“But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
This has always seemed like such an odd punishment to me. What would this have been like? Was it instant? Did she gradually start to transform from the feet up or the head down? Is there any kind of a natural explanation for this or was it entirely miraculous? Was Lot aware of it at first? Or, did he go on for some distance before realizing he couldn’t hear her trying to keep up any longer? If only they had smart phones back then! We could have gotten the whole thing on video. Imagine how many hits that would have received as a YouTube post…
More than any of that kind of hypothetical nonsense, though, why would God react so harshly to what appears to be a simple glance back over her shoulder at the life she was being forced by her husband to leave behind? This is another of those places where God seems to have acted out of sync with His character. What should we make of it?
Well, for starters, let’s wrestle for a minute with why there was any kind of a punishment for looking back. Why was God sending them away from Sodom? Because He was destroying it, and in response to Abraham’s prayer, He was delivering Lot and his family from the destruction. To stay in Sodom would have meant total devastation. Lot took the invitation to salvation as the wake up call to the moral rot and spiritual decay of his neighbors, leaned back into the faith of his uncle, and got out of Dodge. Everything about Sodom was to be judged. There was nothing redeemable about it. Looking back toward Sodom was to look away from the salvation God was offering and back toward the evil of Sodom.
Here’s where the problem lay. Looking back toward Sodom indicated a heart that had not made a clean break with the vileness of the past. God was scrubbing clean all of the evil of Sodom along with all those influenced by it. By looking back toward the city, Lot’s wife indicated that while she was removed from the city physically, it still held sway in her heart. In other words, she was part of the problem God was eliminating. Had He let her take the sin of Sodom away from the city with her, the problems would have just been reproduced somewhere else. That He wouldn’t allow. He couldn’t allow it. If she was a part of the problem He was eliminating, she would be eliminated too.
This may not necessarily make the death of Lot’s wife easier to stomach, but this is likely because we badly underestimate the seriousness of sin generally and the seriousness of the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah in particular. But, perhaps more importantly than this is the lesson for us about the importance of not looking back to the life we leave behind when we set out to follow Jesus.
When we follow Jesus, we leave behind a life that is sick with sin. We can’t look back to this life for any reason. We are redeemable and God has redeemed us, but our sin needs to be left in the past. If we look back, we run the risk of turning around and drifting back into it. The sin of our past is set for destruction. We don’t want to mess around with that. We will likely not be turned into a pillar of salt, but there are many other ways for the destruction of sin to be re-unleashed in our lives. It’s just not a path we want to take. If you are moving forward to follow Jesus, keep moving forward, and don’t look back. The things behind you will not lead you forward, only backwards to the life you are leaving behind.