My text this evening is from Luke's Gospel chapter 17, as we read, but just one verse - verse 32: "Remember Lot's wife". The Lord Jesus Christ spoke the words that we read together earlier, and it's as if He paused in the midst of this discourse on His second return, and He said "Remember Lot's wife" - and I want us to do that tonight.
Let me give you a bit of the context that we find this verse in. In verses 28 to 30 we find a description of the days preceding the second coming of our Lord. The Saviour Himself said that it would be similar to the days in which Lot lived. He talks both about Noah and Lot in this passage, and both Noah and Lot lived in days of religious compromise, days of moral declension - not unlike our day today. That's why many Bible scholars, including myself, believe that the Lord Jesus' coming is very near.
During the days of Noah population grew significantly - we know that from Genesis 6:1. From Genesis 6:5 we know that lawlessness increased, and the earth was covered in violence according to Genesis 6:11-13. In Lot's day the unnatural lusts of Sodom and Gomorrah were so abhorrent to God that He had to completely destroy those cities from off the face of the world. We can see right away the similarities between that age and our age today.
The interesting thing about what the Lord Jesus Christ says is that it was not their lurid sins that caused them to be unprepared when God's judgment came. According to the Lord Jesus Christ, rather than their sins, they were unprepared simply because they were preoccupied with the normal everyday mundane activities of life. In other words, they were getting on with life, their way of life may not be your way of life, but nevertheless they were eating and drinking, and giving and taking in marriage - and they were so engrossed and preoccupied with normal human existence, that they had no concern at all with God or with any of the warnings from God's prophet.
Now when we come to Lot after Noah, civilisation had advanced somewhat, so that by Lot's time the description of Noah's day was not sufficient, just that people ate and drank and gave and were taken in marriage. As we read in verse 28, then they also bought, they sold, they planted, they built. Noah's age was eating and drinking and marrying, normal sensual pleasures if you like. But by the time we get to Lot's age, ah well, humanity is wanting to push the boundaries a little bit. Now man is seeking not just to exist without God, but he's making an effort to bring in a golden era of peace and prosperity without God. The sin that the Lord Jesus levels at the feet of that generation is not their immorality, although that was abhorrent and an abomination in the sight of God, but the fact that they were wanting to get on with their lives excluding Him. That is why God's judgment came upon them suddenly.
When I was thinking about this, my mind immediately went to the parable the Lord Jesus told of the rich businessman or the rich farmer. He was doing so well in his business that he said to himself: 'I will pull down my barns and build greater', and he said to his soul, 'Soul, take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry' - but God said: 'Thou fool, for this night thy soul...'. Now that was an arresting statement to that man, because up to that moment in his life he had not taken into consideration that he even had a soul. But now, all of a sudden, because he had prepared for all his material needs, out of the blue, like lightning, God spoke to him about his soul - and he wasn't prepared for that!
In verses 29 and 30 we have a similar situation, for the very same day that Lot went out of Sodom, and God delivered him from that city, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all: 'Even thus shall it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed'. They weren't expecting it, they were eating and drinking and giving in marriage, they were planting and they were reaping, they were expanding and building - yet it was at that very moment that the judgment came. So it shall be at the coming of the Son of Man. Jesus is simply saying: 'Do you see people who are engrossed and concentrating on their own pleasure, their self gratification and their business? They will be destroyed if they have excluded God from their lives'.
Verse 31 says it clearly: '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'. In other words, those who have an attachment to earthly things, on that day it will imperil their very life. Can you believe this? I could hardly! That when the Lord Jesus Christ comes back again in judgment, people won't be falling to their knees and saying: 'Lord, have mercy on me!' - they'll be running back to their homes and trying to get their Mercedes out of the garage, trying to find their bonds and their shares to secure them all! Because there are some people in this world that are so infatuated, preoccupied with the physical realm to the total exclusion of that which is spiritual. He says: 'Don't try and salvage anything on that day. Don't turn back, you should flee' - and here's the immortal, ancient, timeless memorial to that fact that He gives: 'Remember Lot's wife'.
