Luke 17:32 – Don't Look Back
"Remember Lot's wife."Luke 17:32
In His address concerning the end of the ages, the Lord Jesus includes a short and pointed admonition for the church, the shortest He ever gave. He calls the church to remember Lot's wife, and the form of the word used here, indicates that this must be a continuous action; literally He says, "Keep remembering Lot's wife." It's as if the pillar of salt which she became is still standing as a constant reminder for the church and for every believer.
Genesis 19 tells the story. Lot lingered in Sodom with his family, but the visitors seized him in order to take him away, "… the LORD being merciful to him." verse 16. The angels make another concession in allowing the family to flee to a small city nearby, the city of Zoar. But on the way Lot's wife looks back to Sodom – contrary to the explicit command of the angels, verse 26. And she became a pillar of salt.
Now the Lord Jesus uses this episode as an example and warning for the church at all times, but specifically at the time of His coming, the time of the "Great Judgment.” What is the warning inherent in Lot's wife? Clearly, the Lord Jesus focuses on her heart, her sentiments, reflected in her action. Lot lingered, but she, more than he, was pulled by the worldly life-style of Sodom. She was not ready to give it all up. She remained hesitant about casting the old life overboard. In her heart she continued to linger – even after having been mercifully pulled from the impending destruction. She clearly resented the destruction of the city, and the LORD's way of dealing with a culture and social life that she had grown accustomed to.
Now this event in the early history of judgment is held up as an example for the "final" Judgment coming over the world. At that time the judgment will come with greater speed and force, and it will leave none unscathed. It will pierce to the innermost recesses of our hearts, and lay bare what our essential convictions are. The Lord Jesus warns His church to flee without looking back. He calls us to flee headlong away from the impending doom, and reach out with eager, surging hearts to Him, as He comes to reward the wicked and the oppressors, and to lift up His own to Himself. This requires unconditional commitment, total dedication and unreserved resolve, to follow the only Master.
This certainly does not mean that we must flee all things in this world, and adopt an attitude of pietistic withdrawal from the stage of human endeavour. Certainly not! But the central matter is this: where do our hearts lie? Even today, here and now, the Lord Jesus demands that we break with the world, totally deny the constant appeal of worldly things, and rest with our hearts in heaven, where He is, Colossians 3:1-4. And with hearts lifted upward we can take up our cultural task with new vision and perspective here below. Then – and only then – can we be the salt of the earth, the pinch of salt through which the whole is brought to judgment, and God's will is effected in the world.
Lot's wife belongs to the early history of redemption.
The church today has received so much more! We, too, have been snatched from the fire, spared from the eternal destruction coming over men and the world because of their sins. Lingering, we too have nonetheless been pulled away, sharing the hope of a better life. But with all the greater gifts, human nature remains the same. Still today we can be halfhearted about the gospel, double minded, filled with hesitation, doubt, and even resentment toward God's will and way. It all amounts to a refusal to follow through a refusal to come to the total, radical break with this world and all its passions and desires.
Therefore Christ's warning still applies today.
"Some are saved only by being snatched from the fire." Jude 23
"some are saved only as through fire." 1 Corinthians 3:15
but some are lost because, once having been snatched away, they still look back, despising even the greatest of mercies bestowed upon them. Such was Lot's wife. So she became a pillar of salt, an eternal monument of judgment to all those who spurn grace outpoured.
Still today the church must decide: will we be a pinch of salt, the healing salt of the earth, or a pillar of salt, the salt of judgment that testifies against us. Healing in this world can only begin by a total break from this world. "For the form of this world is passing away," as Paul says, 1 Corinthians 7:31. Therefore, having been called away from sin and the world of sin, let us go forward with conviction and resolve, overcoming all fear, doubt, hesitation, and resentment. For the kingdom has come! And, as our Master has said,
"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62 (NIV)