Looking Back
July 28, 2020, 9:26 AM

Throughout the summer months, we are looking at the family of God in the book of Genesis. Our focus has been on Abraham and his descendants, and I keep coming back to one story that was not in the preaching lectionary.

Genesis 19:24-26 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

My question in that story is, “Why does Lot’s wife look back?” As I search for answers, more questions arise. Did she really deserve to die for looking back at her home? Why a pillar of salt and not a rock, a tree, or simply death?

In the Jewish tradition the Midrash says, “She sinned with salt, and she was punished with salt.” How did she sin with salt? Rabbah R. Isaac in Reform Judaism: A Pillar of Salt: A Text Study explains sinning by salt by saying “On the night that the angels visited Lot, Lot said to his wife, ‘Give these guests a bit of salt.’ But she replied, ‘[Besides entertaining guests], is it your wish to introduce into Sodom another vile custom [that of seasoning their food]?’ What did she do? She went around among all her neighbors, saying to each one, ‘Give me salt. We have guests,’ intending thereby to have the townspeople become aware of the presence of guests in her home [and penalize Lot for it]. Hence, she herself became a pillar of salt.”’

In the Christian tradition, L. Steven Cheaits, Ph.D. says “the verse may be a mistranslation of the Hebrew word ‘malach’ which means vanish. ‘Melach’ is the Hebrew word for salt (similar because salt vanishes in water), but the Hebrew language did not use vowels at the time and so the context of the verse could have been lost. With other uses of ‘malach’ throughout the bible, it seems more reasonable to assume that ‘salt’ is a mistranslation here.” In the scripture, we are unsure if her death is a punishment for valuing her old life, her hesitation in obeying, or her unwillingness to leave her life quickly.

I wonder how many of us are turning back, or wanting to, since the onset of the pandemic. Some of us have gone from “we want things back to how they use to be” to “we want the new normal”. I’m not sure if those are possible. What I think God is asking us is why we are looking back? Is it for God’s kingdom work? Or do we need to look for Jesus in front of us? What new things can come out of the pandemic that will glorify God?

It is my hope and prayer that we would ponder this story and evaluate why we look back. Is it for a holy purpose? Or is it for our unwillingness to change or adapt to God’s calling? Lord, in your mercy, help us to discern your

will. Amen.
Pastor Kristen