Monday, 07 January 2013 10:59

Lot [4]

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Dear listeners, people make memorials of joyful events, but also of sorrowful events and of great loss. Think for example of holocaust museums. If you go to the Dutch town of Urk, there is a memorial to those who have drowned at sea, and all their names are engraved on the wall. There is a statue of a woman looking out to sea for her men, who will never return. Every time you see it, it is impressive. Think of the crosses with wreaths of flowers that you see in places along the road where someone has died. People remember the sorrows, losses, and agonies of the past. Why? Why not just remember joyful things? We need these reminders of the price of freedom, of the threat of evil, of the devastation of sudden loss, so that we will value and live rightly today.

The irony is that while the world is quick to make such memorials, the church tends to want to ignore these spiritual memorials. People quickly say that is negative. Let's just be joyful and positive. Our own hearts are also quick to want to forget the warning lessons of the negative memorials in scripture. The sin that is in us wants to convince us that it is too small a thing to be so bothered about.

The Lord Jesus Christ gives us in our text today an unforgettable spiritual memorial. Remember Lot's wife, He says to us! As we obey Christ and visit the memorial He has set up for our good, this will be our theme:

The Lord Jesus says remember Lot's wife

I. Remember her rare privileges

II. Remember her great sin

III. Remember her striking judgment

We have examined the choices of Lot, a righteous man, to try to serve two masters, God and wealth. We have seen the warnings God gave him, and the merciful deliverance God gave him. But now we need to look closely at what his compromising worldly life cost him. The price tag for worldliness is large. It does not appear immediately. The seemingly small choices seem to be no big deal. But then the shocking bill is suddenly presented as the great sinkhole of worldliness caves in.

Lot and his family were warned. They are outside the city, they are hurrying to the small town of Zoar where God has promised they will be safe. The moment Lot goes through the gate of Zoar, the judgment of God bursts upon Sodom. God rains brimstone and fire upon the cities of the valley. Brimstone is sulphur, the stuff matches are made of. It is very flammable. Then God ignites this flammable mixture with fire which immediately and inescapably roars over everything. There is no way out. It is too late for these wicked cities. Nothing survives the firestorm.

We see in this storm the fire of God's wrath against all sin and sinners. This is a picture of hell. The prophets of the Old Testament and New Testament used it as a graphic warning. Hear these words from 2 Peter 2:6: Sodom and Gomorrah were turned into ashes to be made an example to those who would afterwards live ungodly. The Lord Jesus in Luke 17 told us that the day of His coming to judge the living and the dead will be like Sodom, when God rained fire and brimstone there.

Let us not make this danger seem small. The Puritan, Thomas Manton, has these sobering words: just like a real fire is much more horrible than a picture of a fire in a book, so the flames of hell are much more terrifying than the fire and brimstone of Sodom. The flames in Sodom burned everything to ashes and then died out. The flames of hell will burn, not to ashes, but to light an eternal flame. Always burning, never burned out. All those wicked sinners from Sodom are still in that eternal flame.

See here you who are unrepentant. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. You are reserved for hell, and hell is reserved for you. God has made the reservation. There is only one way to cancel it. That is if you repent of your sin and surrender to Him, and live through His grace, Spirit, and strength a new life for His glory. God may put up with you for a long time. He waits and waits, giving call after call for your repentance. But the time comes, known to Him alone, where He has had enough. Then it is too late, forever too late! Do you want to risk this by continuing in your sin?

The ruined cities are however not the only memorial God leaves us of that day. We find another memorial in Lot's wife. We don't just get the big picture warning of the cities, but the individual warning of this one woman.

To notice why God singled out this woman for special judgment in the ruin of that day, we need to realize just how great and rare her gospel privileges were. We begin by noticing that she is not named. She is simply called Lot’s wife, not just here in Genesis 19, but in the New Testament as well. Now God gives us the names of many people in Scripture, including the names of many unbelievers. But in this case He does not. She is known to us by only one name – the name, Lot's wife.

Why? Because this name emphasizes her rare and great spiritual privileges. She was the wife of a righteous man, a man who was daily grieved at the evil he saw all around him in Sodom. She was the niece by marriage of Abraham. Do you realize how few of the millions of people alive then had such privileges? No one else in all of Sodom had such examples! Lot's wife had a daily example of what real godliness looked like. Yes Lot was weak, inconsistent, and a compromiser. But righteous Lot also vexed his soul daily in unrighteous Sodom. His wife of all people knew this.

