If you’ve been following along, you might be scratching your head from the title and thinking to yourself… “Now wait a minute – didn’t you just have a blog post last week about needing to remember? How I am supposed to ‘remember’ but not ‘look back?”
Well, I am glad you asked such a question, even if I prompted it!
Last week, there was a call to remember – to not just move forward in 2020 without recalling what God has done. To remind ourselves that He not only knows us but acts on our behalf. That Scripture directs us to shift our focus back to remember the faithfulness of who God is because of what He has done in our lives, anchoring us to live life extraordinarily in the present and beyond (see https://nathancherney.com/remember/).
Ironically enough, the call to remember extends to not looking back. Jesus gives us instructions about the coming of the Kingdom of God, the future that is to come when He comes back. In this message, He tells us this:
“It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.” – Luke 17:30-33
Did you catch that keyword ‘remember?’ Clearly it’s important for us to recollect what happened to Lot’s wife if Jesus mentioned it. What happened to Lot’s wife that give us the charge to remember?
We have to go back to Genesis to get the answer. The Lord met with Abraham to specify the promise of a child that they had been waiting for – Abraham and Sarah would have a son next year (Genesis 18:10). It’s shortly after this discourse that the Lord reveals to Abraham that He is going to judge the cities Sodom and Gomorrah for their ‘sin is so grievous’ (Genesis 18:20). Abraham remembers that his nephew Lot and his family live in Sodom, so he intercedes for them and others who are righteous. The Lord willingly and graciously declared that would not destroy the cities if 10 people were found righteous (Genesis 18:32).
However, the angels found out quickly that the report of grievous sin was accurate – and that there was none righteous but Lot’s family to save. The angels warned Lot and his family to flee for their lives – to not stop anywhere in the plain and to not look back (Genesis 19:17).
Once Lot and his family fled and reached the small city of Zoar, the cities were overthrown in what was described as burning sulfur raining down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24-25). Then all of a sudden, it brings our attention to Lot’s wife, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt” (Genesis 19:25).
“Remember Lot’s wife!”, Jesus says.
What did Lot’s wife do?
She looked back and she wasn’t supposed to.
The account in Genesis is not explicitly clear as to why she looked back, but Jesus gives us a glimpse as to the possibilities of why. “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33).
It is quite possible that Lot’s wife looked back because she longed for what she had in Sodom. Although Lot’s family was righteous, ungodly associations surrounded them. Lot’s wife looking back could represent the worldly pleasures that she would rather have than God. It may have well been a lifestyle that could have corroded her character by sinful influences. Looking back demonstrated that she was not willing to be completely obedient to God’s command and her heart was not sold out for the Lord.
Jesus explicitly makes this connection with us – his disciples – in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
Don’t look back.
You might think this is harsh, but imagine how much more so in eternity if we turn our backs on Jesus! If we ‘look back’, it reveals the true nature of our hearts – that is, there is something holding us back from trusting God completely and giving Him our undivided attention.
This can be difficult at times, can it not? There are times where we forget to remember – all that God has done in our lives to keep us grounded and hoping for the future. Then there are moments where we remember what we are supposed to forget. We recall times of the past that hinder our relationship with God and who He says we are in Christ. It’s as if we get it backwards – forgetting God’s goodness and looking back at our history and the mistakes we make to keep us imprisoned in our own thoughts… that’s exactly what Satan would want us to do.
What are some of those thoughts that can so easily cause us to ‘look back?’ It could be…
- Someone who has hurt you badly… like a wound that has not had healed. It could be years. The lack of forgiveness leads to resentment that has you ‘looking back’ to those painful words and actions.
- The regret of a life that ‘you wish you had’… perhaps this was in specific areas before you followed Christ. It can also represent a longing for what others currently have that you do not have.
- A sin that we keep going back to… this focus can lead us to either ‘beat ourselves up’, just give up, or think we just ‘will it’ (in our own strength).
This week, let’s take Jesus’ words seriously to “remember Lot’s wife” – To not look back at the desires of the world and that what holds us back from living a life fully engaged in pursuing the Kingdom of God. Identify the consistent thoughts that keep you looking back: What are they? Instead of dwelling on those ungodly thoughts (like usual), what has Jesus called you to think about it instead? Who is He calling you to become? What is He calling you to do? Remember, your identity is in Christ and it’s what He says you are! Your past, the mistakes, failures, and sins, do not mark the new life Christ has given you. Don’t look back and don’t forget to remember all that God has done and what He will continue to do through you!
Have a blessed week!