"Remember LOT'S WIFE." –Luke 17:32.
Here is a gloomy sunset!--a sun going down, ashen
and blood-red, in a darkened, troubled sky--gilding the mountain-tops, not
with vanishing glory, but converting them rather into beacons of ominous
warning. Let us obey the injunction of Him who "spoke as never man spoke,"
while, with solemn earnestness and attention, we revisit the mouldering
ashes of Sodom; and, as we mark the solitary pillar towering on the way to
Zoar, let us pause by it, and profit by its impressive lessons.
We need not rehearse the narrative. How God announced His
resolution to smite down these haughty capitals, whose iniquity had risen to
the clouds--how He acquainted Abraham with His purpose of vengeance--how the
importunate patriarch wrestled in prayer until ten righteous people
could not found to avert the doom--how the angels were sent to rescue Lot
and his family; and early in the morning, the favored group were seen
wending their way up the adjoining arduous slopes--how, when the heights
were gained, the Lord, true to His threatening, showered down the burning
torrents, spreading conflagration far and wide over home and palace!
Privileged family, to escape so tremendous a fate! On the
slope of an adjoining mountain a shelter is prepared. One special command
alone is addressed to them--that they were not to look back; but to hasten
and flee for their lives to the heights of Zoar. "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!" Genesis 19:17
In a regrettable moment, the wife of the refugee tampers
with the mandate. With reverted head, she gazes back on the doomed cities.
That moment is her last! She becomes a monument of vengeance; and years
afterwards, when the waters of the Dead Sea rolled their sluggish tide over
the buried capitals--and when the eye of the spectator, in these gloomy
depths, could catch no relic of perished magnificence--if he looked to one
of the crested heights, he would behold a calcified pillar, which in silent
eloquence proclaimed--"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of
the living God!" (Heb. 10:31.)
Although the wife of Lot lived in an early age--a
stranger to countless blessings we enjoy, yet there were few at that
period who enjoyed greater. She had been, in every sense, highly favored.
Though by birth a heathen, she had been married to a man of God! She had
traversed many a league with the "father of the faithful" himself. She had
listened to his breathings of faith and holy converse. She had helped him
often to rear the altar side by side with his tent in Canaan, and had bent
before it. She had heard him discourse, perhaps, of his mightiest honor, as
the ancestor of a coming Savior, and had her thoughts turned to Him whose
day the patriarch "saw afar off, and was glad." Ever since she left her home
in Ur of Mesopotamia, until finally she settled with her husband in the city
of the plain, she had been "dwelling in a tent with Abraham," and was
temporally "heir with him of the same promise." If she had no other
privilege, great indeed was this--to encamp for years under the shadow of
this mighty cedar of God!
And when the uncle and nephew, owing to the vast increase
of their flocks, had to make separate encampments--though obliged to forfeit
the daily society of the pilgrim father, she was not withdrawn from the
influences and responsibilities of godly companionship. Lot, though he had
imperilled his own spiritual prospects, by a carnal and selfish choice, was
yet a child of God. Inspiration depicts him as "a righteous man." She
must often have witnessed his burning tears, and listened to his burning
words, as, "sick of all the immorality and wickedness around him" of his
unrighteous fellow-citizens, from day to day he warned them of the
consequences of their "unlawful deeds."
She had surely every reason to give prompt obedience to
the will of God, when she recalled His mercies towards her; bringing her in
safety through many strange vicissitudes--from being in a state of
obscurity, elevating herself and her husband to opulence--the wandering
stranger and adventurer from Chaldea, now a prince and shepherd-king in the
choicest Valley of Canaan! That same God had just given her another and
still more remarkable token of His favor, in commissioning His angels to
rescue her and her family from impending ruin.
But see, amid so many incentives to faith and obedience,
how unbelief and worldliness triumphed. She had started on her flight. The
warning angels had resorted to force, to pluck the lingerers away; and we
see them climbing, amid the gray light of that memorable morning, the
footpath to Zoar. We could imagine but one feeling of gratitude dominant in
her bosom. Never ought prisoner, immured in some gloomy cell, to have
manifested greater thankfulness when his fetters were unbound, and he felt
his brow bathed once more in the light of heaven.
But "the heart is deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked; who can know it?" She had obeyed with reluctance the
summons. The "brand plucked from the burning" reclaimed against the gracious
intervention. Her HEART was in Sodom! She thought of its halls of
revelry, its gilded mansions, its rich perfumes, its ungodly feasts, its
unholy citizens. The scoffing language of her degraded sons-in-law, had more
influence over her than the guiding angel's holy and solemn warnings. She
must cast a lingering eye back on the scenes of her godless festivities, and
though the express command of God to look not back, might well have
deterred her--she would doubtless presume, as thousands do still, that He
would not be true to His threatenings--that He would not keep to His
word--that, for the 'trivial offence' of looking behind her on the city of
her abode, she should not be visited with instant destruction.