She was there when Lot brought two angels into their home. She was there when these angels struck the eyes of the lustful mob with blindness. She was personally grabbed by the hand and dragged out of the city. She was warned by God Himself through His messengers to run. Don't linger. Or you will be caught up in the destruction of these cities. It was clear to her by the urgent words and tone and actions of these messengers that God was serious in dealing with the sin of Sodom. She was told with the others, ‘Don't even look back at these cities, or you will be destroyed with them.’ For all the others it was too late, but not for her. She was promised safety in the town of Zoar if only she would obey the instructions of the angels. All these were gospel privileges, a door of opportunity, a way of escape.

Why does this need to be emphasized so strongly? Because when God judges sin and sinners, He always weighs how much that person knows in determining how much to punish them. God's judgment is not one size fits all. It is personal and precise. With great privileges and gospel gifts comes greater responsibility.

What about you? You have had even greater privileges than Lot's wife has. You have a completed Bible, she had none. She had only the lives of Abraham and Lot. You have the complete record of God's wrath against sin and of God's way of escape in Jesus Christ. You have known people who know the Lord.

What is the fruit of all these privileges in your life? Has it brought you to repentance? Has it melted your heart? Do you realize that many people in Canada and around the world have never had the privileges you have had? You have very rare privileges and opportunities. Has it hardened you in sin, or has it begun to melt you and make you hunger and thirst after the righteousness you see in others? It is one or the other. Remember all that God has done for you and given to you! With great gifts comes gospel opportunity, but also gospel responsibility!

In the case of Lot's wife, her privileges did not save her for she revealed her hardened heart.

II. Remember her great sin

Lot's wife was following the family to safety when the Lord rained upon Sodom fire and brimstone from heaven. We read of her in vs. 26 these sobering words: but his wife looked back from behind Him. That's all, someone asks? She looked back? Wouldn't you look back if you heard the noise of fire and brimstone? What's the big deal? That very question betrays a pro-sin bias. This is the devil's logic.

Why did God consider it a sin so great that she was made a memorial to warn future generations thousands of years later? This sin shows her character. A small crack in an arch may indicate an entire foundation that is crumbling. A glance of the eyes can tell you much about the heart.

First of all, this act of looking back shows that she despises the command of God and thinks her own wishes are more important than those commands. She ignored God's command. Is not all sin a despising of the command of God, and of the God who commands’? Do you not say in every sin, ‘My will is more important than God's? Whether that sin is obnoxious in the eyes of people or not, it is obnoxious in the eyes of God.

For example, think of a small gopher. You can leave that one small gopher in your field and think, it is just a small one. But if you leave it, that one small gopher will find another small gopher and breed more little gophers that will spread ruin in your crops. A so-called small sin never remains alone. It breeds more sins. One commentator says it like this: small sins are the mothers of great sins and the grandmothers of great punishments.

Second, her act of looking back shows that she still loves Sodom and its lifestyle in her heart. She is leaving Sodom because she has to, not because she wants to. She sees no real evil in Sodom, no reason why God would destroy it. Instead of being amazed at the mercy of God and the open door of escape that was graciously given to her, she is instead upset with the severity of God as if He is wrong in ripping the family away out of Sodom.

Here too we see the bitter fruit of Lot's sin. Lot's sin has fertilized her sin. Lot had a divided heart. His heart was partially with the money he could make in Sodom, and on the other hand he was grieved and tortured in heart by the sin he saw there. Lot's wife does not really grieve herself at these sins. She sees only the luxury of life there, freedom from the tents of the pilgrims.

Do you see the price tag of a compromising worldliness in a believing person? Your family will see your sins. They will say, ‘If he is doing it too, if she does it too, it can't be all that bad.’ But they will take a bigger dose of that sin than you did. They will say if a little sin is not so bad, then a little more of that little sin is not so bad either. If they see you reading a book that you really shouldn't, or saying things you really shouldn't, then you are basically giving them permission to follow the same pattern. This is why it is so important to watch and pray over the seemingly little things in your life.