Here's why you shouldn't do it! You've heard of a 'legal precedent' in court, where they recount something that has happened before as proof of why something should happen again in law. That's what the Lord Jesus is doing, if you like: 'Here's how I know that there's no point running after your money and your possessions when judgment comes - remember Lot's wife!'. Now we could remember many things about her tonight. We could remember her look of disobedience, when she realised that she had incurred the judgemental wrath of God by her sin. We could look at her look of fearful doom as she turned, as the Bible says, into a pillar of salt. But what I want you to remember tonight about Lot's wife is three things. First of all: remember her privileges. Then secondly, I want you to remember her sin. Then thirdly, I want you to remember her punishment. You mightn't be familiar with this story, but hopefully as we go through these three points you will become very familiar, and I want you to become intimate with it - because I want you to realise that you're in the same predicament as her, and I want you to remember her story tonight, lest one day you lift up your eyes being in torments in hell and remember...but because you were unprepared, it will be too late.
Remember her privileges - what am I talking about? Well, if you read the book of Genesis, you will know that Lot was a righteous man. Lot came from a godly family, and so this wife of his married into a godly family, and her better half - and I'm correct in saying that - was the nephew of Abraham. Abraham was Lot's uncle, and so when Abraham was called by God from pagan idolatry out of a place called the Ur of the Chaldees, Abraham went out in obedience to the call of God, God promised to bless him, to save him, to make the fruit of his loins a nation that no man could number - and as Uncle Abraham went out, little nephew Lot went after him. I imagine that Lot was greatly influenced by his Uncle Abraham, and yet as we go through the book of Genesis we find that there are subtle differences between Lot and his uncle. Because, as we read Moses' account, we find out that where Abraham was content to dwell in tents, and travel and pilgrimage towards God's promised land that he had never seen, he didn't know what the name of it was - Lot got to the point in his life where he wanted to give up all this pilgrimage and living in tents, and he preferred the settled land.
This is right away where we see Lot's weakness, and this is manifested in the account when the two families, Lot's and Abraham's, got so big that their herdsmen began to fight with one another, and they decided: 'We're going to have to go our separate ways'. So Abraham, the wise man that he was, give Lot first preference to choose what part of the land he wanted, and the Bible says he took first preference and he chose the well-watered plain near the cities of the plain. Now the cities of the plain were these cities of Sodom and Gomorrah whose crime rate had soared and reached an all-time high, and we read within God's word that Lot pitched his tent toward Sodom. He's still in a tent, but he is now settling down in his ease in the world, and he's pitching it toward Sodom. Later on, as we read through the book, we find that just like the life of sin, one downward step leads to another - and as he moved nearer the city, he gave up his tent for a house, bricks and mortar, something more permanent in this world. He took his ease just like the rich farmer.
Now many preachers castigate old Lot, but you know Peter tells us that Lot was a righteous man. This is hard to understand at times, but Peter says that the sins that were in the city of Sodom vexed Lot's righteous soul every day. But I'm not preaching to you about Lot, even though he may have taken steps in backsliding, I want to talk to you about his worse half - one who was not so vexed about the sins of Sodom, one who loved those sins and did all she could to stay in the environment of those sins. Sin got to such a stage in Sodom and Gomorrah that God was going to put Lot and his wife in a position where they would have to flee for their lives, or else they would perish. So God told them to flee from the city and, as they were fleeing from Sodom, not to look back - for if they looked back, they would be turned into a pillar of salt in God's judgment.
The remarkable thing is that with the flaming sulphur of the wrath of God Almighty falling behind her back upon the city that she had lived in, Lot's wife couldn't resist just one more lingering love-glance at her condemned home. Do you know what that proves? It proved that she loved the world more than she loved God, and it proves that the love of the world is death - whoever you are! Whatever your privileges have been, God's word says: 'If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him'.
