The Sunday School teacher was describing how Lot’s Wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt (Genesis 19:17, 26), when little Jason interrupted …
“My Mommy looked back once while she was driving,” he announced triumphantly, “and she turned into a telephone pole!” ~ Daniell Webb Barton (on Facebook)
The picture shown here is at Mt. Sodom, a hill along the southwest area of the Dead Sea in Israel. People in Israel like to say that this rock formation is Lot’s wife. The whole rocky ridge is made up almost entirely of halite (rock salt) and with weathering, portions become separated, like this pillar. I (Dawn) saw this area when my husband and I visited Israel right after Christmas, and the story of Lot and his family came alive.
The account of Lot’s Wife still gives me chills, reminding me of the perils of disobedience to God. And Jesus told us to remember her (Luke 17:32), so there’s an important lesson to consider.
The context of this verse is that Jesus warned that day will come when people will continue in their everyday activities, but suddenly, the Son of Man (Jesus) will return. We are to be ready for His return, and not “looking back” ~ longing for things we’ll leave behind. We are to identify with Christ and excited about His kingdom.
In practical terms for today, when God tells you to move forward, it’s never a good idea to stop and look back (unless you want to learn from some past mistakes).
Looking back can have some positive results, if we know how to do it. I’m reading a helpful book by Stephen Viars called Putting Your Past in Its Place: Moving Forward in Freedom and Forgiveness.* The author encourages those who are still troubled by unfinished business from their past to deal with it biblically, moving toward healing and hope.
Viars’ approach is balanced. He illustrates that it’s not true that our past is “nothing,” because there are many examples in the Bible of men and women “whose past choices dramatically affected their present behavior.” But on the other hand, we can’t say that the past is “everything,” because the Bible never encourages us to view ourselves as “hopeless victims whose choices today are outside our ability to understand or change.” If you’re struggling with your past, I recommend Viars’ book.
That kind of “looking back” is good. But the Bible talks about another kind of “looking back. In Luke 9: 62, Jesus says, “…No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” We’re not to look back to the things behind, but to move forward in faith and commitment. I like the way The Message puts it: “Jesus said, ‘No procrastination. No backward looks. You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day.”
Look ahead and dive into the adventure God designed for you! Farmers who look back over their shoulder when plowing tend to plow crooked rows. (The same thing happens with a lawn mower ~ try it sometime.) The problem is, if you plow a crooked row, then all the other rows will be crooked, too. Not a good thing.
Once you have decided to follow Jesus, don’t look back, Friend. You will only mess things up. Keep your eyes ahead, focusing on the Lord. He will show you God’s plan for your life in His good time, and He will enable and strengthen you to be obedient to the calling. Trust Him for the adventure.
And don’t give up, even when voices over your shoulder (maybe voices from your past) distract you or call to you to “look back.” The greatest adventures are yet ahead!
* Putting Your Past in Its Place (Harvest House, 2011), p. 18