|Volume 21 Number 12 December 2019||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
A few decades ago, I preached for a small congregation perched on the ridge and border between Virginia and North Carolina. I so loved those Blue Ridge Mountains. Apparently, the congregation was more interested than I was in the wall clock at the back of the auditorium. Hence, I hung a framed message just below the timepiece, which simply read, “Remember Lot’s Wife.” Years later after my family had moved away from there, the little sign remained just where I had placed it. I don’t know if it still complements the clock today.
The episode regarding the flight of Lot, his wife and two of their daughters ahead of the impending divine destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is well known. It also was well known in Jesus’ day so that He simply could say, “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32 NKJV). The next verse defines His reference to Lot’s wife thusly, “Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” In the context, Jesus contrasted the normal things people do and the possessions they cherish with spiritual pursuits. It is not wrong necessarily to be about the ordinary affairs of life (1 Timothy 5:8) and to have even many possessions or to be wealthy. Yet, especially things and wealth are often snares to even the children of God (1 Timothy 6:7-10). There is a proper sequence and estimation of importance to spiritual interests versus one’s temporal activities and possessions (Matthew 6:33-34).
Why did Lot’s wife look back? There are numerous reasons that doubtlessly contributed to Lot’s wife looking back to what she was leaving behind. Let’s identify Lot and his family so that we more easily can envision who these people were and what was transpiring in their lives prior to the appearance of angels in Sodom.
Lot was the nephew of Abraham (Genesis 12:5). Lot, like his uncle Abraham, was a wealthy nomad, having large herds and flocks (Genesis 13:5-6). Subsequently, they parted from each other so they could provide for their animals, and Lot chose the plain of the Jordan River Valley toward Sodom (Genesis 13:11-12). Eventually, Lot moved his family into the City of Sodom (Genesis 14:12). It was ordinary for people who could to live within the safety of a walled city and for their agricultural activities to occur outside of the city. Nomads didn’t usually live among settled populations but resided in tents (Genesis 13:12). However, Lot departed from that norm and settled in Sodom.
Lot and his family, though, experienced consequences because they resided in Sodom. Lot maintained his godliness in an extremely wicked community, though “that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:8). “…Righteous Lot…was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked” (2 Peter 2:7). Furthermore, two or more of Lot’s daughters married men from Sodom (Genesis 19:14), and when Lot and his family were to be evacuated from Sodom by God’s angels, they did not leave with Lot, his wife and his two unmarried daughters (Genesis 19:8, 15-16).
In the span of hours, Lot’s family went from wealth to poverty; whatever they could not carry with them as they were led by their hands (Genesis 19:16) out of Sodom had to be left behind. Likewise, two or more daughters, their husbands and possibly grandchildren were left behind also to their impending doom. Upon their departure and as fire and brimstone rained down from the sky upon Sodom, Gomorrah and other cities of the plain (Genesis 19:24-25), Lot’s wife looked back and became a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26). Yes, the noise, the smell, the fire and the smoke alone would likely draw anyone’s attention. However, much more than that, Lot’s family left everything behind to the inferno that consumed their wealth, property and other family members.
The ungodly and worldly environment of Sodom claimed some of Lot’s family who remained in Sodom. He lost all that he had, too, in the destruction. Lot lost his wife also. Later, Lot lost himself and his two remaining daughters to immorality, and Lot became grandfather to the wicked nations of Ammon and Moab (Genesis 19:30-38).
We, too, should not underestimate the ungodly influence of the world upon our families and upon ourselves (Deuteronomy 7:3-4; Judges 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:14). “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Recently, wildfires have devastated California. Lives have been lost, and real estate and personal property have been reduced to ashes as whole neighborhoods have been engulfed in raging fire. Imagine that your family—at a moment’s notice—had to flee suddenly from the destructive path of an unmitigated inferno. You would have to abandon your dwelling, your things—maybe collections and mementos collected over a lifetime or even passed down from generation to generation. All gone! Irrecoverable!