The morning sun had risen brightly. No signs of such an
dreadful conflagration were visible. Where, in that golden sky, was the
storm-blast that had been threatened? She might indeed have thought far
otherwise. The material creation all around might itself have read to her
the lesson that "the Lord is not slack" concerning His threatenings. The
vestiges and foot-prints of the deluge were still fresh on the outer world.
The frowning rocks, which gave such stern grandeur to Sodom's valley, had
been cleft and marked with the rush of diluvian waters. It was no very
remote tradition that could discourse on the terrors of that scene, when the
Lord arose in the greatness of His majesty to shake terribly the earth; and
if Jehovah had been true to His threatened judgments in the one case, might
she not have felt that the same arm was as "strong to smite" as ever. But
she did not listen--the voice of pious relatives, the entreaties of angels,
the visible judgments of God, were all unheard and disregarded. She despised
their counsel, and would have none of their reproof!
Have none of us to answer for abused privileges
and rejected warnings? Are there no Abrahams and Lots and
angel-messengers of warning and mercy, to witness to our disobedience and
rejection and unbelief? Can we think of no holy relatives who have bent with
us at the altar and baptized us with their prayers? Is there no father's
counsel, no mother's voice, no brother's or sister's tears that come up
before us in vivid remembrance? What are God's dispensations, but
angels in disguise? coming to us, as to Lot's household--in the dark night
of sorrow thundering at the gates of our souls, and saying, "Hasten! flee
for your life!"
Lot, also, (God's minister in Sodom) was not silent on
that dreadful crisis. In the depth of midnight, he was at the doors of his
sons-in-law pleading with anxious tears, "Up, get out of this place; for
the Lord will destroy this city!" So do God's ministers still sound the
trumpet of alarm--proclaiming that the brimstone-cloud is charged, the
slumbering volcano ready to break forth, and that "it is high time to awake
out of sleep!"
How is their message often received? Men hear it as
Lot's sons-in-law listened to his. They thought him an old dotard, and his
ravings those of a weak alarmist. They scoffed and jeered and hooted him;
"he seemed to them as one that was joking." The sharp, shrill call, at that
midnight hour, rang in their ears, "Escape! escape!" But all their
rejoinder is, "What does this babbler say? On with the dance! refill these
golden cups! eat and drink; tomorrow shall be as today, and much more
Times are changed with us; there may be no open mockings
of God's servants now--no disrespectful or infidel spurning of their
message. There is a hush of decorous silence when, in their Master's name,
however feebly, they deliver their urgent appeal. But alas! with many, is
there not the same lurking unbelief, the same guilty disobedience, the same
lingering love of the world and sin? Do we not appear, in their eyes, as the
novel-writer, who describes a fictitious scene, or like the actor who acts
an unreal tragedy? We seem like "one that jokes."
The real thoughts of hundreds, as they rise from their
seats in the house of God, is this, "It is an enthusiast's fiction--a piece
of word-painting and word-acting. It is not a sober reality. We may accord
with the custom of the age, and pass a vacant hour listening to what this
dreamer says. We may follow him in thought up this pictured path to Zoar; we
may hear all he has to say when he would attempt to overturn the evidence of
our senses by telling us that these calm skies are yet to be gloomy with
thunders, these smiling plains sheeted in flames--these forests charred into
blackness. Let the credulous think as they please, he seems to a sober,
reflective spirits "as one that jokes!"
So thought the philosophic infidels in Sodom of old. But
one "righteous man," (it may be, in comparison to them, a child in
intellect) put the word of his God against all their carnal reasonings and
theories; and, like the lonely prophet of a future age, he rushed through
the streets, exclaiming, "In a few brief hours, and Sodom shall be
And was God untrue to His threatenings? Was Lot the lying
prophet they imagined him to be? Were these angels some ghosts of this
visionary's imagination, who had come at dead of night to startle them with
terror? Perhaps the wife of the patriarch was inclined to think so. As she
began to linger and loiter behind--and as she saw the sky without a cloud,
the sun "going forth like a bridegroom, and rejoicing as a strong man to run
his race"--the whole valley of Sodom slumbering in quiet loveliness and
repose--as she heard the lowing of the cattle, at that early hour, mingling
with the morning song of birds--as she watched the Jordan issuing from his
gorges, wending his silvery way to water the fertile meadows around her
home--she may have begun to entertain the thought, that all was a "devout
delusion", that hers was an unworthy, cowardly flight. Then her days of
gaiety--her haunts of fashion and pleasure and amusement and sin, came
vividly before her. She listened on the slope of the mountain to the hum of
the old revelry--Sodom waking up at the summons of the morning. "There can
be no harm, at all events," she thinks, "in taking a glimpse at the beloved
old halls. Forbidden though it be, it is but a little act of
disobedience at the best! Moreover, if God had been in earnest, He would
have smitten me down long before now. He who has allowed me for years to
lead a life of gaiety, and sin, and folly, and crime, will surely not visit
with sudden judgment so trifling a departure from His express command."
