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. 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!” …
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
- Genesis 19:16-17, 23-26
“It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.”
“Where, Lord?” they asked.
He replied, “Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.”
- Luke 17:28-37
“When the time for separation arrived, Lot’s wife could not tear herself away from the world. She had always been in it and delighted in it. Though associated with a gracious husband, when the time came for decision, she betrayed her true character. Flight without so much as looking back was demanded of her, but this was too much. She did look back and thus proved that she has sufficient presumption in her heart to defy God’s command and risk her all – to give a lingering love glance at the condemned and guilty world. By that glance she perished. The love of the world is death. Those who cling to sin must perish, whoever they are. Our Lord bids us hold the world with a loose hand and always be ready to leave it all. When we are called to it, we are to be ready to go out without a particle in our hands.”
- Charles H. Spurgeon, from his sermon notes
In reading the Bible story about Lot’s escape from Sodom and Gomorrah, I don’t think any of my Sunday school teachers ever gave a satisfactory answer for the punishment of Lot’s wife. You tell someone not to look; they are going to look. It’s natural. How could hearing a large explosion behind you and then looking become a sin, a sin worthy of such a bizarre finality? If I hear an explosion from a safe distance away, I’m going to look just to see if shrapnel is heading my way. If it’s closer than that, I’ll probably fall flat and cover my head.
Spurgeon speaks of the condition of the heart of Lot’s wife. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21)
Now, tying those pieces together, it makes more sense. When we look behind us and lament over what we just lost, we are unable to see what is ahead of us on the road. We are supposed to be on a journey of faith to become more like Jesus. To become more like Jesus, we need to be looking in His direction.
Have you ever gone on a hike and you can see your destination from a long distance away? If you have, did you notice that the destination became clearer, more easy to see, as you got closer? You suddenly see more details.
That’s the way it is in a journey of faith, as we keep our eyes on Jesus and we work toward becoming more like Jesus, we get closer to Him. In getting closer to Him, we see more details in Him and we see the corresponding lack of this or that in us. As we are getting closer, we find that we still have a long way to go.
But if we look back on what we left behind, we lose sight of Jesus ahead. We could wander in the wrong direction, far from our intended trail. We could become injured by falling into danger while off the trail. And the memory of our last time of seeing Jesus ahead of us starts to fade.
In my Scouting experience at Philmont Scout Ranch when I was sixteen – at least by this part of the journey, we walked over fifty mile through the mountains in about ten days. We sometimes stopped for the night at primitive camps, having to take a couple of day’s provisions for that part of the journey. But on one particular day, we were walking along a trail that disappeared. There had been a rockslide and the trail vanished before us. In our group, we were all Eagle scouts except for a couple of Life Scouts that had all the requirements for Eagle met except one or two. Our adult leader was a paid professional at our local council office in Mississippi. We each had maps and compasses. We created our own trail. As a result, we took a straight line trek for the next camp, as much as was possible by the terrain. There was only one problem. We arrived at the river right at the point of the rockslide, a rockslide that was not on the map. One of the guys used the river as a water slide, back before the days when water parks were common. We thought we were inventing the idea that day. He carried one end of a rope with him and we created a pulley system to lower the packs, thus keeping everything dry. We then climbed down the rocks to the river’s edge and slid over a large stone slab with the rapids to the pool beneath. I am sure the rangers would have not approved, but the detour along safe trails would have added another five miles to our trip. As it was, we arrived before dark, and we had a grand adventure to talk about.
Our possessions that we took with us were protected from the water and from the bumps in the wild ride down the river. Both of those protections kept my camera and all the film safe.
And while we are on the subject, do we leave anything worth anything behind when we totally commit to Jesus? I have heard so many people reject the message of Jesus, because they do not want to give up their lifestyle. Yet, is there anything in their lifestyle that has lasting worth? Do they really like the side effects of their lifestyle? C. S. Lewis said in The Screwtape Letters that once a new soul reaches Hell, he finds out that none of the pleasures of the earthly life brought lasting pleasure, nor did they really enjoy it fully. He’d not done what he ought and did nothing that brought lasting pleasure.
In my comedy act last October, I ended with my testimony. It almost happened without thinking about it, but in my last couple of rehearsals, God nudged me with His theme for the night’s entertainment, after everything else was set. I had searched throughout my childhood and even after becoming a Christian to find enjoyment through comedy, just for a moment to feel happy in the midst of sad circumstances. But God gives us everlasting Joy that makes us happy in the good times and sustains us through the bad times. Laughing at the latest joke can’t do that. The laughter only lasts a moment, but God is forever.
Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.