As a Christian, do you ever look back on your old life, before you were saved, in a longing or nostalgic way? Do you ever wish for things to return to their old ways? For old relationships, old interests, old activities, old passions, etc? Let me assure you this is not God’s Will for your life and is in fact a trick devised by the enemy to draw you away from your relationship with God. To understand this better, let’s look at the story of Lot’s wife.
One of the most fascinating (and weirdest) stories of the Bible is the story of God’s punishment of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Throughout Genesis we are warned of the absolute wickedness of these two cities. The outcry against their profanity, corruption, and evil becomes so great that God is forced to completely obliterate them from the face of the earth. The story picks up in Genesis 18, beginning with Abraham as he sits in his tent under the teberinth trees of Mamre.
Abraham finds three men standing around him and recognizes them as two angels and the Lord Himself, manifest in human-like form. After seeing them Abraham bows, invites them in and fetches bread for them to eat. Then the Lord informs Abraham about his wife, Sarah’s upcoming pregnancy (a miracle in that Sarah is too old to have children). Afterward the Lord and His angels begin to move towards the city of Sodom, where Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family are staying. At this time he walks with the three men to bid them farewell, but is interrupted by what God tells him shortly.
“20 And the LORD said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not I will know.’
22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. 23 And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked, far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?'” (Genesis 18:20-25 NKJV)
In the following paragraphs Abraham intercedes for Sodom. The Lord replies with mercy, saying that if He finds even fifty good people in Sodom, He will spare the whole city. As time passes, Abraham becomes more doubtful of the events to transpire and his request decreases to forty five, forty, thirty, twenty, and then finally ten. Each time the Lord replies with the promise that He will spare the city for the sake of that many.
However, as His angels move through the city, they find Lot at the city’s gate. Lot invites them in to his home to spend the night. It states that all the men of Sodom, both young and old, barge onto Lot’s door demanding to see the two angels.
“And they called to Lot and said to him, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.'” (Genesis 19:5)
The city of Sodom was so depraved that its citizens sought to literally rape angels. Lot defends them but is so fearful of the men of Sodom that he offers them his own virgin daughters. The wicked men are not satisfied and threaten Lot, attempting to beat down his door. The angels then step forward and strike the men with blindness and allow themselves as well as Lot and his family to escape, saving them for Abraham’s sake.
The angels lead Lot and his family out of the city, ordering them to escape into the mountains.
“So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” (Genesis 19:17 NKJV)
The fire of God then rains down on the city, engulfing it in total destruction. Lot and his family are ordered not to look back on the city as it is being exterminated, however one of them disobeys.
“But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” (Genesis 19:26 NKJV)
And instantly his wife is transfigured, frozen and preserved in a layer of salt, to be left with the city as it is destroyed and never heard from again.
Why did Lot’s wife disobey?
Lot’s wife was attempting to move forward while still clinging to her past. She looks back longingly at the city as it is in the process of being destroyed by God. Because of this, she is frozen in her place and killed by being transformed into a pillar of salt.
God will often save us and push us to move forward. He destroys our sins behind us, out of our sight, and is busy in the background as he dissipates our past lives. God wants us to move forward, to make progress spiritually and leave behind the old. But the moment we turn back, we are communicating to God that we still long for the old and are unwilling to move forward. As we do this, God is forced to leave us with our sins as they are being destroyed. Though we might not transform into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife, the idea of being transformed into a lifeless rock is still true today. We lose our love, our zeal, our enthusiasm, and our spirit when we turn back to our sinful nature.
Often times you can look at those who are unsaved and see the lack of life in their eyes. They walk around like zombies, indulging in whatever they can to keep themselves going–whether it is alcohol, drugs, pornography and sexual gratification, gambling, cursing, cheating, etc. They may even place seemingly innocent things before God in their lives (art, video games, relationships, sports, hobbies, etc.). They do this to fill the void that is left within their spirits when the love and salvation of God is not present. In this very same way we can compare them to a pillar of salt: lifeless and void.
I have often read different theories of why salt specifically was used. Some liken it to its use in Abraham’s day as a preservative. Instead of Lot’s wife taking (and preserving) her sinful passions within her, moving on and infecting other cities with the same evil nature of Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord preserved her instead. Others say it is somehow involved in customs of ancient warfare wherein civilizations salted the grounds of enemy cities they had overthrown. I don’t think the salt itself matters, but rather what the story as a whole represents for us.
Do not look back on your past. God saved you and brought you into a new life with a new hope for a reason. He is taking care of your past, erasing it entirely. The Bible tells us on several occasions that God “blots out” our past, and keeps no record of our sins once we have been saved.
“I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake. And I will not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:25)
“Indeed it was for my own peace
That I had great bitterness;
But You have lovingly delivered my soul from the pit of corruption,
For You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” (Isaiah 38:17)
“16 ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days,’ says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,’ 17 then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:16-17)
“As far as the east is from the west
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)
“3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with You,
That You may be feared.” (Psalm 130:3-4)
I encourage you to look ahead, not behind. As it says in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”
Furthermore, Ephesians 4:17-24 tells us of “putting on the new man”.