Now imagine this, because here's another of her privileges - not only was she married into this family, a godly family that knew the way of salvation, but she was in the closest bonds of matrimony with this righteous man, Lot. She was married to this man of God, yet she perished. Do you know what this book, the Bible, teaches me, if it teaches me anything about salvation? It's simply this: you can be the father, the mother, the child, the sibling of the godliest saint alive, and still perish! Sure, even the brothers of Jesus thought that He was mad, and even though they were the half-brothers by human flesh, it didn't make one button of difference in the eyes of God. The word of God stands sure, John 3 and verse 3: 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'. It doesn't matter how you were born once - as a Protestant or a Roman Catholic. It doesn't matter what colour your skin is, or what church you evolved into by an accident of birth, what matters is the second birth.
I wonder, tonight, if you have a godly family around you. Maybe you're the child of a believer, or maybe someone has passed on and is in heaven tonight - I think we all have them - wouldn't it be a tragedy if we, in some way, had a privileged connection to someone that is on the very shores of heaven tonight, and we died within the sight of it, with the way to heaven in our heads but the world in our hearts! Can you imagine the adventures this woman had with her husband? She had gone through conquests with God's people, she had been in their struggles, in their sorrows, in their pains. She had heard first-hand about the gracious covenant that God had made with Uncle Abraham. She knew that God was willing to accept men and women through the sacrifice of blood. No doubt, on occasions, she joined in their songs, she revelled in their feasts, she even engaged in their prayers with the crowd of God's congregation. My friend, that is an astounding thing, that even though she experienced all these privileges with God's people, in a family where God's name was revered, she still perished!
But that should be no surprise, Jesus says that: 'When I come again, it will be exactly the same'. There are people who will have prayed prayers, there are people who will have called themselves Christians, He even goes as far as to say that there are people who will have 'healed the sick, cast out demons, done miraculous works in my name; but I will say 'I never knew you''. Communicants, church members, people who have been baptised, Jesus says they will say: 'We have eaten and drunk in Thy presence, and Thou hast taught in our streets', but Jesus will say, 'I tell you, I know not whence ye are, depart from me all ye workers of iniquity'.
Let me tell you a couple of more privileges that this woman had. Do you know who took the message to flee from the wrath to come to this woman and her husband? Angels! Two angels came to her - and she, incidentally, entertained them - and they brought to her a message of deliverance. She listened to that message of deliverance, and here's another astounding fact: she actually took the first steps in being saved. What do I mean? Well, she heard the judgment warning from the angels, and she was aroused in her heart to realise that she was in danger, and she arose early in the morning with her husband and she began to travel. I can see her in my minds eye running down the High Street of Sodom towards the gate, I can see her with every breath, with every sinew, with every effort of energy trying to, with breakneck speed, reach that gate and get beyond its boundary. There she is running, and she reaches the open plain running alongside her husband, following his example. You might say: 'Well then, what happened? Why is she in such trouble that Jesus says she was turned into a pillar of salt?'. Well, for some reason, her pace lessened, she slowed down - what was it she said? What was it she thought?
She almost stopped to a dead standstill because she remembered what she had left behind. Oh, she left behind her home, probably left behind livestock, left behind her neighbours and her friends - but that's not what I'm thinking about, because the greatest thing that she left behind was her heart. She was out of Sodom, but Sodom was not out of her heart! The Bible says that she began to linger. There was another occasion when both Lot and her lingered, when the angels first came and announced the message of judgment the Bible says that Lot lingered, and the angels had to physically take the wrists of that man and woman and pull them out of their house and out of the city. You would think after that one lingering moment that that would have been enough for her, she would have fled, especially when she heard the cries of those who were being judged. Yet, my friend, she lingered once again. Lot didn't linger, he kept running, he kept going, but she lingered, she stopped. Her heart was in the world, and she turned, and as she turned the fire of God's brimstone rained upon her and she was turned into that salt.
Have you lingered before? How many people have been touched by God, not just angels, but by God Himself? You've been touched in your conscience on one occasion, you've been touched in your heart, perhaps at a meeting like this - and yet so many touched can still linger, and can be lost! If there was ever a lesson that we can learn in remembering Lot's wife, surely it is this: that to be almost saved is to be not saved at all! All these privileges that she had, yet she was lost and her husband was saved - and Jesus says: 'When I come again in judgment, there will be two in a bed, one will be taken and the other will be left. There will be two in the field, one will be taken and the other will be left'. For those who are in Christ, for those even in this fellowship who are going through the threshold of bereavement as we speak, there is a great hope of a meeting day when all the redeemed of God shall be together - but for those who are lost, there is not that hope, there is a separation and a separation for eternity! That's why you need to remember Lot's wife, remember her privileges, and if those privileges are yours this evening you need to flee and be saved immediately!
