In the 17th chapter of the gospel of Luke our Lord speaks of the past judgments of God and records words that will be remembered throughout eternity by those who did not heed the warning there issued to "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32).
The story of Lot and his wife is a very ancient one (Gen. 19:1-26). The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were doomed to destruction because of the vile life-style of its inhabitants. Lot and his wife were told by angels of God to, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed." (Gen. 19:17). "Fire and brimstone" quite literally fell from the sky and ignited the asphalt and sulfur pits around the cities, so the entire city was consumed. When God "overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground" Lot's wife "looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt" (Gen. 19:25-26).
The historical records of the Canaanites tell us that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah now lie under the southwest end of the Dead Sea -- the utter absence of the slightest trace of animal and vegetable life in its waters are a striking testimony to this catastrophe.
The morning after the destruction of the cities, Abraham went to a place where he had stood the day before, interceding with the Lord for Sodom, and he saw how judgment had fallen upon the entire plain, since "the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace" (Gen. 19:27-28).
There are many lessons we can learn from Lot's wife -- lessons that can aid us in our walk with God.
Lot made many mistakes in his life, yet the Divine record still calls him a "righteous" man (2 Peter 2:4-8). While living in Sodom, the wicked men of the city said, "He keeps acting as a judge" (Gen. 19:9).
We all know the power of a good example. Paul warned us about the power of association, saying, "Do not be deceived: 'Evil company corrupts good habits.'" (1 Cor. 15:33). Lot's wife went out of the city with him, but only so far.
Not one of us is righteous enough for ourselves. "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear." (Isa. 59:1-2). We are also taught that "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. 3:10). We must seek redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:23-26). Peter reminds us that, "If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Pet. 4:17-18).
A message from God himself warned Lot and his wife to "Escape for your life" (Gen. 19:17). A clearer message could not have been given.
Christ also warns us of the danger before us -- He spoke more about hell than all the apostles (Matt. 7:21-23). Jesus tells us of the judgment day when the wicked "will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life" (Matt. 25:46).
The apostle Paul foretold the day when the "Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thes. 1:7-8).
On one occasion Paul had the opportunity to preach before Felix. Luke tells us that "as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, 'Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.'" (Acts 24:25). The thought of a judgement day can not be pleasant for an unregenerate man.
On the day of Pentecost, when the Lord's church was established and the terms of Divine pardon made known unto men, Peter preached the very first sermon ever given in the name of our risen Lord. He told those who believed that they need to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins, "and with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, 'Be saved from this perverse generation.'" (Acts 2:40).
Her doom is rendered all the more impressive when we consider the circumstances -- she so nearly escaped. She was lost because her heart was still in Sodom. She was convinced, but not converted. She was seeking safety with divided desires and interests.
We must all strive to get to heaven. On one occasion a disciple asked Christ about the number of people who were going to be saved. Jesus ignored the basic question and told the man to "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (cf. Luke 13:23-30).
There is a lesson here for Christians as well. Paul reminded the Hebrew Christians and us as well that we have left spiritual Egypt and are on our way to the promised land. Along the way it is possible to sit down to rest, and while resting die (Heb. 3:7-19). "Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it." (Heb. 4:1).
If you are negligent in your service towards God, remember that time in your life when eternity was brought near, your false confidence was dispelled, and you earnestly "fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before" you (Heb. 6:18). At that time you really studied your Bible and your prayers were earnest pleadings before God. But now, maybe the immediate cause of your fear has faded away and you are becoming lukewarm. Stop for a moment and reconsider your former earnestness. Recall the thoughts you used to have during the Lord's Supper as you communed with our Savior. Remember the blessings of your salvation -- how precious and dear they really are.
All the parables of judgment given by Jesus were directed toward the disciples. It is very possible for us to "neglect" our salvation (Heb. 2:1-3).
In our day, we have a tendency to minimize and downplay sin and its consequences. I have often heard preachers talk about "sins of weakness" and "sins of ignorance" as though they were not as bad as "sins of intention." Brethren, all sins stem from weakness and ignorance! Our ignorance of hell and its consequences and our weakness due to a lack of study of God's word contribute to our violating the law of God.
No doubt Lot's wife had a better moral life than others in Sodom. If you can, picture that day of destruction in Sodom. The sun rose as it had before, and there she was in an attractive house, she had friends in that town, and there were no visible signs of danger. Yet, she is told by angels of God that she must leave at once -- even though she had daughters in the city -- she paused, and the pause was a pause of death. She was guilty of the sin of unbelief.
"When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, 'Son of David, have mercy on us!' And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, 'Do you believe that I am able to do this?' They said to Him, 'Yes, Lord.' Then He touched their eyes, saying, 'According to your faith let it be to you.'" (Matt. 9:27-29).
These blind men were healed "according to their faith." Our life as a Christian is lived according to our faith, "for we walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:7).
"According to your faith" will be your contribution, your attendance, your study habits, prayer life and the amount of time spent in teaching others. When some new program is suggested, those of little faith will hesitate. Those with great faith will not have to be begged to attend, to work, or to give. Brethren, why should elders and preachers have to beg and plead with some Christians to get them to attend the worship services with the saints? We degrade the glorious gospel when we take the best we have and lay it at the feet of swine (Matt. 7:6).
When something happens to our faith, other Christians need to help. There need is for an increase in our faith (Rom. 10:17). Those weak in the faith need the word of God, not pop-psychology and psycho-babble.
Our continued salvation lies not in the past, but in the present. Lot's wife perished, not because she went back, but because she looked back -- it was a sign of where her real interests were. Paul said, "we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul" (Heb. 10:39).
Learn a lesson from Lot's wife, but don't learn it the hard way! Let us not look back, but look unto Jesus. "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." (Heb. 12:1-2).