be careful that we do not take lightly the commands of God’s Word.
The sin of Lot’s wife also tells of worldliness. It may have been she that urged Lot to move into Sodom in the first place. At any rate, now that they were escaping from the City, it seems that her heart was still back in Sodom (even though physically they had been delivered out of there). Lot’s wife was not ready to really give up the world she had left behind her. Her heart was still back in Sodom. Lot’s wife was no murderess, no adulteress, and no thief. She professed faith in God (she was delivered from the City), but she looked back. Her heart still longed for the things of the world.
Just so, there are many baptized persons in our churches today who fall victim to the love of the world. There are many who run well for a season, but by and by they give up the race and turn their backs on Christ altogether. What is it that turns them? Do they find the Bible is not true? Does the Lord Jesus fail to keep His Word? Not at all. The fact is, they become infected with a love for the world like the man of whom Paul spoke: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Timothy 4:10).
Many times young people make a good start in life but end up back in the world. In the days of their childhood, they could repeat Scriptures and sing the hymns of the church. They professed to love the Lord Jesus, and they desired a home in Heaven, but sometimes all these things vanish like vapor. The boy becomes a young man and cares only for amusements, sports, and revelling. The girl becomes a young lady and cares for nothing but dress and styles and worldly company. Sometimes older people begin well, but later fall back into the world. They give up habits of private prayer and diligent Bible reading, and gradually the leaven of the world creeps into their lives. May each of us remember Lot’s wife—and may God help us to keep in mind that it is a dangerous thing to slip back into the world.
3. The Judgment God Inflicted
The Scriptures describe the punishment which God inflicted—again in just a few words: “She looked back and became a pillar of salt.” God worked a special miracle to bring about His judgment on this disobedient woman. It was a rather strange punishment (she became a pillar of salt). God may have worked this strange miracle in order to awaken us. If Lot’s wife would have fallen dead as the result of a heart attack or some other common form of death, we would hardly even take notice. But the fact that she become a pillar of salt stirs our thinking. The same Almighty Hand which had first given her life now took away that life in the twinkling of an eye. To die, at any time, is a solemn thing—but to die suddenly, and to die by the direct intervention of a displeased God is a fearful thing indeed! Yet this was the kind of death Lot’s wife experienced.
The Bible is still true when it says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Lin Sullivan tells of a Christian doctor who, many years ago, on his way home from making a call, was traveling through a sparsely settled country when a swiftly approaching storm forced him to seek refuge in a small country grocery store. Two wicked men under the influence of liquor also sought refuge in the same store. As the lightning flashed and the thunder rolled, these men under the influence of alcohol poured forth a stream of blasphemy, which was finally too much for the storekeeper to permit. He said to the men, “God might strike you dead right here with a stroke of lightning if you don’t hush your blasphemous talking.” One of those men rolled up his sleeves, went to the door of the building, and cursed and defied God. Mr. Sullivan says that in the same moment a blinding flash of lightning struck into the door with a burning flame of fire. And when the flash was gone, the blasphemous man lay on the floor in a heap. The doctor, after examining his body, said that he doubted that there was a single bone anywhere in the man’s body that was more than two inches long. It is true that God is a God of love and mercy, but it is also true that God will punish severely those who defy Him.
Remember Lot’s wife. Remember the privileges she enjoyed. She was related to a family that feared God. She was led from the city of Sodom by the angels of the Lord. Carefully avoid the sin she committed. She disobeyed the explicit command of God. She failed to make a clean break with the world. She longed to be back in Sodom. And keep in mind the judgment which God inflicted. Without any previous notice, God turned her into a pillar of salt. It was a tragic death.
Let each person who is outside of Christ be reminded that Lot’s wife was almost saved, but yet she was lost. The burning city was behind her. Her husband and a couple of her children were at her side, and the place of refuge was not far off. Even though she was almost saved, still she perished. Remember Lot’s wife and be sure to become reconciled with God before it is too late.