Though Lot himself was a righteous man and escaped from the doom of the wicked city, yet I cannot help tracing the death of Lot’s wife in some degree to her husband. When a man walks with God and imitates God he gets to be a great character—that is Abraham. When a man walks with a holy man and imitates him he may rise to be a good character, but he will be a weak one—that is Lot But when one walks with Lot, the weak character, and only copies him, the result will be a failure—that is Lot’s wife.
Remember Lot’s wife.
— Luke xvii. 32.
It was the purpose of God always to maintain a testimony for truth and righteousness in the midst of this ungodly world. For this end of old he set apart for himself a chosen family with whom he had fellowship. Abraham was the man whom God chose, that in him and in his household the witness might be preserved. This chosen family was called out and separated from its ancestors, and led apart to dwell as wayfaring men in the laud of Canaan. They were not to go into the cities and mingle with other races, but to dwell in tents as a separate tribe, lest their character should become polluted and their testimony should be silenced. It was the Lord’s intent that the people should dwell alone and not be numbered among the nations. Abraham, being called, obeyed, and went forth, not knowing whither he went. His separated life gave great exercise to his faith, and so strengthened it that it became a calm, unstaggering assurance; and this enabled him to enjoy a quiet, sublime, and happy career, dependent only upon God, and altogether above as well as apart from. man. With him was his nephew Lot, who also left Haran at the divine call, and shared with the patriarch his wanderings in Canaan and in Egypt. He was not a man of so noble a soul, but was greatly influenced by the stronger mind of his uncle Abraham. He was sincere, no doubt, and is justly called righteous Lot, but he was fitter to be a follower than a leader. He also sojourned in tents, and led the separated life, until it became necessary for him to become an independent chieftain, because the flocks and herds of the two families had so greatly multiplied that they could not well be kept together. Then came out the weak side of Lot’s character. He did not give Abraham the choice in selecting a sheep walk, but like all weak natures he selfishly consulted his own advantage, and determined to go in the direction of the cities of the plain of Jordan, where well watered pastures abounded. This led to his dwelling near the cities of the plain, where crime had reached its utmost point of horrible degradation. We read that “he pitched his tent toward Sodom”; he found it convenient to be near a settled people, and to enter into friendly relations with them, though he must have known what the men of Sodom were, for the cry of them had gone forth far and wide. Thus he began to leave the separated path. After a while he went further, for one step leads to another. He was a lover of ease, and therefore he gave up the tent life, with its many inconveniences, and went to live with the townsmen of Sodom: a thing to be wondered at as well as deplored. He did not cease to be a good man, but he did cease to be a faithful witness for his God; and Abraham seems to have given him up altogether from that day, for we find that noble patriarch enquiring of the Lord concerning his heir, saying, “Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus?” And the Lord said, “This shall not be thine heir.” Now, this enquiry would have been needless had Lot been still reckoned to belong to the chosen seed, for naturally Lot was the heir of Abraham, but he forfeited that position and gave up his portion in the inheritance of the elect house by quitting the separated life. Lot, although he dwelt in Sodom was not happy there, neither did he become so corrupt as to take pleasure in the wickedness of the people. Peter says that God delivered just Lot vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked. He tried to bear his protest in the place, and signally failed, as all must do who imitate him. His witness for purity would have been far more powerful if he had kept apart from them, for this is the protest which God demands of us when he says, “Come ye out from among them, be ye separate.”
