“Remember Lot’s wife.” Luke 17:32 (NKJV)
This seems like a strange statement for Jesus to make. Lot’s wife seems to be an unimportant character in Scripture. She seems to be of so little importance that we don’t even have her name. She’s simply known as “Lot’s wife”. Despite this, Jesus says we are to remember her. Why?
The context of Jesus making this statement is that of His return. Jesus explains that the day of His return will be a day of sudden judgment (Luke 17:26-29). It will also be a day of sudden separation where God separates the righteous from the wicked (Luke 17:34-36). In light of both of these truths, we are to remember Lot’s wife. But still, why do we remember Lot’s wife?
The story of Lot’s wife in Scripture is mostly told through the story of Lot. Lot’s story in Genesis 13:5-13. The story is that Abraham has followed God’s leading and become very wealthy. The blessings of Abraham have overflowed onto the life of his nephew Lot. They both had so many livestock that they could no longer live together. Gracious Abraham gave Lot the first choice of the land. Lot looks at the well watered plains of Jordan and chose that. In choosing the well watered plains of Jordan Lot begins to move his family closer and closer to Sodom which Scripture declares to be filled with wicked men who were against the Lord.
Our next encounter with Lot is in Genesis 19. By this time Lot has left the well watered plains of Jordan and moved into the city of Sodom. By all appearances, Lot has fully assimilated into the culture of Sodom. Lot’s assimilation is seen in three ways. First in Genesis 19:1 we find Lot “…sitting in the gate…” The gate was where leaders and business men gathered to make decisions and do business. As far as the people of Sodom were concerned, Lot was one of them. Secondly in Genesis 19:7 he refers to the wicked men coming to rape the angels as “…my brethren…” As far as Lot was concerned, he was one of them. Thirdly in Genesis 19:8 Lot offers to let them rape his virgin daughters to satisfy their carnal lusts. Lot basically shared the same values and attitude as the wicked people of Sodom.
But God is gracious and amazing so He planned to deliver Lot and his family from Sodom before the judgment came. But because Lot was so assimilated into the culture of Sodom he didn’t want to go. He hesitated to leave the wickedness of the city despite knowing the coming destruction from the Lord. He basically had to be dragged away from pending judgment. He still wanted to stay in a city. He was still attached to the world and still wanted the things that the world offered. Lot’s time in Sodom had so affected him that he was not noticeably different from the people of Sodom.
As Lot and his family were led out of the city they were instructed not to even look back to Sodom (Genesis19:17). As they fled God began to rain down fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25). As this happened…
“But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Genesis 19:26 (NKJV)
Different commentators have some interesting ideas about what she actually did here.
She had slowed down and fallen behind because she didn’t really want to leave.
She turned around and looked longingly at the city she loved.
She turned around and was actually headed back to the city.
All are possible though I think the last is the most probable. In Sodom she was the wealthy wife of an important person. She would arrive in Zoar with nothing more than whatever they were carrying. She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving it all behind and was judged by God because of it. He love of the world, and the things of the world, caused her to look back to the world after she’d been delivered from the world by God.
So when Jesus tells us to remember Lot’s wife, He’s warning us that if we look back as Lot’s wife looked back we run the risk of suffering the same fate she suffered. Namely that rather than escaping the judgment of God, we’ll be consumed by it.
We cannot look back and remain faithful to Jesus.