Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it (Luke 17:32-33).
Have you ever been a Chreathen? When I first met my husband, John, in 1997 I was straddling the fence with one foot in the world and one foot in church. I was definitely a Chreathen—part Christian, part heathen. But that was about to change.
Just the day before, John had proposed. We were serious about each other and now we realized it was time to get serious about our relationship with God as well. So we began to seek the Lord through prayer together. Standing in my living room, John took my hands in his.
It started out as an ordinary prayer, but when God has something to say, nothing is ordinary. Suddenly, there was a shift in the atmosphere. Like birds calling out a warning of an impending storm, the awareness of God’s presence engulfed the room.
“Don’t look back,” the familiar, yet foreign voice said.
I opened my eyes to see who was talking.
It was John…
but it wasn’t.
Alarmed, I did a quick study of my fiancé. His posture was rigid and the inflection in his voice was sharp. He was not looking at me. He was looking through me. I glanced up and then down. His eyes did not follow me. His gaze was fixed and piercing. I felt uncomfortable. Transparent and naked.
Was it that obvious? I had been enticed by Satan’s skillful advertising campaign. I hadn’t stepped all the way in the devil’s camp, but I was at least half-way there. I thought my flirtations with the world were harmless, but in the back of my mind I kept hearing the cry of Joshua 24:15, “Choose you this day whom you will serve.” Sadly, in order to accommodate my own desires, I justified my delay to repent with a little verse revision.
I’ll choose tomorrow whom I will serve.
My courtship with sin started out casually, but like an American Express card in the hands of a teen-ager, I was soon in deeper than I had planned. Still, I perceived that I was capable of managing the situation. I had no intention of jumping all the way over to the other side. I’m sure neither did Adam and Eve. Or Achan for that matter. Flirting with the world is like playing Russian roulette. Sin has pleasure for a season but it’s a loaded gun. At some point, the consequences will kill us. Eve lusted after knowledge. One bite was all it took. She lost on the first round. Achan lusted after the devoted objects. He and his entire family lost their lives. I was lusting after the fellowship with the world. How long would I last?
I knew I should put down the gun before it fired, but why was it so important than I turn away now? I wasn’t really finished with my fun. I wasn’t in any real danger, was I? I knew sin had pleasure for a season (Hebrews 11:25) and I fully intended to run.
Abruptly, the voice spoke again. “Don’t look back.”
It was not a shout, nor a whisper, but it commanded my attention like a hissing tire. I saw John’s lips move, but it was not John’s voice.
I thought about Lot’s family as they fled from the pending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 19:17, Lot received one warning from God’s messenger. “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”
Lot’s wife obeyed and accompanied her husband. Physically.
Emotionally and spiritually she lagged far behind. She yearned to return to her former lifestyle. And she glanced back. Big mistake. Verse 26 records her fate: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
One warning. One gaze. One unforgettable monument.
Lot’s wife became a statue and a legend in one backward glimpse.
Lot’s wife receiving one warning, but I heard the warning twice. Did that double my accountability to obey? Surely I heard the express command to me. I couldn’t pretend not to hear something that was repeated.
“Don’t look back.” There it was again! Why was this instruction so vital that God felt it necessary to say three times?
My chest was heavy from awareness and conviction. I ran to get a pen and paper to record what I had heard to ensure that I would never forget—as if I could. When I returned, John was wavering like a tower of blocks with one too many on the stack. A feather could have knocked him over. Concerned that I may not survive the crash if he toppled my way, I gave him a quick shove in the direction of the couch where he collapsed. When he reemerged several minutes later, dazed and confused, he asked, “What happened? Did I fall asleep?”
“Not exactly,” I answered. “You just spoke some pretty heavy words.”
If God had to knock out my fiancé to speak to me, obviously He wanted my attention and clearly He had it.