She ventured, and perished! She turned round to indulge
in the guilty, because forbidden, look. The rush of darkness came over her
eyes--her blood congealed in her veins; and that column of petrified flesh
stands forth an dreadful pledge and premonition of the coming vengeance.
What an illustration are the conduct and reasoning of
this infidel woman of those of hundreds among us still! "Because sentence
against an evil work is not executed speedily; therefore the heart of the
sons of men is fully set in them to do evil," (Eccl. 8:11). But the Lord
who has kept silence so long, will not keep it always. He will, sooner or
later, be true to His own warning--"He that being often reproved hardens
his neck, shall SUDDENLY be destroyed, and that without remedy," (Prov.
Beware of this same fatal rock, on which multitudes still
make shipwreck--that fatal 'trust in God's mercy'--that fatal dis-trust
of God's Word. The inner thought of that hapless lingerer, doubtless,
was--What! God destroy this beautiful Sodom--the pride of the
Canaanites--the garden of the Land of Promise! What! reduce these proud
towers to ashes, and involve all that wealth of flocks and herds in the
terrible overthrow!--Impossible! But has God "said, and shall he not do
it? or has he spoken, and shall he not make it good?"
Yes, the Lord is true to His word. If we go at this very
day to the banks of the Dead Sea, we find in its sullen, salt waters, a
memorial, which has existed for a hundred ages, of the Divine hatred of sin.
There is no traveler who visits that dreary spot, but is awestruck with the
scene. The cheerless lake--the dull, leaden pool; whose unfathomed caverns
are the grave of cities, seems to defy vegetation on its banks and life in
its waters. No fish is sporting there--no flower can raise its head on these
inhospitable shores. Few, if any, birds are seen to wing their flight over
its sulphurous bosom; and when they do, they hush their notes of joy. The
dreadful stillness of the untenanted sea seems ever to be reading the silent
but emphatic lesson--"God is not a man that he should lie." (Numb.
Let us now proceed to gather one or two of the more
prominent PRACTICAL LESSONS which this subject suggests.
I. BEWARE OF QUESTIONING GOD'S COMMANDS, WHATEVER THEY
Sometimes they may be strange and mysterious. He may call
us to leave our homes of prosperity, our scenes of joy, and to climb the
mount of trial. Let us feel assured, in the apparent blighting of our hopes
and prospects, in the destruction of our home-joys, there is the deliverance
from evils and sorrows greater still, which we are unable at the present
time to see or comprehend. "Taken away from the evil to come"--is an
assurance which has sent a bright ray of hope and consolation into many a
wounded spirit. "Although you say you cannot see Him, yet justice is
before Him; therefore trust in Him," (Job 35:14). Be it ours to ask, in
simple faith, "Lord, what would you have me to do?" and to say--"Though
he slay me, yet will I trust in him!" (Job 13:15.) In our saddest and
sorest seasons of calamity, He will send His ministering angels of comfort
to solace and support our smitten hearts, and guide us, though by a rugged
path, away from the empty frivolities and sins of a poor Sodom-world, to the
gates of the true Zoar of peace and joy.
II. BEWARE OF WORLDLY ENTANGLEMENTS!
How many there are who, like Lot's wife have apparently
set out to the Zoar of safety, yet who linger and perish in the plains of
Sodom! They hear the terrors of the law--they are roused by the tidings of
the coming conflagration. They think of fleeing--they have actually set out;
but the world they have left has too many attractions and fascinations.
Demas-like, they give the preference to these--they look back to Sodom and
Beware of yielding to temptation! See what a look
may do! "If your right eye offend you, pluck it out and cast it from
you." In the Greek Church, at baptism, the finger of the priest is laid
on the eye, and the sign of the cross made on that organ to show that it is
to be turned from evil, and so to be "single" and "full of light." Remember
how many bitter tears one sinful look cost David; and how for that look and
its consequences, "the sword never departed from his house."
See how sin always begins little by little. The wife of
Lot began first to doubt; then to fall behind her companions, and lose the
benefit of their encouragement and counsel. She was left a prey to her own
evil thoughts. Like Peter, the loiterer "followed afar off." Like Peter, she
fell; but, unlike Peter, she had no space to weep.
It was the dreadful aggravation of the sin of this
ill-fated woman, that she transgressed just when God had made showed His arm
on her behalf--when He had sent His angels to warn her and conduct her to a
place of safety--yes, when she was actually on her way to Zoar--when Zoar's
gate of shelter was gleaming in her view. She had been roused at
midnight--she had gotten out of reach of the summonings and jeers of her
evil companions--she had reached the brow of the hill, and was apparently
all safe--she had been rescued from the idolatries of Chaldea, the
superstitions of Egypt--she had been plucked from the burning fires of
Sodom, and yet she perished notwithstanding!