Imagine further in addition to stuff, you had to leave behind two or more family members—children or parents. Unthinkable and horrific to consider, pain for their loss would far exceed the depression at the loss of things—no matter what value or sentimentality were attributed to them. Would we look back? Would our possessions warrant a parting and longing glance? Could we refrain from looking back, knowing that our loved ones were perishing even as we escaped? Things and family were the backdrop to the failure of Lot’s wife to obey the instruction, “Do not look behind you…” (Genesis 19:17).
Lot and his family forgot their nomadic life as pilgrims and settled into an ungodly, worldly environment. They paid dearly for that choice. May we never forget that we are merely pilgrims passing through this world, longing for a heavenly city, whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10). “Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12).
These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
The Enduring Word
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Things just don’t last! Most items we purchase today are simply disposable, and usually we dispose of them more quickly than we hoped. From children’s toys to automobiles, things do not last and endure. However, one of the great evidences that the Bible is from God is the lasting nature of it. God’s Word has gone face to face with numerous obstacles, and yet the Word of God remains! The Bible is truly the enduring Word. Consider the following.
The Bible has endured time. The apostle Peter referred to the Bible as “the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23). God’s wonderful Book has endured century after century without fail. The original writings of Scripture were penned upon parchments, papyrus and other very fragile materials. While those materials were transient, the message was not! The Scriptures that we lovingly hold today were meticulously hand copied by Scribes for generation after generation, and yet these sacred writings remain without flaw or error. Early man was somewhat limited in his resources, but in spite of those limitations, the power of God shines through as His Word has remained intact. Of all the writings of antiquity, no other book has as much textual evidence as does the Bible. Only a few copies of Julius Caesar’s works remain, but thousands of manuscripts of the Scriptures endure. Mankind has only one or two copies of Aristotle, Plato, Tacitus and other ancient authors, and yet the Bible is extensively documented and remains a complete whole. Interestingly, we have more reliable ancient texts of God’s Word than we do of the works of Shakespeare! “Compared to other ancient books (and modern books too) the text of the New Testament has incredible attestation” (Burleson 66). While time has depleted and destroyed the works of man, God’s Masterpiece—the Bible—has endured!
The Bible has endured torture. The nature of mankind does not change. Throughout the centuries, mankind has attempted to torture the Word of God so vehemently that it would cease to exist. Jehoiakim, king of Judah, used his penknife to cut the scroll of God’s Word and burned it in the fire (Jeremiah 36:20-26). However, Jeremiah was guided to rewrite the prophecy. Amazingly, the king is dead and buried and yet the Word of God remains (Jeremiah 22:18-19)! In the 3rd century after Christ walked this earth, Diocletian, the Roman emperor, persecuted the church and claimed to have eradicated the name of Jesus. Some 30 years later, another emperor was printing the Word of God and distributing it throughout the Roman empire, while, amazingly, using Roman funds to do so! Voltaire, a French philosopher, boasted a prediction that within 100 years of his lifetime, the Bible would be forgotten. Within just a few years of Voltaire’s death, the Geneva Bible society used Voltaire’s printing press and his house to print the Word of God. Where is Voltaire today? Today, the Bible fills our world! Communism tried to distinguish God’s Word and failed as well. While the Bible has been tortured on numerous fronts, the truth still remains as the Psalmist of old predicted, “Forever, oh Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).
The Bible has endured tests. The Bible has been scrutinized and analyzed in many futile attempts to disprove it. Some dishonest folks will ignorantly label the Bible as unreliable and undependable without evidence to prove those accusations. In fact, some have claimed that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch because there was no written alphabet at that time. Yet, through the shovel of archaeologists, it has been discovered that such alphabets did exist. Others have tried to discredit the Bible because of some historical truths it mentions, which were not known outside of Inspiration’s pages. Such examples would include the Hittite nation, the kingship of David and the governorship of Pontius Pilate. However, as the years passed, these truths have been found during archaeological excavations, and once again God’s Word has been proved to be true. It can stand under any test given by mortal man!
We can rely upon the trustworthiness of the Sacred Text. Things come and go, and they just do not last. However, God’s Word endures and remains! “…The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the Word of the Lord endureth forever” (1 Peter 1:24b-25a).
Burleson, Doug. Once Delivered, Forever Established. Vienna: Warren Christian Apologetics Center, 2017.