Don’t Look Back – A Glance Will Do!
January 11, 2004
Never look back at the wrong you’ve done,
Because that wrong you can’t undo.
Just look ahead at the goodness of God,
And he will bring joy to you.
Never look back at failures you’ve had,
Because they probably weren’t failures at all.
Just realize you are made in the image of God-
Like a mountain you will stand tall.
Never look back at what you should have done-
On these thoughts your mind you should rid.
Just ask God to guide you day by day,
Then you can proudly say what you did.
Never look back at moments of pain,
Because the only one that will hurt is you,
Just keep your mind on the love of God,
And watch your gray skies turn blue.
Never look back at material lost,
Because nothing material ever lasts.
But the things that God will give to you,
Nothing material can surpass.
Never look back for what no longer exists,
Because you won’t find it anywhere.
Just keep your eyes on the love of God-
Look around you, it is always there.
Greetings and Salutations
The word look can take on many different or similar meanings. Most times, we determine its’ meaning from the context in which it is used. For example, it can be an instruction to turn your attention to someone or something. It can be an invitation to realize a matter. It can also be used to qualify a facial expression.
One of the good things about the original languages of Scripture is that most words have specific meanings attached to them. The word look as it is used in our text today has the connotation to dissect, to gaze at; to fix your eyes on; to scrutinize, study or examine; to stare at. When I use the word look, today, I too am referring to these very types of adjectives.
This is a familiar account before us this morning. It is the account of the destruction of heightened sin, voided consciences, and buried morality, found in the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah; the account of a faithful and praying patriarch by the name of Abram; the account of some might angels that were sent on a rescue mission; the account of weak-kneed, fast talking, unimpressive “righteous man” named Lot, his wife (Latte’), and his family; the account of a compassionate, merciful, patient, just, and all-wise God.
You might have noticed that I did not characterize Latte’? Well, she is the center of our though today, and we shall uncover her shortly. Do know that Scripture really does not name Lot’s wife, so we will just refer to her as Latte’ since we will uncover her through Mr. Lot.
There are several applications that we can observe from this passage, but just for a few minutes we want to consider a single thought. One of the main thoughts from this passage is that the actions of the main characters all stemmed around a “call”. There was a call for some sort of action. There was a call that elicited a response. There was a call that caused some hidden truths to surface. There was a call. There are three aspects of the call in Genesis 19 that we want to look at this morning:
☺ HEARING THE CALL
☺ HYPOTHESIZING THE CALL
☺ HEEDING THE CALL
The angels that were dispersed to this city had previously been in the presence of Abram, only there were three with him. These two, however, came to this city in actuality to rescue Lot before they destroyed the city. I know this because Abram had asked God to spare the city if at least ten righteous people were in it. Well, it was obvious that there were not ten righteous people because the Bible says that all the men of the city, young and old, all the people had gathered around Lot’s home seeking to have sex with the strangers that were inside. As all the men were pressing their way into Lot’s home, the other people of the city had gathered in around them to watch. So, there were none righteous in the city, except brother Lot.
Abram had heard about the call long before Lot, and he immediately went into prayer for Lot and his family. Perhaps he surmised that since he had raised Lot, and since Lot knew God, surely he had been a good witness and converted a few people to God. Then, the more he thought about it, he had to keep changing his request to the Lord, until finally he surmised that surely ten people in the city were righteous. After all, there was Lot, Latte’, at least two daughters and maybe even four by now, and sons or grandsons, so that would equal 6-8 righteous people right there. Surely he had converted two more? But notice what Abram did when he heard about the impending call: he prayed for others to be saved.
Lot had begged for the angels to come home with him for the evening. His was not just a common, everyday type of home. It was a palace. It was a place of safety and a refuge. He prepared not just a meal, but a banquet for them, with sweet bread, unleavened bread. Lot was a very wealthy man in Sodom. He had chosen what he thought to be the biggest, most prosperous piece of land from Abram, and it had paid off well for him.
He had come to the city under false pretenses. I know this because the men of the city said that he had come as an alien who only then wanted to act like a judge and the word in the Hebrew that is used here gives the picture of someone stopping by from traveling on the road to rest a while. Much like the angels had. Lot was supposed to only be passing through, at least that’s the story he had told the people, but he got tangled up in the business opportunities and the wealth and he closed his eyes to the wickedness. They had made him one of the good ole boys because he was accustomed to sitting at the gate of the city, a place of honor and respect and business dealings. Lot had compromised his morals.
What have you compromised for today? What are you closing your eyes and ears to? What has captured your sense of right? What has become more important to you than following after the God that you say you love and serve?
