Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Devastation (Genesis 19:23-26)

"By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land.  Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah -- from the Lord out of the heavens.  Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities -- and also the vegetation in the land." (Genesis 19:23-25 NIV)

There are times when words are unnecessary to convey, and also unable to convey, a situation.  There is an utter solemnity to the aftermath of the scene which took place upon the cities of the plain.  We can almost smell the sulfur, and see the scorched vegetation smoldering in a silence which is deafening in its finality.  Hands raised defiantly in rebellion will not be raised again for any purpose.  Jeering voices raised in raucous song no longer disturb the once fertile plain, which now lies silent and barren.

The devastation is not limited to the cities of the plain.  For, as Lot and his family hurry toward Zoar, "Lot's wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt." (Genesis 19:26 NIV)  The family had been warned by their angelic rescuers that they should not look back as they fled the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 19:17).  We are not told in this passage just why Lot's wife paused to look back toward Sodom.  Perhaps she wanted to catch a last glimpse of her town.  Years later, in New Testament times, Jesus refers to Lot's wife's disobedience in Luke 17:28-32.  In that passage, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the return of the Son of Man to the earth, and he reminds the people that destruction came suddenly upon the residents of Sodom as they were going about their everyday activities.  Likewise, the return of the Son of Man would come suddenly, and Jesus reminds his listeners that when He is revealed, no one should go back inside his home to retrieve valuables.  Immediately in the next verse it says "Remember Lot's wife!" (Luke 17:32 NIV)  Perhaps this is a hint that Lot's wife was gazing back toward Sodom because she regretted having to leave material goods behind.  We don't really know -- the main point is that she disobeyed.  I don't care that much about material goods, but I tell you that I would have struggled to not look back just out of a curiosity to know what was happening back there!  However, disobedience, whether springing from materialism or curiosity or any other reason, would be an offense to the God who had revealed specific instructions through His angelic messengers.

I have seen pictures of salt formations in that general area, several of which have been reported as being "Lot's wife" over the years.  I do not think that the original remains after all this time, though.  Dry and brittle, it probably would have crumbled into bits fairly soon.  However, the story of what happened to Sodom and to the other cities of the plain is enough of a grim reminder for me.  It warns of the devastating results of disobedience, the certain toll exacted from a compromised heart, the foolishness of a stubborn refusal to repent, and the eventual punishment of those who defy God.  It also sings of God's patient waiting for repentance, of miraculous rescue from certain death and of God's desire to rescue and redeem every one of His lost sheep.

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