The Bible is filled with some major players. Lot and his wife are two from the Old Testament.
In the Genesis story, Lot is Abraham’s nephew. For the longest time the two men shared property. Abraham, of course, was the elder and had the last say on everything. One day, “Lot looked up and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan was well watered, like the garden of the Lord” (Genesis 13:10). The land looked greener than where he was. Lot asked his uncle for the greener land, and Abraham granted it.
Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. (Genesis 13:12-13).
It’s a case of country mouse going to the city. A lot has been said about verse 13, and I think it important to note that the text says that the men were wicked and sinned against God. Be weary of those who communicate that this text says more than that. Does God destroy Sodom? Yes. Why? Because “the men . . were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13).
God destroys the city only after Uncle Abraham puts up a good round of bargaining. If there are 10 righteous in the city, God will save the city. God sends angels, messengers, to find the 10 righteous. Lot, practicing the ancient tradition of hospitality, invited the strangers into his home. Shortly after, the Bible reports that all the men in the city came demanding Lot to give up the two strangers so they may have their way with them.
A couple of things worth pondering. Lot and his family are non-Sodomites. They are strangers in a foreign land. Though they may have risen to a prosper lifestyle, they were still not from Sodom. So, when strangers come into town and visit Lot’s home first, it was sure to raise some questions.
Second, the crowd chose rape over hospitality. Hospitality was so serious, it was considered a sin against God. Rape is a horrid act of dominating power. Rape is a sin against God. What is just as horrifying is that Lot offers his two, virgin daughters to the crowd. If they were planning to rape the two strangers, you can put money down that will rape Lot’s daughters. Why would he do that? Is hospitality that serious?
The two angels send out a blinding light that actually blinds all the men in the crowd. The angels then tell the family to get out of town before the city is destroyed. But, Lot hesitates. Maybe he wanted to pack a bag of a few belongings. Was Lot so rooted in a lifestyle of prosperity in the big city, that he forgot his humble rural upbringing? This is what the angels do:
. . . 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. (Genesis 19:16)
God was merciful to them. God showed them grace. Go figure. Once the angels got the family out of the city, they them to run! Do not pass Go! Do not collect $200! Do not look back! And these weren’t friendly suggestions, these were commands. Do. Not. Look. Back.
And of course, someone looks back. Surprisingly it is Lot’s wife, who has been silent this whole episode. Why does she look back? She is grieving the life of luxurery she left behind? She is curious to see what is happening to the city? Even though they were told not to look back, she does, and she is instantly turned into a pillar of salt.
Looking back on where we have been can be helpful so that we do not make the same mistakes twice. Or when we reflect on the journey that the Holy One has brought us through. But looking back longingly, especially when God tells us not too, can be dangerous. I wonder if Lot’s wife looked back too soon. If she had waited until they reached a new, safer city and a month or so later, after settling in, and then looked back and reflected on why it was good for her and the family to move.
She stopped to collect her $200 dollars . . . .and it was too soon. We do the same sometimes. We don’t always live in the grace and mercy that God has extended to us. Instead, we too quickly look back at what once was, and what we once had.
How are you looking back?