Monday, May 2, 2016

"Don't Look Back!!!"

Pillar of salt, on Jordanian side of Dead Sea, known as Lot’s Wife (©

The day began as any other for Mrs. Lot as she went about her household chores, her  two daughters working alongside her. How incredulous it would have sounded to them if someone had told them the day's end would unfold in such a 'news-worthy' way that thousands of years later people would still be talking about them.

Mrs. Lot''s activity was interrupted by her husband bringing two guests into the house. A quick glance informed her these men were non-residents of Sodom. She had never seen them before - and reading Lot's mannerisms, she concluded that these were not ordinary men.
Lot and his wife graciously entertained and fed their 'special' guests, then showed them to the guest room for the night.
But the expected restful night was not to be!

A pounding on the door demanded the unthinkable in debauchery.  Lot was demanded to surrender his guests to the crazed mob outside.
To Mrs. Lot's horror, Lot stepped outside the door and raising his voice, impulsively offered the wicked men his own daughters instead.  What was he thinking??  To Mrs. Lot's immense relief, the guests pulled Lot back into the house and then ...  to her amazement ... struck the men outside with blindness.  Really?  Who ARE these men?

Trembling with shock and fear, she heard the message the guests came to bring Lot, "Take your family and flee! God is going to destroy your city."
Flee?  Flee where?  Their city, destroyed?  But wait ! Their future sons-in-law were  in the city. Given permission,  Lot rushed out to warn them and bring them back with him,  but he returned with the disappointing news that the young men refused to believe that their lives were in danger and had laughed in his face.  Mrs. Lot, eyes wide with dismay and disbelief, glanced from her husband to her weeping daughters, then  back to the two guests who calmly, but emphatically, repeated their instructions to Lot, "Take your family and flee!"

When they continued to hesitate, their minds grappling with the enormity of what was being asked of them, the two men grabbed their hands and led them outside the city gates, with one more instruction .. "Flee, and do not look back!"
Finally recognizing their very lives were in danger - they ran!
Almost immediately, explosions and a frightening cacophony of sound they had never heard before rose up in waves  behind them.  They ran faster, driven by fear.
 The command echoed in Mrs. Lot's mind ...but ... she questioned, why not?
She lagged behind, watching the gap between her and her husband and daughters widen.
What could it hurt to take a quick glance behind her ... just once ... no one would even know.
What was so wrong in looking back to see what was happening to the city that had for so long been her home - where her memories lay and all the things she treasured. Would she really never be able to go home?
 She resisted ... but then ... temptation overcame her and she turned  - just for one look. Did she even have time to turn around far enough to see her city burning before she was nothing more than a pillar of salt?

I read this story recently and was struck by how hard, how very hard, it would have been not to turn around to look back.  We take the emotion out of the story and, with hind sight wisdom, judge Lot's wife foolish - but, if we are honest - how much mental discipline would it have taken not to look back?  I think about the freeway traffic jams that are caused just because vehicles slow down to 'take a look'.   Would we have resisted that backward glance to see what was happening?

But ...  perhaps the bigger question is, not why did Lot's wife look back, but rather ...What is so dangerous about 'looking back' that caused God to picture it in such a powerful way in this recorded story?
We have Jesus' words repeating this command not to look back in Luke 9:62.
 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  And in Luke 17:32, again Jesus' warns, "Remember Lot's wife!"

Do we, as Jesus' admonished us, keep in mind the danger there is in looking back? When we have tasted of the good things God has for His children, when we have committed to being a Jesus-follower and we have turned away from the lure of this world's pleasures -  are we tempted to look back again to the things we have been 'saved from' ?
Being tempted is not sin, but giving in to the temptation is. It is impossible to serve two masters, and to look back with longing for the things Satan, or the flesh, tempts us with is to risk losing the 'salvation' that God promised to those who persevere.

There is another harmful effect of 'looking back' that Paul talks about in Philippians 3:12. He says... "Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

In looking back, Lot's wife stopped going forward, and she lost sight of her goal.  She could not look in two directions at once.
When we cannot let go of the things in our past ...
 - things that hurt us,
- grudges and unforgiveness we hold onto, unable to look away from the wrongs inflicted upon us ,
- difficult circumstances or devastating losses that cripple us ...
... we are stuck.
In looking back, we stop looking forward, we turn away from the goal/salvation God is calling us to and are paralyzed where we are, unable to see anything except the things in our past.  Even looking back with longing at a good thing that no longer 'is',  keeps us from the next good thing that God has planned for us and we stop moving toward it, no longer "pressing toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ!" 

Did you ever stop to consider what a comfort it is that God tells us not to look back?  
God does not want us to carry our regrets for the things we wish we had done differently, nor does He want us to  lament the things we wish had not happened, nor hold onto the self-condemnation for sin God has forgiven, nor hide behind our insecurities because of past failures.  "Leave what is behind..."  so that we are unencumbered to go forward !   
What freedom!!  
What joy to be relieved of every burden from the past! 
Don't look back!!


Judy ~ My Front Porch said...

So much to think about here, Julie. Great thoughts on a familiar story. What freedom there is in leaving the past behind!

Marg said...

I really loved this analogy. So fitting...John's motto.
" Don't look at what you've lost, look at what you have left."

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