Now, Lot clearly heard the call. There was to be no mistaking it. The angels, who were disguised as mere men traveling about, did not hedge the call or shroud it in camouflage. The call consisted of a total revelation of the purpose and intent of their visit. It’s right in the text: “…we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”
Lot heard the call; he heard it internally, meaning that he listened and understood what they were saying and what was required of him. By now he knew that these were not mere men, but messengers from God, because the angels had blinded the men of the city for a while, meaning they had allowed the full brightness of their angelic beings to flash before them.
Yes, Lot heard and he understood. Now he would hypothesize the call. He would theorize the urgency of the call; imagine himself and his family picking up, not packing up, and leaving everything they had behind; see in his mind’s eye himself going to a new, unfamiliar place to begin again, speculate his options and consequences, he would realize that the call was real and without mistake.
In his hypothesizing he hesitated; he vacillated; he was uncertain; he argued; he begged to have his own way; he wavered. In hypothesizing, he showed his great concern for his old life; his old friends; his old habits; his old friends and acquaintances; his own desires and decisions.
How often today do you hypothesize about the call God has placed before you? The call is clear and without camouflage. The call is sure and direct. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, choose life; or, come out from among them and be ye separate; let your light shine before men that they may see your work and glorify God.”
What has God called you from? How are you using your freedom in Him, to His glory or to your prosperity? To His kingdom building or your pleasure? For His tasks or your ease? In obedience to His will or compromise to yours? Just as the angels had a message attached to the call for Lot, the Lord has said that He is coming again. He’s on His way back for a church without spot or wrinkle. How will He find you? Will you have to hypothesize and languish over your stuff, or will you be ready to go? If you haven’t forsaken all now, what makes you think that you will forsake all then?
Let’s finish with the other aspect of the call. Lot heard the call; Lot hypothesized the call; and Lot heeded the call.
After hearing the action of the call, that the city would be destroyed, Lot acts on the call by witnessing to his daughters and future sons-in-law. The problem was that he had so identified with the ways of the people, and he had never bothered about witnessing to them in the past, so they thought he was just joking around, again. The angels have to finally take Lot and Latte’ by the hands along with two of their daughters and force them out.
It is now that they would hear the instructions of the call: “Don’t look back and don’t stay in the valley. Go to the mountain.” There’s our word, look again. Up to this time, Latte’ is only referred to a couple of times, but she will now leave her mark in history. Her mark stood erect. A white salt pillar, silhouetted against the sky, a lonely monument in the shape of a woman turning around toward Sodom.
What was Mrs. Lot all about? What kind of a person was she? Well, her single claim to fame was that she turned to a pillar of salt, all because she looked back. It doesn’t seem like such a big thing in and of itself, but it was. It was a direct disobedient act towards God that cost her life. She didn’t just linger behind Lot because the women in that day walked behind their men. No, she lingered because even though she too had heard the call and the instructions, even more than Lot she was holding on the he past.
She lived in luxury. She was married to a man of respect. She had the envy of the women around her. She shopped Nordstrom, bathed in the finest oils and ate the choicest meats. She had Saint Johns’ lining her closet, and Cole Hanns for every day in the month.
Her furniture was from Thomasville and only the best appliances money could buy. She had it made. And added to all of this, she was a mother, and two of her daughters were still in the city with their husbands, and perhaps a grandchild or two. The angels’ instructions were clear: leave and don’t set your mind on anything or anybody back here; anybody that does not come with you, you are to release from your affectionate watching. All of this fine stuff in the house, you are not to try and find a way to take it with you because it will be too burdensome. You can’t go up the mountain with Thomasville furniture strapped to you back. They said, Latte’, you can’t wear all of those shoes, and besides they are not profitable to you where you are going. You don’t need to stuff suitcases; everything has been planned and prepared for you. You are being called up a little higher. Just go, and don’t gaze longingly back at your past.
It was just too much to ask. Her good things just out weighed the unknown things. She just had to look back.
Jesus urged his followers to remember Lot’s wife: “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. On that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it” (Luke 17:30-33). Sobering words recalling a sobering story. Words meant to lead us away from the compelling illusions of wickedness and safe into the arms of mercy.
The Lord’s message, here and now, is the same one the angels delivered: “Don’t stop. Don’t look back. Take my hand and walk with me to safety.” The compassionate Lord is still willing to take our hands and to thrust us into His safety if necessary.
