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Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Woman Who Turned Around

Painting by Benjamin West

She stared, not comprehending, not really believing what she was seeing. Her home—everything she had ever known—was being destroyed. Fire rained down from heaven, and it smelled like sulfur. Flames and acrid smoke. She stood there, contemplating the surreal scene, the life she left behind, against her will, minutes earlier. She tried to turn back around. She wanted to run now, but she was rooted to the spot. Like a tree, she couldn’t go anywhere, and as she looked down, she saw she was hard and gleaming.

The next instant, she died.

She was Lot’s wife.

Lot and his two daughters escaped to a little town called Zoar and then moved on to the mountain, where they lived in a cave. They were delivered, yes, but they couldn’t escape from themselves and their own sinfulness. It seems like the daughters despaired of ever having husbands—one wonders why—and decided to get their father drunk. (Was Lot so far gone as not to have any self-control? It seems so, as he drank to excess two nights in a row.) Incest followed drunkenness, and Lot fathered two grandchildren that weren’t his grandchildren at all.

God would have saved the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, had there been only ten righteous people in them, together. (Genesis 18:32) It appears there was only one—Lot—though having lived there, he had lost his character. His impact on his family was about zero, and he ended up looking after his own sons, born to his daughters. Their daily presence must have been a rebuke to him.

Lot’s family was warned not to look back. His wife didn’t just glance over her shoulder in curiosity. The Hebrew word used here means that she gazed. She was standing there, watching the destruction of Sodom.

Why did God judge her so harshly?

Some think she was too close to the city and got pelted with the fiery brimstone, and in that sense, she was turned into salt. Maybe, but I think not, since the Hebrew word for pillar means a column. If she had been reduced to ash, I don’t think she’d be a standing column.

I think God did this special judgment, even if no one else actually saw it, for our good. Remember, Lot and their daughters didn’t look back. They kept running hand-in-hand with the rescuing angels. The people from Sodom couldn’t see her either. They were already dead. But, God wanted the example of Lot’s wife to be there for all posterity.

Jesus used her as an illustration. He said:
Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed. 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. Remember Lot’s wife. Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it (Luke 17:28-33).

In this passage, we have a key to understanding why Lot’s wife was judged so severely. Jesus talks about impending judgment, valuing things more than God (idolatry), and persons who want to save themselves. Jesus also gives hope: whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Only in surrendering our lives to Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin can we have eternal life.

When judgment came, Lot’s wife wasn’t willing to leave her things. She had never trusted Lot’s God. She gazed back, because her heart’s desire was to save her old sinful lifestyle, to live again in Sodom, among wicked people—just like her. So God let Lot’s wife stay there, statuesque, as she stared back at what she most valued . . . while she lost everything to the fire, even her soul.

Remember Lot’s wife.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul? (Mark 8:36)

There’s hope in Jesus Christ!

Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved (John 3:17).

Are you saved?

If you are, are you telling others about Him, warning them about impending judgment?

Remember Lot’s wife.

(You can read the Bible story in Genesis 19:15-38.) 


  1. Hey Lou Ann: Thanks for this thoughtful study of Lot's wife. I've always been fascinated with the whole idea of a person turning to a pillar of salt -- certainly something that only God is capable of doing. You've captured the truth well. And, I like the picture of the painting also. Have a great day! Sandra

    1. Thank you, Sandra. Glad you liked the Benjamin West painting, too. :o)


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