It also warns those of us who are still unrepentant. Maybe you realize the danger that sin exposes this world to. The fire and brimstone is being prepared. You would rather not get caught up in God's wrath when it does explode. But deep down, you still love your sins too. You think it is not that bad. You wish you could somehow continue the sin without the risks and dangers. Sin still has the love of your heart, even though it is so dangerous and deadly in the end.

There are people like this in churches too. They grow up with the truth. They are not openly immoral. That is, you don't read about their committing adultery or saying they are atheists. But they just love this present world. They love the little niche they have carved out for themselves in this world, their homes, their work, their hobbies, their way of doing things. They are comfortable and content there. They don't seem to want anymore than that.

Third, her sin was sneaky. She lagged behind so she could sneak one more peek. She didn't want Lot to see her, so she made sure she was last in line. Then she took just one more longing glance. Open public sins get the reputation. But sneaky secret sins are often actually worse. Why? Because the sneaky aspect shows that you know it is wrong, so you don't want others to find out. Sneaky sin also means you are more worried about what people think than about what God thinks. Lot's wife did not want Lot to see her look back. But she was not really concerned about whether God saw her look back. “The more secret the sin”, Thomas Manton writes, “the more industrious the heart to do that sin with the least possible shame and damage to ourselves. Sneaky sins speak of premeditation and hypocrisy.”

What are some more examples of people who look back so to speak today? There are children who grow up learning the Bible verses and songs. They sing enthusiastically during the programs of the church. But as they grow older, they get caught up in the youth culture of our society. They get swept along with its sins. They look back.

Or think of a young woman who is decided and serious about spiritual things. But suddenly as she reaches her 20's, she decides not to be so strict anymore. She wants a home and a family. So she gives her heart to someone who does not pretend to have solid spiritual life and convictions. She waters down and drifts along. She looks back to this world.

Perhaps you are married to a Lot, or have a father or mother who is a Lot. Or even an Abraham. You have been somewhat alarmed and walk along with them for a while, away from sin's dangers. You are towed along in their wake, so to speak. You don't mind many of the rules of the home. But your heart is secretly content with life in this world. And after a while the sense of spiritual danger just seeps away, and you look back in longing to this present world.

What about you? Perhaps you are learning right from wrong. You know the truth. Your conscience is beginning to bark the alarm when you cross the line. So you try to follow those old habits, now with some sneakiness mixed in. And God's eyes are on you the whole time. You cannot hide from Him. You can not escape His notice. And His eyes matter the most of all.

Someone may want to ask, ‘What do I do then? I admit it, I have a heart like Lot, and worse, like Lot's wife. Sin still does fester and rot in my heart. I take some steps down the road to deliverance because of fear. But almost against my will. For my heart is still too much in my sins. What should I do then? I can't change my own heart can I?’

You can go to the one who can and does! Get honest with the Lord. Tell Him about your sneaky, wavering heart that wants to pretend a little glance at sin is not so bad. Tell Him about the secret love in your heart for sin that is a fatal attraction in your heart. God loves to hear and answer such prayers! This is why He has made Lot's wife a memorial – not of despair, but of hope. Of warning, yes, but of warning in hope that those who see will repent.

III. Remember her striking judgment

We read in vs. 26 that Lot's wife looked back.. We read also God's response to this look back. And she became a pillar of salt. She was instantly petrified into a block of salt in the shape of a woman. She was caught up in the ruin of the cities she loved rather than God. Why a pillar of salt? Well, that area became dominated by what is still called today the salt sea, the saltiest body of water in the world. It is so salty that it is also called the Dead Sea. Nothing can survive living in those waters. You cannot drink them, you cannot grow anything in them. Salt in this case is a symbol of death, of God's curse.

What a hopeless end this was. Often when someone dies, you can hope perhaps against hope that he or she came to repentance on their deathbed. But not in this case. She is instantly petrified where she stands. Sin is like this. You tell yourself, ‘Just one more’. But pile up enough so called little sins and the time comes when God has had enough. The end is sudden and severe. Judgment comes swiftly. Then it is too late, forever too late.

One of the most impressive parts of the memorial to those who died at sea in the town of Urk is that it is a living unfinished memorial. There are blank spaces on the wall, and recent additions. Names are still being put on it. So it is with us. Will some of us have our names written on the memorial of Lot's wife? Will some of you be the next name inscribed there?

