Escape…Do not look back…lest you be swept away

This week my personal schedule got completely derailed and I allowed my Bible study time to suffer. It has been a mess. I thank God for His Mercy and Grace in giving me a loving, godly wife who reads me well and knows when to rebuke and when to encourage me.  Today, I’d like to share what has been rolling in my mind regarding the aftermath of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and what I think this points to for our understanding of repentance and the high cost of following Jesus Christ, or what it means to “be a Christian”.

Genesis 19:15-29 (ESV) 15 As morning dawned, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.” 16 But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.” 18 And Lot said to them, “Oh, no, my lords. 19 Behold, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have shown me great kindness in saving my life. But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one. Let me escape there—is it not a little one?—and my life will be saved!” 21 He said to him, “Behold, I grant you this favor also, that I will not overthrow the city of which you have spoken. 22 Escape there quickly, for I can do nothing till you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar.

23 The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. 27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace. 29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

The Bible does not go into great detail on the particulars of Lot’s wife turning into salt, anymore than it does on why she turned. The point of this passage isn’t Lot’s wife, it is about God’s wrath and about His salvation, for God spared Lot because He remembered Abraham, with whom He made His covenant. Jewish tradition (outside of the Bible) generally holds to the notion that Lot’s wife saw God destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and that is how she was turned into a pillar of salt, because no one can see God and live. Possible, but not worth spending a great deal of time on here because it isn’t explained fully in Scripture. In 2 Peter 2, the Apostle links the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the Flood during Noah’s time as examples of what is going to happen to the ungodly. Similarly, I believe the unique punishment of Lot’s wife also stands as an example. But of what? At face value, what we know is that all of them were commanded not to look back in their flight. I think there is a problem of unbelief or possibly a problem of unrepentance. Lot’s daughters were betrothed, but their would-be husbands thought Lot was joking, so they perished with the city. Lot was a righteous man (as attested to by the Apostle Peter), but his daughters would later conspire to do evil in the sight of God, thus becoming the mothers of the Moabites and the Ammonites. So, whether she doubted the word of the Lord regarding the destruction, and looked back out of disbelief, or she looked back because she couldn’t fully repent of that world, we don’t know. In researching another topic in the book of Luke, I came across another passage that always gave me pause to reflect:

Luke 9:57-62 (ESV) 57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus[a] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Now, lets look at the greater context of Luke 9 and what happens next in Luke 10. Jesus has been prepping His disciples for His upcoming death, the need to take up their crosses and follow Him, and He was also transfigured before Peter, James, and John who heard the voice of God the Father in Heaven. These are troubling times, and the disciples aren’t really getting it yet. People are still wanting to follow Jesus, but they each are being held back by the cares of this life.  In the next portion of Scripture, Luke 10, we see Jesus sending out the 72 disciples, pronouncing woe to unrepentant cities, and wrapping up the chapter we see Jesus give a gentle rebuke to Martha over being distracted from the important things.

First, let us address the primary lesson of repentance. The call to repentance, is to turn away from sin. In Genesis 19, this was quite literal. They were to flee, run, and not to look back lest they get swept away in the destruction. Today, we face a destruction that is every bit as real, and impending as what Lot’s family faced, only it is more subtle. The wages of sin is death, and the Holiness and Justice of the Lord God is not superseded by His Love, it is reinforced by it. We are born dead in sin and trespasses (Eph 2) and looking back toward the world of sin from which we are told to flee is sin. Repenting of this sin, means turning away from looking back. The Israelites whom the Lord God delivered out of Egypt frequently committed this sin of turning back toward Egypt, even inviting the bondage of slavery so that they might save their own lives.

Numbers 14:1-4 (ESV) 1 Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?” 4 And they said to one another, “Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt.”

Thankfully, Jesus Christ presented Himself as the atoning sacrifice for the sin of mankind. His blood paid the debt of sin, so that in Him we might be made free from the bondage of sin. There is forgiveness for sin, and we must die to our flesh daily, take up our cross, and follow Him without looking back.

A secondary lesson here is that you can’t plow a straight line by looking back. You can’t follow Jesus if you keep looking back toward the world, toward Sodom and Gomorrah. You can’t follow Jesus and try to manage all of the cares of this life on your own. We aren’t likely to face being literally turned into a pillar of salt, but if we are not careful we can become just as ineffective and distracted. Keep your eyes on Christ. Keep Him in your focus. This goes for the members of the Church, the Body of Christ, and for the Elders/Deacons/Pastors. Preach the Word of God. Keep Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, as the central figure and focus of all of Scripture.

In closing, I’d like to take a moment to visit Matthew 6, at the promise we have from God that He will meet our needs and that He cares for us.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) 25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

The Apostle Paul gave this instruction to the church at Philip

Philippians 3:12-16 (ESV) 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Amen. May the Lord bless you and keep you,
In Him,

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