In the midst of the world which lieth in the wicked one Lot lived on, not without greatly degenerating in spirit, until the kings came and carried him away captive. Then by the intervention of Abraham he was delivered from the captivity which threatened him, and brought back again. This was a solemn warning, and you would have thought that Lot would have said, “I will go back to Abraham’s way of living, I will again become a sojourner with God. Sodom’s walls without God are far less safe than a frail tent when God is a wall of fire around it.” His vexation with the conversation of the lewd townsmen ought to have made him long for the sweet air of the wild country; but not so, he again settles down in Sodom, and forgets the holy congregation which clustered around the tent of Abraham. Being still a man of God, he could not be allowed to die in such society: it was not to be endured that “just Lot” should lay his bones in the graveyard of filthy Sodom. If God would save a man he must fetch him out from the world; he cannot remain part and parcel of an ungodly world and yet be God’s elect one, for this is the Lord’s own word to the enemy at the gates of Eden— “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, between thy seed and her seed.” Did he not also say to Pharaoh, “I will put a division between my people and thy people”? The Lord will sooner burn all Sodom down than Lot shall continue to be associated with its crimes, and dragged down by its evil spirit. And so it came to pass that Lot was forced out; he was placed in such a strait that he must either run for his life or perish in the general burning. Happy had it been for him if he had lived all the while in the holy seclusion of Abraham; he would not then have lost the inheritance for his Beed, nor have passed away under a dark, defiling cloud, nor have missed his place among the heroes of faith, of whom Paul writes in the famous chapter of the Hebrews: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”
Here I must pause, or you will think that I have misread my text, and that I am preaching from the words— “Remember Lot”; and indeed, I might profitably do so, for there is much of warning in the history of Lot himself. If Christian men are so unwise as to conform themselves to the world, even if they keep up the Christian character in a measure, they will gain nothing by worldly association but being vexed with the conversation of the ungodly, and they will be great losers in their own souls: their character will be tarnished, their whole tone of feeling will be lowered, and they themselves will be wretchedly weak and unhappy. Conformity to the world is sure to end badly sooner or later: to the man himself it is injurious, and to his family ruinous.
But the text saith, “Remember Lot’s wife,” and therefore I must let the husband go, and call your attention to her who, in this case, is “his worse half.” When the time for separation arrived Lot’s wife could not tear herself away from the world. She had always been in it, and had loved it, and delighted in it; and, though associated with a gracious man, when the time came for decision she betrayed her true character. Flight without so much as looking back was demanded of her, but this was too much; she did look back, and thus proved that she had sufficient presumption in her heart to defy Cod’s command, and risk her all, to give a lingering love-glance at the condemned and guilty world. By that glance she perished. That is the subject of our discourse. The love of the world is death. Those who cling to sin must perish, be they who they may.
Do not omit to notice the connection of the text, for therein our Lord bids us hold the world with a loose hand, and be ever ready to leave it all. When we are called to it we are to be ready to go forth without a particle in our hands. “In that day, he which shall be upon the housetop, and his stuff in the house, let him not come down to take it away: and he that is in the field, let him likewise not return back.” Life itself they were not to hold dear, but to be ready to lay it down for his sake; for he said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it.” To be divided from the world, its possessions, its maxims, its motives, is the mark of a disciple of Christ, and, in order to keep up the feeling of separateness among his followers, our Lord bade them “Remember Lot’s wife.” She is to be a caution to us all, for God will deal with us as with her if we sin as she did. “The thing which has been is the thing which shall be:” if our hearts are glued to the world we shall perish with the world; if our desires and delights look that way, and if we find our comfort in it, we shall have to see our all consumed, and shall be ourselves consumed with it in the day of the Lord’s anger. Separation is the only way of escape: we must flee from the world or perish with it. “Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch no unclean thing; go ye out of the midst if her; be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.”
I. “Remember Lot’s wife”: and our first call shall be— REMEMBER THAT SHE WAS LOT’S WIFE. She was the wife of a man who, with all his faults, was a righteous man. She was united to him in the closest possible bonds, and yet she perished. She had dwelt in tents with holy Abraham, and seemed to be a sharer in all the privileges of the separated people, and yet she perished. She was dear to one who had been dear to the father of the faithful, and yet for all that she perished in her sin. This note of warning we would strike very loudly, for, commonplace as the truth is, it needs often to be repeated that ties of blood are no guarantees of grace. You may be the wife of the saintliest man of God and yet be a daughter of Belial; or you may be the husband of one of the King’s daughters and yet be yourself a castaway. You may be the child of a prophet and yet the curse of the prophet’s God may light upon you; or you may be the father of a most gracious family and yet still be an alien to the commonwealth of Israel. No earthly relationship can possibly help us if we are personally destitute of the spiritual life. Our first birth does not avail us in the kingdom of God, for that which is born of the flesh at its very best is flesh, and is prone to sin, and will certainly perish. We must be born again, for only the new birth, which is of the Spirit and from above, will bring us into covenant bonds. O ye children of godly parents, I beseech you look to yourselves that ye be not driven down to hell from your mother’s side. O ye relatives of those who are the favourites of heaven, I beseech you look to yourselves that ye die not within sight of heaven, in spite of all your advantages. In this matter remember Lot’s wife.
