In Genesis 19:26 we read, “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” This is probably one of the shortest biographies in the Bible. It is nearly all we know of Lot’s wife; yet that single sentence has made her one of the outstanding examples of the Bible.
Thousands of years after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s wife was remembered by Jesus. It is the only mention of her in the New Testament. When Jesus was warning His followers of the approaching destruction of Jerusalem, He instructed them to fly to the hills when the time of danger should come, telling them not to pause even to take up the goods from their houses. “Remember Lot’s wife,” He said.
That is all that is told us of Lot’s wife, that she looked back and became a pillar of salt, and that Christ made use of her doom to illustrate his sermons. But from that single sentence quite a bit more can be said. Lot’s wife looked back because the world she had come to love was in Sodom. There was her treasure and there her heart also.
First I would like to review some of the history of Lot and his family before this event, when his wife perished as Sodom was burning. Lot was the nephew of Abraham. His herdsmen had fought with the herdsmen of Abraham over places of pasturage. Instead of continuing the quarrel, Abraham suggested that he and Lot and their followers and flocks should separate, each choosing a section of the country as his dwelling place. With generosity Abraham gave Lot the first choice. Lot saw that the most fertile part of the country was the valley of the Jordan. He must have known that it bordered the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, but he no doubt felt that he could take care of himself and keep his family uncontaminated by the wickedness of those cities. Therefore he chose the land toward the south and pitched his tent toward Sodom.
Mark that! He pitched his tent toward Sodom. He did not take up his abode in Sodom, neither did he settle down close to its walls; but he pitched his tent toward Sodom. That was the section where he chose his territory and that was the general direction in which his encampment looked.
There are a lot of people who are not yet in the Sodom of wickedness and denial of God. But there is a certain set of the sails of their life, a certain tone and color, and inclination — a pitch of their tent, which is in the direction of Sodom.
And so it was with Lot and his wife. No doubt the life in the city appealed to Lot’s wife far more than the roving existence in the black tents, with the smell of sheep and goats and camels always about her. And no doubt she urged her husband to choose this place for their home. It did not matter to them that the cities of the plain were full of iniquity. All that mattered was that life was going to be easy and profitable.
When the cup of Sodom’s iniquity was full to overflowing God sent the angels to tell Abraham of its approaching doom. Abraham pleaded with God to spare the cities and got from God the promise that if Sodom could muster ten righteous men he would not destroy the city. But that many, or that few, righteous men could not be found in the place and God sent the thunderbolts of his wrath and judgment.
The one righteous man, however, that there was in Sodom, and his family, received a warning in time to be saved. When Lot learned the coming doom of the city he at once went to speak to his sons-in-law, and said to them, “Up, get you out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city.” But his sons-in-law would not take him seriously and, “He seemed to them as one that mocked.” So all Lot could persuade to leave the city with him were his wife and two daughters.
It is hard to imagine what that day in Sodom and Gomorrah must have been like. The peasant was plowing with the oxen in the fields near the city; the baker was at work before his oven; the priest was ministering in the temple before his idols; the merchant was counting his money and taking inventory of his goods; the scribe was writing with his pen; the rich man was driving by in his chariot; the beggar had his hand out for an alms; the thief, the drunkard, and the adulterer were in the midst of their sins, when death overtook them.
An appalling disaster and judgment. And yet, was there anything singular about that? Is not that the way death always comes? It stops men in their tracks. Just as we are death takes us. Then there can be no change, no alteration, and what we have written we have written. Let us live, then, in the light of this truth, and be ready for the touch of that hand which, so far as this world and its opportunities, its hopes, its sorrows, its disappointments, its ambitions, arrests and stops us forever.
We read the angel took Lot and his wife by the hand and led them out of the city and said, “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” But as they journeyed toward the mountain Lot’s wife, disregarding the command of the angels, stopped, and turning looked toward the doomed cities. That moment she became a pillar of salt.
She is spoken of as a “socialite who became salt.” She is a type of those who start on the Christian life, accept in general the great truths of Christianity, but, because their hearts have never been changed, go back and perish.
Lot’s wife had many advantages, yet she was lost. She had a godly husband. She had the memories of her association with Godly Abraham, yet she was lost. She had the warnings of the angels and the pleadings of her husband, yet she was lost. She had too the special intervention of the angels. They took her and her husband by the hand. Yet Lot’s wife was lost.
We too have many advantage as Protestant Reformed people, for we have the truth; yet are we any better than Lot’s wife? How often aren’t we inclined to go along with the world? Having the truth and being Protestant Reformed certainly doesn’t assure us of our salvation. It is God’s grace alone that keeps us from also turning back and being lost forever.
Our plea is that the angels will take us by the hand and lead us out of the plains of sin and danger to the high tablelands of peace and safety. Lead us from our follies, our waywardness, our transgressions, into the presence of God, our Father.