A camera slowly pans the darkening skies above Sodom and Gomorrah. Night is falling. Thrumming beneath it all, a soundtrack. Low, rhythmic, in a minor key, the music makes the hair on our arms stand up.
A swift and terrible judgment is coming. A disaster of truly biblical proportions.
Chapter 3: Pillar of the Community
Earlier that same day, Abraham had bargained with the Lord to spare sinful Sodom and Gomorrah, if just ten righteous men could be found there.
When two angelic messengers arrived in Sodom at nightfall, it seemed the only man worth saving was Abraham’s nephew, Lot.
Working through these two angels, God rescued Lot and his family seven times, by my count. Here’s what the angels did:
1. Pulled Lot back into the house when the men of Sodom threatened him (Genesis 19:10)
2. Blinded the men of Sodom, so Lot could not be found (Genesis 19:11)
3. Gave Lot a chance to warn his future sons-in-law (Genesis 19:12)
4. Urged Lot to hurry and flee from the city at dawn (Genesis 19:15), telling him “Arise” (ASV), “Get up” (CJB), “Go!” (EXB), “Quick!” (GNT)
5. Took Lot by the hand and led him out of Sodom (Genesis 19:16)
6. Warned Lot to flee to the mountains (Genesis 19:17)
7. Allowed Lot to instead seek shelter in a nearby town (Genesis 19:22)
Though she remained unnamed from first verse to last, Lot’s wife was present each of those seven times. She saw and heard it all, and was included in God’s salvation efforts: “Hurry! Take your wife…” (Genesis 19:15).
One of the angels grasped her hand (Genesis 19:16). Her hand. Held on tight. Led her away from the sins of her past. Pointed her toward a whole new future.
This way, Mrs. Lot. Go, and sin no more.
It’s been said that, on average, people hear God’s message of salvation seven times before responding. Interesting number. Lot, Mrs. Lot, and the two little Lots, were given a clear choice seven times.
Stay behind and be destroyed. Go forward and be saved.
Why so many chances? “Because of the Lord’s compassion” (Genesis 19:16 HCSB). Because “the Lord was merciful” (NIV). He saves us, he forgives us, he has compassion on us, not because of our goodness, but because of his grace.
The Lord asked just one thing of Mrs. Lot and company: “Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain!” (Genesis 19:17).
Mrs. Lot didn’t say a word. Didn’t reveal her thoughts. Didn’t confess her fears. She walked when her family walked. Listened when her husband talked. Heard him ask if he might hide in Zoar, rather than flee all the way to the distant mountains.
“Then my life will be spared” (Genesis 19:20), “my soul shall live” (ASV), “my life shall be saved” (LEB), Lot said.
For Lot, everything was in the key of “Me, Me, Me.” That’s why this story demonstrates the wideness of God’s mercy. I would never have saved this man. But God would. And did.
The very moment that Lot, Mrs. Lot, and their daughters were safely in Zoar, all heaven broke loose.
“Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah” (Genesis 19:24). “Brimstone and fire” (AMP), if you will. “A river of lava from God out of the sky!” (MSG).
Even the wildfires in Colorado and the EF5 tornadoes in Oklahoma, horrific as they were, didn’t approach this supernatural level of destruction. Every living, growing thing in Sodom and Gomorrah was utterly decimated.
Because they were in a safe place, Lot and his two daughters were spared.
Because she ignored so great a salvation, Mrs. Lot was not.
This is her one-line biography. This is the single verse that says it all.
But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26
“A pillar of salt!” (YLT). Yes, really. The Hebrew word, melach, literally means “salt,” the same kind used for seasoning food or making an offering before the Lord. However could such a travesty happen? Let’s find out.
But Lot’s wife… Genesis 19:26
In the original Hebrew, not only does her name not appear in this verse; his name doesn’t either. Only the word ishshah, meaning “woman, wife, female.” Everywoman, then.
This cautionary tale is for all of us. Don’t look back.
But she did.
…looked back,… Genesis 19:26
The order of the Hebrew words is reversed, suggesting “she lagged behind her husband” (VOICE) or was “following behind him” (ERV). Indeed, the custom of the time required the wife to walk a few steps behind her husband.
No doubt her daughters walked in front of her as well, so she could keep her eye on them. Typical mom move. So far, so good.
Then she did the unthinkable. The impermissible. Like Eve, who broke God’s single decree, “Don’t eat,” Mrs. Lot broke the one command given her, “Don’t look.”