See here you who are unrepentant, you who want to sin a while longer. Maybe you whisper to yourself that you will not live like this forever, just for a little while now. You promise things will turn around. You argue that you are already walking in the right direction towards safety, and that a look back now and then, some more lingering, is not all that bad. You are like a person who decides to sit in the path of an oncoming tornado for the cooling breeze. Sin is not safe. If you keep on lingering, and looking back, the day will come when it is too late. Learn from Lot's wife just how deadly a danger this is! Is any sin worth risking hell for?

God forbid that I should speak to you so plainly of hell without pain and sorrow. God forbid that I should in any way be calloused, a hard-hearted fire and brimstone preacher. Christ Jesus and full salvation in Him can be offered freely to the greatest sinner and compromiser. There is an open gospel door freely available to anyone and everyone. But oh, God forbid equally that I would be so hardhearted as to not warn you solemnly about hell.

Remember the cities of the plain which are still burned out ruins. Remember Lot's wife, the pillar of salt. Do you realize that with all your gospel privileges, if you go lost, how terrible that moment and that eternity will be for you? Listen to the words of the Lord Jesus, spoken to cities that saw his miracles and heard His preaching. “Woe unto you Capernaum, for it will be more tolerable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.” Every sermon where you are not changed, you are hardened. Be thankful for your gospel privileges. But take them to heart too, and respond to the gospel proclaimed to you. Flee from the wrath to come, yes. But most of all return to God, and He will return to you.

But this salt is also something more. Salt preserves from decay, keeps things from being spoiled or rotten. Lot's wife stands as a warning beacon of God's wrath, and most of all, of His mercy.

You see, God did not have Lot's wife burned up with the cities of the plain. He turned her into a pillar, a memorial. Why? For your sake and for mine. To show that though God judges, He does not take pleasure in that judgment. He would rather that the wicked turn, repent, and live. Every warning in this series is proof to you that God prefers your salvation to your destruction.

You see this mercy in so many ways in these verses. You see it in Lot. The loss of his wife was probably what motivated Lot to leave Zoar. Lot never again wanted to be in a city like this. That was a spiritual blessing for him. A painful one, yes. It is a helpful pain. Just like the memorials of sin and death in our world always are, if you take them to heart.

You see the mercy of God shown also to Abraham. This is why we are told in vs. 27-28 about Abraham seeing the smoke going up like a furnace, so thick it blotted out all view. Abraham was graphically reminded the rest of his life of the danger of sin. Believing children of God need this reminder from time to time too! Jesus did not in Luke 17 say, “Remember Lot’s wife” to the Pharisees and chief priests. He said it to His disciples, to Peter, James and John. He says it to you and to me. Remember Lot’s wife. Remember Lot’s wife and remembering, hate and run from sin yourself!

Remember also who speaks this way to us, who says to us, remember the memorial of Lot's wife. It is the Lord Jesus Himself. He who warned went to hell on the cross. He did not go there because He looked back and lingered in sin. He did not go there because this world had captured His heart and turned His love away from His God and Father. He went there because of our lingering, and our wavering. He went there for sinners. There hell, fire, and brimstone came down on Him. There He groaned in agony. He opened the gospel door. He unlocked the gospel promises. He made urgently real the threats of God against sin. He made graphically real the love of God for sinners!

All who go to Him and pour out their hearts, confessing their sins and the fatal attraction to sin that lives in them will find a merciful God. You will find a God who is able to rescue you from yourself, to break your biased love of sin, to wean you off sin, through the love of Jesus Christ. The very memorial is a call, an invitation, to ask Him for this mercy. It is a call that God is concerned enough about you to warn you, so that you will make use of your gospel privileges while you still have them.

Oh sinner, stop and think. God is more angry with your sin than He is with the sin of Sodom. Because your privileges and opportunities are far greater than those of Sodom. The only reason He has not yet treated you like Sodom or like Lot's wife is because He is full of mercy, abundant mercy. He is ready to forgive. The very pillar of salt that was the sad remains of Lot's wife is meant to draw your attention to His mercy! It is mercy that has the last word in that salty pillar to this very day! Don't linger, don't look back – run! Run towards the God who is so great in mercy. Amen.

Pastor Eric Moerdyk

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