A Gaze on Eternity
Our ministry wide study of Genesis this semester has been awesome. You can see a copy of it here. Among other things, God spoke to me quite profoundly through last week’s study in ch. 19 where God destroys Sodom/Gomorrah while also saving Lot’s family.
The angels come to the city at the beginning of the chapter to discern if now is the time for judgement, ***spoiler alert***: IT IS! After a rude welcoming by the men of the city, they warn Lot what they are about to do (vs. 12). As morning dawns, they have to urge Lot and his family to leave. Lot hesitates and lingers to the point that the angels drag them out of the city by their hands!
Why does he hesitate? Why linger? He knows what is about to happen. Does he not believe the angels? Is he too tied to the city to leave? I can’t imagine what would be going through my head if I knew every possession of mine would be destroyed. It would be hard to up and depart my life.
Well, after a negotiation about which city to flee to, Lot’s family is commanded to run and not turn back. At this point the sun has risen up into the sky and God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah, the surrounding area, and all the inhabitants and vegetation. Literally it says, “the LORD rained sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”
As Lot and his family flee, I wonder what they smelled and heard. Were they afraid? Concerned? Relieved? And when did they realize their mother’s fate?
In the midst of their getaway, Lot’s wife turns back. She disobeys the angels and becomes a pillar of salt. She is swept up in the judgement of the city. The first time I read this I thought she disobeyed a simple command. But upon closer examination it seems to go much deeper.
First of all, as Keith Krell writes, the hebrew word “nabat” signifies an intense gaze. She did look back and disobey, but she did so because she loved her stuff. She loved the city. I imagine she looked back with a longing discontent about what she was losing. She died with eyes on the temporal thus missing out on the eternal.
Second of all, as Luke 17:28-32 seems to suggest, she may have even returned to the city. Wow. She couldn’t leave without her things. Her heart was tied to material wealth. This is much more than a glance. This is a full on love affair.
Her punishment was deserving either way, but this shows how in love Lot’s wife was with Sodom. And thus she receives the punishment of Sodom.
As I was thinking about this I came across Revelation 21:1, 2 and stopped in my tracks. It says, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”
As I read this I couldn’t help but think of Lot’s wife. She loved Sodom. Her life. Her stuff. She couldn’t depart from it. So much so that she had to turn down the chance to escape to have it all back.
Her gaze. Her eyes. Her heart. Her affections. All of it was on the temporary delights of this world. She wasn’t looking ahead. She was looking behind. She wasn’t focused on the new heaven, the new earth. She was focused on the dying earth. The sad part is she settled for less.
WHAT ABOUT ME?
I felt God’s Word fixing its sights on me asking me, “Jon, where is your gaze? Where is your hope and delight? What consumes your thoughts and desires?”
Too often I’m looking back on what will inevitably fade away. I feel comfortable in a land that will never be my true home. And I forget about what’s to come. I live in just the half story.
I need to turn my eyes and hearts up off the things of this world… Off of entertainment. Stuff. A bigger house. Success. Importance. Comfort. And set them on Jesus… his glory. His life. His death. His resurrection. The new heaven. Eternity.
Only when I’ve done this will I be able to enjoy the things of this world properly. Only then will I be able to endure suffering because when you think about it, 80 years compared to forever is nothing. Only then do they seem light and momentary.
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is form the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
1 John 2:15-17