Sad it was, in olden time, for the transgressor to be cut
down by the sword of the avenger, when on the very threshold of his refuge
city. Sad it is to read the narrative of the great African explorer, who,
after a thousand hairbreadth escapes in these dangerous deserts, fell a
victim to an accident in his English home! Sad it is to hear of the vessel
that had braved battle and storm--that had buffeted many angry waves and a
thousand leagues of ocean--wrecked and stranded when the home-harbor is in
sight, and friends are standing on the pier giving the wave of welcome!
But sadder than all is it, to see a soul that had set out
on the way to heaven; that had escaped the temptations of youth;
that got rid of worldly entanglements; that got out of
Sodom and was on its way to Zoar, yet perishing with salvation in sight!
"Remember Lot's wife!" Oh, "take heed lest you also, being led away
with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness," (2 Pet.
IV. BEWARE OF CHRISTIAN INCONSISTENCY.
There is a lesson to those who are like Lot, as well as
those who are like his unhappy partner.
It is said even of him, that "he lingered." Child
of God as he was, even he was wrenched with a reluctant heart from
his Sodom home--even he seemed to stagger through unbelief, as the
angels importuned him to depart. As he afterwards learned with a bitter
heart of that pillar-monument of vengeance, or saw it from his refuge-city,
might he not reproach himself with the thought--"Alas! may not my
lingering have emboldened her in her presumption--confirmed her in
disobedience? May not the responsibility of that doom rest much with me?
She saw me undecided--she saw me, with reluctant step and misgiving heart,
loitering on my threshold. May I not have furnished an excuse for that bold,
presumptuous, fatal look?"
Beware of the power of evil example--CHRISTIAN
INCONSISTENCY. Beware, lest by our languid frames, our uneven walk, our
guilty misgivings, our worldly conformity, we foster unbelief in the hearts
of others. Parents! Masters! Ministers! Christians!--seek a high-toned
consistency! For this end be ever watchful. "Look to yourselves!" Lot (the
righteous Lot) was "scarcely saved." He was saved, "yet so as by
fire." But for God's angels, he would have perished like the rest.
"Remember Lot's wife," and tremble! Remember Lot, and tremble, too! Read, on
the archway leading into Zoar, "Let him that thinks he stands take heed
lest he fall." "If any man draws back, my soul shall have no pleasure in
him." (Heb. 10:38.)
V. BEWARE OF DELAY.
"Hasten!" every day-- every hour is precious--make the
most of the golden moments. If God has now sent His ministering angels to
you, whatever these may be, though they should be the black messengers of
sorrow and bereavement, listen to their call! Up, and prepare for the
journey; go with the determination of those who feel that life or death is
involved in its issues. "WORK out your own salvation with fear and
trembling." The salvation is all God's giving--the Zoar of refuge is
God's providing. But, if you would reach it, you must set out, with staff in
hand, like men in earnest, and "not stop in all the plain." The angels could
have wafted Lot and his family on their wings through the air; or they might
have reared some fire-proof pavilion in the midst of the city, like another
Rahab's house in Jericho, which would have remained unscathed amid the
tremendous conflagration. But the command to Lot, as to us, is, "Hasten!
FLEE! tarry not! escape!" The angels brought them outside the gates, and
then left them to pursue the appointed path.
The gospel is a beautiful combination of simple faith
with earnest working--a simple dependence on Christ, and yet the diligent
use of means. Its command is, "Run with patience the race set before you,
looking unto Jesus." "The night is far spent, the day is at hand." "Of the
times and of the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I write unto you.
For the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they
shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes." "SUDDEN!"
yes, "sudden!"--"Remember Lot's wife!" What must have been the
feeling of this woman, as, in the twinkling of an eye, she felt every limb
hardening her body incrusted with the briny shroud, a winding-sheet of salt!
No sculptor's chisel ever so depicted the horror of despair, as in the
rayless eyes of that cold statue on the heights of Sodom.
And what shall be your feelings, O careless, negligent
procrastinator, despiser of warning, rejecter of grace--when, all unfit and
unready, the icy hand of death shall fix you forever, and the irrevocable
sentence go forth, "Him that is filthy, let him be filthy still!"
Up then, tarry not! lost or saved--heaven or hell--are
the dreadful, the momentous alternatives! "As your soul lives, verily
there may be but a step between you and death." With all our abounding
privileges, in this age of gospel light and gospel blessing, may we
not--remembering how Lot's wife perished despising angelic
warning--may we not well conclude with the cogent appeal of the great
Apostle, "If the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every
transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how
shall WE escape, if we NEGLECT SO GREAT SALVATION?"