For all of his endless questions and begging and pleading, Lot was, in the end, obedient. But for all her silence, when decision time came, Lot’s wife disobeyed. You see, every time we turn the wrong way, we risk losing something of greater value---our close walk with the Father.
The escape route is clear: Jesus Christ. The Lord used Mrs. Lot’s story to make a point. When he returns, we are to be ready to follow without hesitation, forsaking everything. Salvation is offered freely but at a price: our old lives in exchange for new lives in Christ. His grace has no limits…except time. The day will come when we must abandon all and follow. Since we know neither the day nor the hour, the question is, could we drop everything and go right now? How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Heb. 2:3)
I urge you today, beloved, don’t look back, in longing and dismay, or regret and indecisiveness. A periodic glance will do. A glance; a fleeting look; a quick, momentary look; a peek if you will, will suffice. It’s all right to glance over things that can bring correction, or thanksgiving, or rejoicing, or motivation towards the Lord. When I think back over my life, and realize how the Lord snatched me from the jaws of death through my own stupidity and disobedience, I get more convinced to correct my steps. When I remember how He healed me from cancer, not once but two times, giving me time to understand and fully realize how merciful he really is, and how my own best efforts were retched in His sight; I just have to thank Him. When I think about how He kept food on my table to feed my children when I had no money to buy any, I just rejoice in His faithfulness. And when I think about those who were before me that paved the way, that kept the faith, I become like the little red engine: I start to get motivated. I’m talking about People like:
§ Joseph, put into a pit by his brothers and left to die, then removed by them only to be sold into slavery, hoping never to see him again. But he had a divinely appointed opportunity to come face-to-face with his brothers who had sold him into slavery and left him for dead. As they shook in their boots, he simply informed them: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”
§ Or, Job, who after losing all of his possessions, after losing all of his children, after contending with a short-sighted, incoherent wife, and after his health fled his body,said: “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
§ Surely you remember Abraham, who wanted a son with all of his longings, who fathered the one and only son that would be recognized by God to continue Abraham’s line and receive the promises of God; how as Abraham was ready to inflict his beloved son Isaac with a knife of death, was asked about the where-abouts of the lamb, and he said: “The Lord will provide.”
§ Or, Moses, who at the age of eighty, after committing murder and fleeing to the dessert and enduring forty years of training, stood before Pharaoh and declared: “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says, Let My People Go.”
§ I get motivated when I think of David, who forced himself on Bath Sheba and then killed her husband to cover up his sin, but he was able later to lament: “Bless the Lord o’ my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
§ Maybe Paul will motivate you, the good Pharisee, Paul who admitted to persecuting the church and taking part in the stoning of Stephen, one who knew the Law backwards and forwards and prided himself on his many exploits against the church, he said: “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
Brothers and sisters, it’s okay to glance back just as long as you glance for the right reasons and at the right things. As Jesus administered the Lord’s Supper the night of His betrayal, He said: “This is my body and my blood, do this in remembrance of me.” In other words, remember what I have done for you:
§ I left my home in Glory and came to this world plagued by sin
§ I took on the form of man to walk among you
§ I was tempted in every area of life
§ I was lied on, beaten, and tried unjustly
§ I was nailed to a cross and hung between two thieves
§ I was separated from my Father
§ I bled and I died
§ I was buried in a borrowed tomb
§ I stayed in the grave for three days and three nights
§ I was there on Friday; I was there all day Saturday, but early Sunday morning…
§ I got up, and I did it all just for you
Don’t play with the Lord, friends. Time is not long. He is coming again. And He is calling to you today. He is calling for you to come to the mountain. Come out of the valley of compromise, the valley of doubt and dilly-dallying. Come out of the valley of indecision. Decide, today, to trust Jesus all the way. Don’t hesitate, don’t waver, and don’t let your heart deceive you into thinking that tomorrow you can do it. Tomorrow is not promised to you.
Don’t look back and gaze into the stuff of this life that can blind you from the reality of true life. Just a glance back and your heart should convince you to turn to Jesus, or to commit to Him completely.
No matter where you’ve been; don’t look back
No matter where you are, don’t look back
No matter what you’ve done, don’t look back
No matter who you are, don’t look back
Just glance, and see how far God has brought you
Just glance, and see how far God can bring you
Just glance and remember who holds the future
Then say to yourself:
I feel like going on
I feel like going on
Though clouds may rise and winds may blow
I feel like going on
Why, preacher, do you think we can go on?
I think the songwriter said:
Whatever I need, it’s all in your name, Lord
If I need joy, it’s all in your name
If I need peace, it’s all in your name
Whatever I need, it’s all in your name, Lord.