She “looked toward the cities” (NLV), instead of focusing on her future. She “looketh expectingly” (YLT), but in the wrong direction entirely.
Oh, this truth cuts way too close for comfort.
The Bible doesn’t tell us she stopped, the other part of the angelic warning. Maybe she merely glanced over her shoulder and kept walking. But a little sin or a lot of sin, it was still sin. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).
Tempting to say, “Not much grace in this story.” Oh, but there was. Seven times.
Instead of reflecting on the mercies of God, she looked back on her old life, remembering all the people, places, and things she’d loved and left behind.
Is it just me, or are you hearing the ominous drumbeats of that soundtrack running all through this story? Warning! Warning! Warning!
A day will come when we must chose. Forward or backward. Life or death.
…and she became… Genesis 19:26
Just as A leads to B, disobedience leads to death. God made that clear in the Garden of Eden, and demonstrated it here in a dramatic way.
Mrs. Lot was “changed” (NLV), she was “turned into” (CEV) something other than a woman. The last thing she saw—a swirling inferno of ash and sand—wrapped her in its deadly embrace.
…a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26
She turned into a “column” (CJB), a “statue” (DRA), a “block” (CEV).
Hard. Immovable. Stuck.
Stuck? Yes, we get that. Can’t move forward, can’t move backward. That’s not where God wants us to be, beloved. There’s no life in such a place.
The Hebrew word, netsib, is translated “pillar” here, though elsewhere the same word is rendered “garrison” or “deputy.” Until I saw Mrs. Lot on the western shore of the Dead Sea, I didn’t realize how well the word suited her.
There she stands (well, at least the sign says it’s her), arms folded, chin jutted out, looking in the wrong direction for eternity.
If we leap forward fifteen hundred years, give or take a century, we’ll find Jesus teaching his disciples about the coming Kingdom of God. Guess which story he used to illustrate his point?
Jesus told them, “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” (Luke 17:28-29).
Right. We just watched it happen. Terrible.
Jesus continued, “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” (Luke 17:30-33).
There it is, the takeaway from this story, spelled out for us by our own Rabbi Jesus. Let go. Follow God. Don’t hang on. Don’t look back.
our Discussion Question
If you’ve read the fictional opening to this chapter in Bad Girls of the Bible, you know the significance behind this photo of Spirit Lake, taken from Mount St. Helens. Lottie was a woman who refused to leave the lakeside home she loved, even when the ground shook and acrid smoke filled the air.
And here’s our Discussion Question from that chapter:
Fewer phrases are sadder than the ones that begin, “If only…” For those of us who live with a boatload of regret for our past mistakes, the story of Lot’s wife is a sobering one. What would be the hardest person, place, or thing for you to walk away from? If God asked you to do so, for your own good, how would you respond?
I’ve traveled enough that I’m not overly attached to one geographical place above all others. But this old farmhouse we’ve called home for the last twenty years? This will be very hard to walk away from and not look back. Every room is filled with tangible memories. Nothing of great value—our “antiques” are really just used furniture—yet each item is dear to me.
More to the point, our children were raised in these high-ceiling rooms. Their photos smile back at me. Some of their artwork, faded and curling, still lives on the fridge. The quilts that once kept them warm at night remain on their beds.
Someday, though, it will be too much house, too much yard, too much for two people to handle. God will have to lift the keys from my hands and push me down the driveway, urging me, “Don’t stop, Liz. And don’t look back.”
Am I ready? I am not. Am I willing? I have to be. Simply must be. Our house is not our true home. Our children belong to God, not to us. And the stuff we own amounts to wood, hay, or straw (1 Corinthians 3:12), easily destroyed by wind, fire, or termites.
Pry open my hands, Lord. Take the keys I grip so tightly. Remind me that any future you’ve designed for me is far better than everything I leave behind.
Now it’s your turn
My question is now your question: What would be the hardest person, place, or thing for you to walk away from? If God asked you to do so, for your own good, how would you respond?
Share you thoughts by following this link to my website blog, then adding your response under Post a Comment at the bottom.
And do take a quick look at Mrs. Lot’s sand-colored Pinterest board. It’s one of my favorites.
Next week, we’ll be refreshed by a much-loved Former Bad Girl, the Woman at the Well. So grateful to have you with me on this journey.
Your sister, Liz
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