Many of us are familiar with the story of Lot’s wife. While fleeing the city of Sodom, the angels of the Lord gave Lot and his family a very specific command: “Do not look behind you” (Genesis 19:17). The city was under judgement and God was about to rain down brimstone and fire. As Lot and his family were escaping to the city of Zoar, Lot’s wife looked back and was instantly turned to a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).
The account may seem rather extreme except for the fact that Jesus used Lot’s wife as a teaching illustration. In the context of this illustration, Jesus was addressing living spiritually prepared for the revelation and return of Christ. Jesus said, “On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back” (Luke 17:31). Jesus was underscoring the fact that He alone is to have preeminence in our life. Nothing or no one should ever capture our attention or affection more than Christ. This statement by Jesus is followed with this command: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Apparently, the action of Lot’s wife, looking back, was so detrimental that Christ used it as an example of what not to do. He stated that we should always keep her act of “looking back” in the forefront of our minds. As I’ve read the story of Lot fleeing a city that’s under siege, I admit that my own curiosity tempts me to just peek over the shoulder of my imagination to see fire falling from the heavens. But is that what Lot’s wife did? Were her actions of looking back simply a moment of curiosity?
I want to propose that Lot’s wife was enamored with more than just curiosity. The word looked (nabat) means to regard something with favor or with great pleasure. The fact is that she physically came out of Sodom, but Sodom hadn’t come out of her. This word “look” tells us that she favored something more than simple obedience to the Lord. Her heart longed to return to the city that she was leaving. What was she leaving? Her friends, the activities, the pleasures, and perhaps, even the sin that had become part of her lifestyle. Jesus followed the three-word command of remembering Lot’s wife with these words: “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:33). Lot’s wife sought to preserve her life and all that it entailed and, as a result, she lost it.
There’s another story of someone looking back, this time Jesus looked at Peter and said, “Follow me” (John 21:19) and just like Lot’s wife, this call to follow Jesus required Peter to leave his friends, his family, and his lifestyle. This was not the first time that Jesus asked someone to follow Him, and it’s not going to be the last. He still requires that you and I follow His direction and leave the past behind. The Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth if we are willing to follow Him (John 16:13). When Peter received the command to follow Jesus, the Bible indicates that he “turned around” and looked at another disciple. “So Peter seeing him [the other disciple] said to Jesus, ‘Lord, what about this man’” (John 21:21)?
The moment that Peter turned around it indicated that something other than Christ had seized his attention. When your focus has been apprehended by something or someone other than Christ, you will always be subject to spiritual failure in your life. Peter, of all people, should have learned this lesson while walking on the water. When he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind, he became frightened and started to sink (Matthew 14:30). We are empowered to do the impossible if we’ll keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, but just like Peter, we turn, we look at the circumstances, we listen to the words of our friends, or we check out what other people are doing. Fear, defeat, discouragement, and destruction always accompany those who look at everything besides Jesus. They are the fruit of turning back and looking elsewhere.
The writer of Hebrews states that we’re to look away from everything else and fix our eyes solely on Jesus because He’s the “author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). That’s an interesting statement: it’s possible to have faith that has been perfected if we’ll keep our eyes on Jesus. The point is following Jesus shouldn’t be contingent upon what others around us say or do. Nothing or no one should ever capture our attention more that Christ. Make the choice today that you will follow Him wherever He leads, and never take your eyes off Him or look back.
Jesus, I’ll follow your Spirit wherever you lead. I won’t look back, around, or away, amen.