I feel that before we move out of Chapter 19 of Genesis and leave behind the incident of God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, we should take a moment to consider the fate of Lot’s wife. Only four people from the entire city of Sodom were led to safety, and only three of those actually made it to safety. Lot’s wife made it out of the city, but she did not make it to the safety of Zoar where her husband and two daughters entered (Genesis 19:23).
We are only told two facts in Genesis 19 about Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt: 1.) The angels sent by God instructed the family to “look not behind thee” as they fled from Sodom (v.17) and, 2.) Lot’s wife looked behind her (v. 26). I suppose the very first thing that can be surmised from this is that the instructions of God are to be obeyed implicitly, regardless of how extraneous the details may seem to us. Lot’s wife may have very well wondered what harm could really come from peeking over her shoulder to “watch the fireworks.” But when we consider the Lord Jesus Christ’s own reference to this event, we see something else going on:
“Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” (Luke 17:32-33)
Jesus is speaking in this passage about His Second Coming. He states that His coming in judgment will be as in the day that Lot and his family fled from Sodom (Luke 17:28-30). People will be going about their lives as if there were no God in Heaven and as if the world will go on forever just as it is. But our Lord warns: “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.” (v. 31). God’s judgment, though delayed, will come swiftly in the day that God has allotted. His judgment will come so swiftly that there would be no time for hesitation, if it were indeed possible to escape it (2 Peter 2:9).
Lot’s wife’s sin was not curiosity, it was unbelief. She wasn’t really interested in leaving Sodom, even as it was being engulfed in flames! As William MacDonald writes:
“Although Lot’s wife was taken almost by force out of Sodom, her heart remained in the city. This was indicated by the fact that she turned back. She was out of Sodom, but Sodom was not out of her. As a result, God destroyed her by turning her into a pillar of salt.” (1)
“Whosoever shall seek to save his life” is referring to those whose interests are vested in the things of this world. They have no interest in the things of God, for they have rejected Him. Sure, the faith of their loved ones might get them to come to church, or join a Bible study group, or even become a deacon. But they have no real interest in the things of God. Like Lot’s wife, they might be moving forward toward safety, but their hearts are still firmly rooted in the world. Lot’s wife followed her husband, but his faith in God could only bring her so far. The time comes for everyone when they themselves must make a decision whether they will believe God or not. Lot’s wife decided that she would not.
One final thing for us all to consider is this: The day will come when we shall be called to leave this world, will we be ready? Is our own heart in the place where our precious Savior is taking us to be with Him? Or have we laid up so much treasure here on Earth that we will be as reluctant as Lot’s wife to leave it all behind (Matt. 6:21)? The day will come for all of us to leave this Earth, will we hesitate so that we may cast a final look at all that we had here, or will we rejoice and count it as no loss at all; our own eyes set firmly on nothing but what lay before us in Christ?
(1) MacDonald, William ; Farstad, Arthur: Believer’s Bible Commentary : Old and New Testaments. Nashville : Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1995, S. Lk 17:32