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“As soon as the angels got them outside, one of them said, ‘Run for
your lives! Don’t look back and don’t stop anywhere on the plain! Run to
the mountains, or you will be swept away!’  But Lot said to them, ‘No,
Lord—please.  Your servant has indeed found favor in Your sight, and
You have shown me great kindness by saving my life. But I can’t run to
the mountains; the disaster will overtake me, and I will die.  Look,
this town is close enough for me to run to. It is a small place. Please
let me go there—it’s only a small place, isn’t it?—so that I can survive.’
 And he said to him, ‘All right, I’ll grant your request about this
matter too, and will not overthrow the town you mentioned.  Hurry up!
Run there, for I cannot do anything until you get there.’ Therefore the
name of the city is Zoar.  The sun had risen over the land when Lot
reached Zoar.  Then the Lord rained burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah
from the Lord out of the sky.  He overthrew these cities, the entire
plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and whatever grew on the ground.
 But his wife looked back and became a pillar of salt.” (HCSB)
In this text, Lot’s wife becomes a pillar of salt because she
looked back at Sodom as she fled from the destruction of the city.
In a minute, we’ll talk about why that happened, but before we do, I want
to talk a bit about salt—not the common variety of table salt that resides
on our Superbowl snacks, but the significant commodity of the Bible days.
In the Bible, there was a salt city, Nibshan (Joshua 15:62) a valley of
salt (2 Samuel 8:13) salt pits (Zephaniah 2:9) and a Salt Sea (Gen 14:3).
Those references underscore the value of the substance, but there
are others that probably do so even more. According to the Old Testament,
all animal sacrifices had to be seasoned with salt (Leviticus 2:13), it
was used in ratifying covenants (Numbers 18:19) and Elisha throws some
into the pool of Jericho to purify it (2 Kings 2:20).
The New Testament uses salt figuratively in a couple of places.
Paul says our speech should be “seasoned with salt,” (Col 4:6) and Jesus
calls us “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). This quick look
through the scriptural use of salt shows a progression of meaning.
Because it was something of great value to those in the ancient near-east,
it became a metaphor of the transformational power of the presence of believers
in the world. Now I want to be careful here, because I don’t mean
to imply that God chose to turn Lot’s wife into a pillar of salt because
she failed at being the “salt of the earth” that Jesus spoke about on the
Sermon on the Mount, but I do find it ironic.
Lot certainly was “salt” in Sodom. In Genesis 18 Abraham
negotiated with God about the destruction of the city. God said he
wouldn’t destroy it if Abraham could find 50 righteous people; Abraham
haggled the number down to 10, but failed to deliver anyone except Lot.
The day before the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah, two angels
came to warn Lot and to urge him to get out of town with his family.
The verses immediately preceding our text today say, “At the crack of dawn
the angels urged Lot on: ‘Get up! Take your wife and your two daughters
who are here, or you will be swept away in the punishment of the city.’
 But he hesitated, so because of the Lord’s compassion for him, the
men grabbed his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters.
And they brought him out and left him outside the city.” (Genesis 19:15-16
Now what do they do? Well after arguing with the angel a
bit about their final destination they moved on and started their new lives.
Their old lives were gone; they escaped with just their memories intact
as God destroyed the wicked city. Lot and his daughters pressed on,
but his wife looked back and God turned her into a pillar of salt.
Why did she look back? Well I don’t think it was a casual
glance. Perhaps she didn’t want to leave the city because some of
its dark ways had crept into her heart. I don’t know, but I’m sure
it was more than just not having time to gather her things and prepare
for the trip. No amount of time would have prepared her for the transition.
So she looked back.
Was it the glance of regret or the look of longing for what was?
One contains the seed of repentance, the other doesn’t.
In his book, Go
the Distance, Ed Rowell says, "There are two types of pain in life
- the pain of self-discipline, which is always eased by accomplishment,
and the pain of regret, which aches within us until we die." (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
Mikhail Kalashnikov, the 85 year-old inventor of the AK-47 assault
rifle, recently told Bild, a German Newspaper that he is proud of the rifle
but he also told them that he had some regrets about his invention. “I
would have preferred to invent something, which helps people and makes
life easier for farmers. A lawnmower, for example.” Kalashnikov came up
with the idea for the submachine gun while recovering from injury in World
War II. The AK-47 went into production in 1947, and was adopted by the
Russian military in 1949. It can fire up to 400 rounds per minute, and
is light and easy to maintain Approximately 100 million AK-47’s have been
manufactured in the last fifty years. Despite the success of his invention,
Kalashnikov never earned a cent from the AK-47. All the profits went to
the Russian state. (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
As I read Kalashnikov say he regrets inventing the AK-47, I know
it isn’t because he wasn’t proud of how well it worked or even because
he didn’t make money off of it. I believe he regrets the invention because
of the amount of sorrow it’s deposited upon mankind. The AK-47, as you
probably know, is the weapon of choice of terrorist and insurgents around
the world. Another lawnmower wouldn’t have made as big of an impact as
the AK-47, but that’s the point—he wishes he wouldn’t have had the kind
of impact on the world that he did. Whenever we think about
the evil things we’ve done, we should allow our regret to lead to repentance.
2 Cor. 7:10 says, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (NIV) Remember
that repentance is a gift from God. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 says, “Perhaps
God will grant them repentance to know the truth.  Then they may come
to their senses and escape the Devil’s trap, having been captured by him
to do his will.” (HCSB)
I have a feeling that Lot’s wife wasn’t looking back with regret
that could lead to repentance, instead, I believe she was longing for what
used to be. Jesus would use her sin as an example in Luke 17:32-35.
It says, “Remember what happened to Lot's wife!  Whoever clings to
this life will lose it, and whoever loses this life will save it. 
That night two people will be asleep in one bed; one will be taken away,
and the other will be left.  Two women will be grinding flour together
at the mill; one will be taken, the other left." (NLT) Jesus, talking
about the final rescue at the end of time when He will take His people
home, uses what happened to Lot’s wife as a warning for the believers who
will be rescued. What happened to Lot’s wife reminds us that this
earth is not our home. We were made for another place—a place Jesus
has gone to prepare for us—a place He will return to take us to.
We are here now, to be salt and light in a world that needs us,
and when the time is right, God will take us home. In his best-selling
Purpose-Driven Life® Rick Warren writes, “You were put on earth
to make a contribution. You weren’t created just to consume resources—to
eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference
with your life. While many best-selling books offer advice on how
to ‘get’ the most out of life, that’s not the reason God made you.
You were created to add to life on earth, not just take from it.
God wants you to give something back.” (http://www.freshministry.org/illustrations.html)
What are you giving back? Are you salt and light in a world
that needs you to point them to the right way? Or at the end, will
your life be a monument to regret, a pillar of salt reminding everyone
who passes by what could have been?