A Christian friend recently admitted she found the story of Lot unsettling. She certainly isn’t alone! You remember the story. When Abraham’s nephew, Lot, separated from his uncle, he chose to go to the East (Ironically, so did Adam and Eve, and later Cain) and ended up settling in Sodom, an exceedingly wicked city God intended to destroy.
Genesis 19:1-6 records that for Abraham’s sake, God sent two angels in the guise of men to Lot’s home to warn him to flee the city with his family before the destruction began. When a mob surrounded Lot’s house, demanding he hand over the men so they could have sex with them, Lot tried to appease the angry crowd by offering his virgin daughters to them instead.
I’ve heard arguments defending Lot based on the high value his culture placed on the honor of a man’s home and anyone he invited inside or excusing him by citing that his patriarchal society considered women little more than property. Either way, Lot’s proposal sounds horrendous to modern readers. We may be tempted to skip over this troubling chapter as quickly as possible, but since all Scripture is profitable for teaching, we should wrestle with what we can take from Lot’s less than satisfying reaction to this crisis.
Sometimes we fixate on one aspect of an account and miss the big picture. Presumably, Lot was righteous enough for God to spare him, but he made his home and raised his family in a thoroughly pagan city. He’d probably compromised with the culture numerous times over the years. We learn later than his sons-in-law scoffed at his warnings of impending judgment and refused to leave the city. Clearly, Lot had also failed to find godly husbands for his daughters. As for the girls, they later get their father drunk on two separate occasions, each having sex with him and getting pregnant, so perhaps they weren’t as virtuous as Lot made them sound to the mob.
This is probably a good place to pause for a moment. When reading the Bible, it’s important to decide if the verse is prescriptive (teaching something we should all do) or descriptive (describing something that happened which can be in or out of God’s will). In other words, while everything recorded in Scripture is true/correct it’s not necessarily right/moral. For example, God handpicked Abraham and blessed him abundantly, but when Abraham took multiple wives or told pagan kings that Sarah was his sister, his error was not poor judgment but sin, failing to trust in God’s promises or His protection.
Similarly, Lot’s solution to his problem was both wrong—and unnecessary. The angels did not ask for nor need his intervention. They dealt with the mob themselves by striking them blind. Although my friend did not mention the oddest part of the story—at least to me—it would be hard to pass up a chance to wrestle with the notion of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt simply for looking back at the burning city.
It's possible she only left with Lot out of duty or a fear of being alone—and was judged for her unbelief. Ironically, a still more frightening case can be made that Lot’s wife was a believer. After all, she did not react like her sons-in-law. She believed God’s judgment was imminent, abandoned her home, and obediently fled the city at the angels’ urging. If so, does it seem fair that one weak moment of doubt (or possibly even idle curiosity) negated all the positive steps she’d taken to save herself? If God’s response seems like harsh punishment, it should also illustrate the serious nature of disobedience.
After all, Lot’s wife had just witnessed the angels perform a miracle. She heard them emphatically warn her not to look back. It reminds me of Eve taking the fruit which God told her would lead to her death. If we know and love God, if we believe He is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, why is it so easy for us to disregard His teachings and His Word?
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus warns: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” Our current culture is shockingly similar to Lot’s. It asks us to compromise daily on things we know are evil in God’s sight. Little by little faith can be eroded and our conversations stop being “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). It’s ironic that Lot’s wife became a pillar of salt for not being salt and light to her neighbors. Even the sons-in-law may not have been total pagans, but they liked their lives and were comfortable in the city, willing to fall in with the townspeople who rejected God’s warning. They may even have believed in a far-off judgment but saw no urgency to flee, and so they perished. Both examples should sound a warning. It’s dangerous to try to live with one foot in the Kingdom and one foot in the world.
Jesus says “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction … But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Sadly, the vast majority of the world is on the wrong road, but we can avoid their fate by learning from Lot’s wife and sons-in-law.
All disobedience is sin, and sin requires judgment. The Second Coming is not just a reality, but one that should fill us with a sense of urgency to warn and pray for the lost. Finally, it is not enough to just flee from sin, hoping to avoid it in our own strength. We must hurry through that narrow gate, never looking back, until we’re safely in the arms of Jesus.