The headline is never the story!
Decades ago, a small-town newspaper’s headline read: Waterproof Man Drowns in Dry Creek. Now that is an attention-getting banner from an editor. Well, actually, the drowned man was from Waterproof, Louisiana, and he drowned in a flooded stream that ran through a community known as Dry Creek.
In Luke 17, the Pharisees demand that Jesus tell them when the “kingdom of God will come.” (Luke 17:20) His answer to the Pharisees is rather cursory. Their question does cause Jesus to turn to his disciples to talk with them about the “day or days of the son of man.” (Luke 17:22-37)
Jesus’ description emphasizes the normal routine that will be followed on that day. It will be as in the days of Noah; they ate, drank, married and gave in marriage. Jesus emphasized the importance of being ready for that day.
Jesus’ warning about “that day” included there being no delay. They were to be ready to depart in haste. His Old Testament examples come from Genesis: Noah and Lot. As Jesus talked of the importance of there being no hesitation, He said, “Remember Lot’s wife.” (Luke 17:32) Those words put emphasis on a needed warning: Don’t turn back – not for anything.
Like, Waterproof Man Drowns in Dry Creek, Remember Lot’s Wife is a memorable headline.
The headline is not the story!
“Remember Lot’s wife” is the headline; “Remember Lot’s wife” is not the story. The headline declaims a moment; the story conveys the journey to that moment.
“Remember Lot’s wife,” is attention-getting. Hopefully, it gets enough attention that we are drawn to understand the story. Lot’s wife becoming a pillar of salt is a signature moment in early history. The events, or the story, that led to the unfortunate woman becoming a pillar of salt are a series of events in which Lot’s wife had little role.
Lot’s spouse is first mentioned in Genesis 19:15-16. Her inclusion in those verses comes, as God’s messengers hurry Lot’s family out of Sodom and Gomorrah. Ten verses later the text is:
But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:26)
That is the headline but the headline is not the story.
What happened to Lot’s wife became a warning a parent might use against disobedient children, “Remember Lot’s wife.” The phrase became part of common communication for anyone who was making a decision that did not include obeying God. It is a fitting phrase for such a warning.
“Remember Lot’s wife” is the headline!
Lot is the Story
Lot’s wife is unnamed by scripture, but Jewish Rabbis referred to her as “Idit.” (Tanhuma [ed. Buber], Vayera 8) If you use only scripture, you can’t think of Lot’s wife, without including Lot. The name “Lot” is always used in describing her. It is how the woman is perpetually named.
Whatever else we learn about Lot, the man can never distance himself from the woman known as “Lot’s wife.”
Jesus never told his disciples to “Remember Lot.” Jesus never said it, but if we think about the wife and her tragic end, we also need to think about Lot. Lot set a course and made decisions that resulted in multiple layers of tragedy for his family and the descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.
Sir, You are Your Family’s Story
Men who make decisions that have implication for their family better remember Lot. Lot’s wife is a public representation of several decisions made by Lot. So, is it equitable to remember and criticize Lot’s wife, without spending some time remembering Lot?
Lot’s wife is remembered for a moment of bad decision. Lot is to be remembered for a journey he led his family on. Lot led his family from pitching their tents in the shadow of promise to absolute chaos.
I’ve watched a number of men do exactly the same thing.
Places, where there are multiple options, are the making of your life. Choices will define you. Your choices will also significantly define your wife and children. Is this not the case with Lot?
Each ‘Y’ in the Road
Lot’s life can be divided into the following segments. The early path was not of his own making. What is listed below represents a “Y” in the road of Lot’s life.
- Lot – a competitor for God’s blessing.
- Lot – residing in the plains.
- Lot – send my mail to Sodom.
- Lot – rescued without relocation.
- Lot – in Sodom’s gate.
- Lot – Children Last?
- Lot – Beyond Sodom
In the critical path of Lot’s life, his wife is never mentioned. Every decision was Lot’s decision alone.
Lot positioned his wife for failure. Actually, Lot positioned his entire family for failure. He put his wife in a place where it was easier for things to go wrong, than for them to go right. A merciful God prompted by an interceding Abraham, was willing to deliver Lot and his family from Sodom. It was not to be. Oh, Lot and his two daughters got out of Sodom and Gomorrah. The long version of the story is that perverted sexuality never left Lot’s surviving daughters.
Lot positioned his family where there was too much Sodom and too little of the God of Abraham. The result – at least one-half of Lot’s family perished in Sodom. That tally does not include Lot’s sons-in-law or any grandchildren.
Sodom became part of Lot’s wife because Lot had moved her there. Last-minute grace saved Lot, and two daughters. But earlier decisions lost the remainder of Lot’s family.
Lot – a Husband
A wife is perceived to be the result of a nurturing husband. The word husband includes the premise of being a “steward.” A steward cares for, and values that which is the possession of another. The steward sets out to make a thing better because of the attention given. Lot, a husband – a steward of the life of “Idit.” The pillar of salt she became is no credit to Lot as a husband. Is what you are nurturing wife to become a credit to you?
Lot – a Father
“Father” is more than biological responsibility established by a DNA test. In the word father are wrapped the ideas of providing, protecting and preparing. Lot, was father to four daughters. Daughters, that God had given him to provide for, protect from harm, and prepare for future decisions. The Bible does not name Lot’s daughters.
“Father” has within it the idea of responsibility.
If this is the case, then as we remember Lot’s wife, we also have to consider the sort of nurturing she received, or perhaps the nurture that was lacking.
Lot’s wife comes to a tragic end because of personal disobedience. She looked back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah as they were being destroyed by fire and brimstone. We certainly cannot know the motivation that caused the woman to glance back, but she did have two daughters, and sons in law who were in the cities that were being destroyed. Perhaps her concern for her adult children caused her to instinctively react. Mothers are protective of their young, and humans, we are protective of our young even when our young are adults.
We cannot explain, but we were instructed to remember. Lingering over the outcome of Lot’s wife was the reality of her having been married to Lot. Lot was a man of decisions, a man of opportunity, a man who the New Testament speaks of as righteous.
To speak of Lot as righteous, sort of seems a stretch if God is gracious and graceful, it is also true that the word ”righteous” can be referred to being just in one’s behavior. Not simply right living, but also living just. Some of Lot’s behavior does not seem to be that of a “right living” man, but perhaps Lot was just, fair—in his dealings with other people.
In these chapters, we will remember Lot, and others, and other men who give us reason to remember them. And perhaps, they motivate us to make change, to make different choices then what those men made.
Leave a comment