When Abraham urges his nephew Lot to choose land for himself, he selects the fertile plain of Jordan (Gen. 13:9-11). He soon moves to nearby Sodom where sexual sin is pervasive. His wife bears him two daughters who grow up and marry Sodomites. The family lives there twenty years. Lot becomes a man of influence in the city of Sodom, but not godly influence. His choices prove ruinous to his entire family.
The city becomes so wicked, God sends two angels to destroy it. When the Sodomites decide to rape them, Lot offers them his own daughters instead. The angels smite the men of the city with blindness (19:5-11). They warn Lot to leave Sodom with his family but he is slow to respond. His sons-in-law laugh at him when he suggests they go with him (v. 14). The angels take the hands of Lot, his wife, and his daughters to lead them from the impending destruction of Sodom. Although Lot is urged to flee quickly, he hesitates (v. 16). The angels specifically caution this family to escape into the mountains and to not look back (v. 17).
Lot’s wife hears the angelic warning to flee, but her home, friends, relatives, and possessions are there. She vacillates and pauses to cast a lingering glance over her shoulder. Her curiosity betrays her reluctance to leave. She is immediately struck dead upright where she stands and instantly petrified into a salt pillar. Such columns of fossilized salt can be seen today surrounding the Dead Sea near the ruins of Sodom. Her monument stands as a warning to all who follow her steps and disregard the Word of the Lord. It is not enough to turn your back on sin. You must make a clean break with it.
Jesus makes reference to this story when He cautions His followers to “Remember Lot’s wife” (Lk.17:32). We are instructed to recall her folly. It is a phrase that immediately pictures the punishment for her disobedience. This is an admonition to not vacillate or delay. God will deal with us as He did with her if we follow her example. Complete separation from the world is the only way to escape its influence (II Cor. 6:17).
We are repeatedly cautioned to not yearn for the old life. “No man having put his hand to the plough and looking back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:62). James writes about being double minded (Jas. 1:8). Paul tells the Philippians to forget those things which are behind and reach ahead to all that is before us (Phil 3:13). As we keep our eyes on heaven, the world will lose its appeal (Col. 3:2). Do not reminisce about anything or anyone you’ve left behind. The backward glance is fatal.