I was told about a young man who took his life. That’s all of his tragic story I know, but his death says much about his life. I can imagine the longings he had fulfilled but with regret, and his longings of life that when unfulfilled. What might our longings say about our lives?
But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26
Genesis 19 tells the story of the LORD’S destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These cities were condemned because their longings multiplied their sin; the evil of their corrupt and immoral lifestyle rose as an outcry before God.
Yet in the midst of God’s judgment we also see His mercy as Lot and his family are rescued. But as Lot, his wife and two daughters made their escape, Lot’s wife stopped looking back toward Sodom. In that moment she was turned into a pillar of salt.
This single act resulting in God’s judgement of death is her complete life story as told in scripture. Yet even with so little we learn so much. Her turning back was not just a glance to look and see the destruction befalling the cities. Instead her looking back speaks of her longings for the pleasures of sin and life she had left behind in Sodom.
The Rabbinic tradition as recoded in the midrash and talmud give us further possible insight into Lot’s wife’s motives. The condition of her heart resulted in her being destroyed together with the inhabitants of the cities.
One midrash states that Lot’s wife did not want to provide the “undercover” angelic visitors with hospitality. Thus she acted cunningly to have them removed from her home by going to her neighbors asking for salt to prepare food for unexpected company. The result of her actions informed the townspeople that Lot had welcomed these strangers into their home, which in turn led the men of the city to rush upon their home being filled with lust and desiring to have their way with Lot’s guests.
Another midrash tells that Lot actually had four daughters. Two were virgins engaged to be married who escaped with Lot and his wife; the other two remained behind in the doomed city with their husbands. As they made their flight, Lot’s wife looked back in pity upon her daughters. Yet in doing so she beheld the Shekhinah glory of the LORD (God’s Divine Presence). Because no one can look upon the LORD and live she was turned immediately into a pillar of salt.
In either case, God left Lot’s wife as a pillar of salt, a memorial for future generations to not forget. The rabbis taught that all who looked upon this pillar were to say two blessings. The first saying, “Blessed is the One who remembers the righteous” giving thanks to the LORD for remembering Abraham’s family and coming to their rescue. The second blessing, “Blessed be the true Judge” is said in remembrance of of the God’s judgment poured out upon her and the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (see Lot’s Wife: Midrash and Aggadah).
These ancient teachings and blessings could be behind Jesus’ teaching and understanding of those listening at the time. The Pharisees had asked Jesus about the coming of God’s kingdom. Jesus told them the time would come when they would seek for the Son of Man but not find Him because His coming (and the coming of God’s kingdom) would not come as they expected it. Then Jesus warned them saying, “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it“ (Lk. 17:32-33).
God has rescued me from a world doomed “being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” just like Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pt. 3:7). I too need to remember Lot’s wife and not look longly to the ways of this world that will ultimately be destroyed by God’s wrath.
Yes to Yield
LORD Jesus, thank You for being gracious to me and all who are saved by Your faithfulness giving Yourself as the sacrifice for our sin. I deserved the punishment for my sin, but You have rescued me. Holy Spirit, help me to live as the new creation You have made me to be; empower me to live by the Spirit and not according to the flesh. LORD grant that I might have a willingness to loose my life rather than seek to preserve it; keep me from longing for the ways of this world that You have rescued me from.