Being Lot’s wife, remember that she had since her marriage shared with Lot in his journeys and adventures and trials. We cannot tell exactly when she became Lot’s wife, but we incline to the belief that it was after he had left Haran, for when Abraham left Haran we read that he took “Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son,” but we do not read of Lot’s wife. The name of Abraham’s wife is given, but of Lot’s wife there is no mention whatever. Again, we read, “Abram went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot with him, into the south.” “And Lot also, which went with Abram, had flocks, and herds, and tents,” but nothing is said about his having a wife. She must have been a person of very small consideration, for even when it is certain that Lot was married, when he was taken captive and afterwards rescued by Abraham, all we find is this: “And Abraham brought back all the goods, and also brought again his brother Lot, and his goods, and the women also, and the people.” We suppose that Lot’s wife is included under the word “the women.” Now the Holy Spirit never puts a slight upon good women: in connection with their husbands they are generally mentioned with honour, and in this book of Genesis it is specially so. Sarah and Rebekah and Rachel have each an honourable memorial, and as no mention is made of Lot’s wife we may infer that she was not worthy to be mentioned. She could hardly have been an inhabitant of Sodom, as the Jewish traditions assert, unless she was a widow, as they say, and the daughters mentioned were hers by a previous marriage, for at the destruction of Sodom Lot had marriageable daughters, and it would not seem that Lot had then been separated from Abraham for many years. True, the women of Sodom may have been given in marriage at an earlier age than was usual with the Abrahamic stock, and, if so, Lot’s wife may have been a native of Sodom, for it is possible that he dwelt there for twenty years. More probably, however, either in Canaan or in Egypt, Lot married a Canaanite or an Egyptian woman, a person utterly unworthy to be taken into the holy household, and therefore the marriage is not recorded. It was the custom of that elect and separated family, as you know, to send back to Padan-aram, to fetch from thence some daughter of the same house, that the pure stock might be preserved, and that there might be no connection with the heathen. It was Abraham’s desire for Isaac, and he charged his steward to carry it out, saying, “And I will make thee swear by the Lord, the God of heaven, and the God of the whole earth, that thou shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell: but thou shalt go unto my country, and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac.” This also was Isaac’s desire for Jacob, for we read, “And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.” It seems to me that Lot had married a heathen woman, and so her name is omitted. Whether it be so or no, it is certain that she had shared with Lot in the capture of the City of Sodom; she had seen the ruthless sword slay the inhabitants, and she herself with her husband had been among the captives, and she had been delivered by the good sword of Abraham. So that she had been a partaker of her husband’s trials and deliverances and yet she was lost. It will be a sad, sad thing if there should come an eternal severance between those united by marriage bonds: that we should live together, and work together, and suffer together, and should be delivered by the providence of God many a time together, and should see our children grow up together, and yet should be tom asunder at the last never to meet again: this is a prospect which we dare not think upon. Tremble, you whose love is not in Christ, for your union will have an end. What saith the Saviour? “I tell you, in that night there shall be two in one bed; the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left. Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.” It matters not how close the association, the unbeliever must be divided from the living child of God. If you cling to the world and cast your eye back upon it you must perish in your sin, notwithstanding that you have eaten and drunk with the people of God, and have been as near to them in relationship as wife to husband, or child to parent. This makes the remembrance of Lot’s wife a very solemn thing to those who are allied by ties of kindred to the people of God.