For Lot’s wife, one longing look back violated God’s command. I didn’t want to be a modern day Lot’s wife. I liked statues, but I didn’t want to be one. The fact that I heard the voice of the Lord three times effectively bolded, italicized and underlined His instruction.
No longer could I put off my repentance, choosing to ignore God’s word until it was convenient for me to obey. There was no denying, no more delaying obedience. I instinctively knew this was my last call.
I imagined an invisible boundary line being drawn like the proverbial line in the sand. God had been beckoning me for some time to turn away from my lifestyle and worldly friends, but I always thought, I’ll do it later.
Now, later had come.
Later had arrived sooner than I expected. It knocked before I was ready. But prepared or not, later may not come back. I had to flee.
God was aware of the danger I was in. He knew I was about to be consumed. Genesis 19:15 gives more insight about God’s gracious warnings: The angels told Lot to hasten his escape “lest thou be consumed in the iniquity of the city.”
I wish I could say I obeyed the first time I heard His voice, but like a toddler testing a parent’s command, my Father had to count to three. And I wish I could say I wanted to obey. I didn’t. I obeyed out of trust. The “want to” came later.
To be honest, I struggled with boredom at first and the temptations to look back had to be restrained. The most difficult times were the weekends when Satan displayed all the party lights in town to entice me back. “Look at all the fun your friends are having,” he tempted.
Denying my flesh was a brutal exercise in prayer and self-discipline at first. But little by little, I became more and more engaged in God’s world.
Psalms 17:14 says that God stills the hunger of those he cherishes. Over time, God did exactly that but it wasn’t overnight. Recovery is only occasionally instant, but it will come. Eventually the hunger for the things of the world begins to fade. If we persevere, it can completely evaporate. In its place comes newfound strength and resolve. Love replaces lust. Character replaces carelessness. Joy replaces temporary happiness. Purpose replaces living for today.
Today, I have no desire to look back. The things that once tempted me are no longer appealing. In fact, it’s hard to imagine I ever fell for some of Satan’s stupid tricks.
I think often about the grace God extended to me. Consequences did not push me back to Him, kindness and conviction did. His voice did not make demands, rather He was gentle and encouraged me, “This is the way, walk in it.” I shudder to think about what would have happened if I chose to ignore His warning. I doubt I would have become a literal statue like Lot’s wife, but I’m convinced I would have taken on the attributes of a statue, paralyzed to my past and unable to move forward.
So today, if you hear His voice, don’t be like me. Obey now! I encourage you to listen to His voice and don’t look back. There is hope on the horizon and better things ahead!
Prayer: Lord, I am so thankful You persist in speaking to me even when I’m hard of hearing. Please forgive me for the times I’ve ignored Your voice. Help me to trust You and listen when You speak and obey without delay. In Christ’s name I pray. Amen.
Scriptures to Ponder:
- My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me (John 10:27).
- Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path (Proverbs 23:19).
- For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm (Proverbs 1:33).
- As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly (Proverbs 26:11).
- The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love (Psalm 145:8).
Questions to Ponder:
- How do you most clearly hear the voice of God? For example, through prayer, through reading the Bible, through sermons, through circumstances, through the wisdom of others, etc.
- Have you ever struggled with hearing God’s voice but not wanting to obey? What happened? What do you think God was trying to protect you from?
- The desire to obey sometimes follows the act of obedience. Have you ever obeyed the voice of the Lord even though you didn’t feel like it? If so, did the desire eventually come? If so, think about sharing your story with someone else who is struggling with obedience. It may encourage them in their own situation.
- Read Proverbs 26:11 above. Have you dealt with stubborn issues that seem to reappear like a boomerang?
- How does Psalms 145:8 above encourage you when you think about your own stubbornness or refusal to repent?
Read 1 Samuel 3:1-10. Samuel was one of the greatest prophets of Israel, but until He came to know God, he had trouble hearing His voice. It took the direction of Eli, someone established in the Lord, to guide him. How can you be an Eli to someone else who may not recognize the voice of the Lord yet?