“17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; 19 who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”
Even if that is not enough, Matthew 6:24 tells us “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other…” Though this verse is speaking specifically in the context of money, it holds true for any sinful lifestyle holding us back from true discipleship in Christ.
How can I move on without looking back?
Looking back is sometimes a nearly overwhelming temptation. We often miss some of the pleasures we indulged in while we were unsaved. Sometimes getting drunk might sound relieving, or gambling seem fun, or sex might seem pleasing. But they do not pay off.
Where most people think Satan is out to get you to be mad at or even despise God, sometimes all he needs to do is make you forget God. The same can be said about what happened to the Israelites in Exodus, who had just escaped the hands of Pharaoh by the miracles of God. They had just walked through the Red Sea after God parted the waters completely in half, allowing them safe passage from the armies of Pharaoh.
Now they traveled through the desert, growing tired and thirsty. They soon were longing to turn back to Egypt. Satan often gets us to forget the miracles God used just a few days ago to bring us out of darkness. Then Satan highlights the few aspects of darkness that seemed comfortable to us during a time of bondage (steady water supply during slavery). Due to this the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years, which allowed the current generation to die off and give birth to one that had no desire to turn back to Egypt.
God will not let you go forward if you do not learn to look forward. You will remain stuck in the same place until you learn to develop a desire for God, for His will, and for the future He has planned for you. As long as you desire to return to your past pleasures, you are powerless to make any kind of progress in your life, and you will die spiritually.
Let that sink in — spiritual death will follow the desire to return to your past.
The power of want is much more than we come to realize. We need to want to be a Christian. We need to want to do good, and we need to want to please God. We have to have a desire within us to move forward and grow as Christians, or otherwise we become lifeless like Lot’s wife, frozen in our place as a pillar of salt.
God loves you and wants to take you to beautiful places. He wants you to understand His immeasurable love for you and the deepness of His grace and mercy. But as long as your eyes are fixed on what’s behind they can never witness the beauty in front of you. You must learn to let go.
Letting go is sometimes hard to do. We tend to hold onto past relationships, past pleasures, past happiness. But if we keep ourselves grounded in those things, we have anchored our souls in fields of darkness when the pasture of light is just a few inches in front of us.
How do I let go?
This is a question many people struggle with. How do you let go of the past? Sometimes God blesses us with an easy detachment where we can easily remove ourselves from our past, however other times it requires more drastic measures to cut ourselves from what’s holding us back.
An experience of my own involved a few friends I had acquired over the years who were extremely sinful and Godless. I met them during high school and we were very close for many years. However at the time I was quite an impressionable teenager, going along with whatever crowd would accept me and make me feel wanted. I did whatever I could to impress these friends, which often required awry behavior and sinning. I would often feel God’s voice warning me of how these friends were holding me back, but I would ignore it every time because I loved them. They were much like family to me.
God left me to do my sinning, to reject what He was telling me, and to “do me”. It was much in the same way that He left Lot’s wife. I became very lifeless, depressed, frustrated with just about everything, and nothing seemed to ever cheer me up. Nothing seemed to be the ‘cure’ for this. Nothing filled the void in my heart.
Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions. Even if they are dramatic, we must cut off who or what is holding us back. Sometimes difficult sacrifices have to be made if we want to live the life God wants us to live.
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Matthew 5:30
“8 If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life [Heaven] lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.” Matthew 18:8-9
Finally, the Lord woke me up one day to realize a number of things. One being that I had to fix this impressionability. However, as a weak-willed person I was not able to simply remain unaffected by my surroundings. I didn’t have that kind of power. The only power I had was to change my environment.
I prayed, asking God what I should do. These friends were still like family to me, and I hoped I wouldn’t have to lose them. I hoped that I could even change them, lead them to Christ, change all of us. However, they were pretty set in their ways.
The following morning an unexpected wave of drama hit, and within an hour I had lost my friends and would never hear from them again. My prayers were answered, even if the answer was not what I had hoped for.
Our flesh is weak
God realized I would not have the strength to remove them on my own. I was trusting in myself. I was trusting that I would somehow learn how to make progress spiritually while still maintaining relationships with a sinful environment. Our flesh is very weak, and we must not rely on ourselves for positive change. The moment we tell ourselves we can handle something, we are usually proven wrong.
“For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3)
Do not expect to accomplish anything through your own will power. You will soon find out that you may not have the strength to move on from your past, you may not have the strength to lift yourself up and look ahead. You may not have the strength to step forward, to get out of the ashes. But you do not need to have that strength. Jesus tells us that “with man it is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Trust in God’s strength, not your own. Because you yourself do not have the strength, but God does. All you need is a desire for God.
I had a desire for God at that moment, and that was all He needed. I was lucky in that when I myself did not have the strength to move on, God loved me so much that He moved the things around me instead. He became my strength to move on. He was merciful in that when I could not change my environment, He changed it for me.
It all comes down to choice.
You may or may not (though likely not) have the strength to let go of your past life. But as long as you are consciously choosing to look forward, are willing to be led, and want what is in God’s Will for you, God will take care of the rest and lead you by the hand away from your past. You must make the choice to look forward.
But until we make that choice, we are stuck as a pillar of salt.