Don't just remember her privileges, but remember her sin. She lingered when the angel first spoke to her, and now she's lingering again. I can, in my minds eye, almost imagine these two angels. The first angel in one hand has Lot, and in the other hand has his wife - and he's running as fast as his feet can carry him. The second angel has Lot's two daughters behind, and then all of a sudden he is slowed down as Lot's wife starts to linger, the Bible says. She started to slow down in her pace, and then she actually stops. She just couldn't keep up with the rest of them, and there are many people who are guilty of that sin in our land tonight: they're slack in their Christianity. Their Christianity is not a Christianity at all, yet they call it Christianity. They think that this evangelicalism, this Gospel preaching, is all fanatical. But, my friend, it is fanatical in this sense: we are fleeing from a burning city, we are crying for you to flee from a burning city - that's why we get excited about it! Your soul is at stake, there's no room for lingering!
Just calling yourself a Christian, just going to church, just trying to keep the ten commandments and doing your best to your neighbour, that is not enough! I'll tell you why it's not enough: because it wasn't enough for this woman. She was out, she was almost saved, she was beyond the pale of Sodom, yet the fact of the matter is that a religion of convenience wouldn't do her, because it hadn't changed her heart. Her second sin was not only her slackness but the fact that she doubted God. God had warned her first-hand from these angels that judgment was coming, she had seen the Sodomites blinded at her own door, she knew what God could do - but the fact of the matter is, I believe that she started to doubt God. You almost think it's not possible, how could she doubt after seeing such things? Well, if she didn't doubt, why did she turn? When God told her: 'If you turn, I'll turn you into a pillar of salt', was there not in her heart or her mind this doubt: 'Surely God won't destroy me'?
Maybe she woke up that morning, and it was a beautiful day, and she thought: 'Surely this is not the day of God's judgment?'. People are thinking in our world tonight, when you talk to them about their soul, 'Surely God won't judge this world? Surely He'll not keep me out of heaven? I'm not that bad! Surely God won't send people to hell? What kind of a God would do such a thing?'. I say to you tonight: let God be true and every man a liar! God's word is clear, and sadly she found it out to be clear, for as she turned the look of her eyes was only pointing in the direction that her heart was facing, because she had left her heart in Sodom. Those treasures of hers were in Sodom in that burning city, and the Lord Jesus said: 'Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also'.
So what the Saviour is saying tonight to all our hearts is this: it doesn't matter what you say, it doesn't even matter what you do, how is your heart? Is thy heart right with God? Here's a lesson if there was ever one: you can't have the Saviour and have your sin at the same time. You can't have Christ and have civilised world, you can't have the two: your habits and the Saviour. Here's proof if ever there was one greater than any verse in the Bible that I could show you about repentance, why we need to turn from our sins and turn to Christ: it is the cross! This is why you can't have your sin and the Saviour, because it's your sin that put Him there! It's your sin that caused His hands to be nailed, it's your sin that placed the crown of thorns on His brow, it's your sin that buffeted His face, it's your sin that caused the soldier to put the spear in His side, it's your sin that caused the darkness to fall upon Him for those three hours, it's your sin that was laid upon Him, the iniquity of us all! It's your sin that put Him through hell for you! That's why you can't have it, no matter how much you want to have it.
Remember her privileges, remember her sin, and finally please remember her punishment. It was the same as those in Sodom, but here's the tragedy: she perished at the gates of Zoar, that was her city of refuge, that was the place where they would be safe. Whilst the others were in the city of destruction when they were judged, she was outside the gate of her city of deliverance. I say to you tonight: it's one thing to die with the ungodly after living an ungodly life, but imagine what it is to die and have the privileges that Lot's wife had. Here was a woman that had reached the very gate of heaven, and still she perished. Here was a woman, yet with all her privileges she perished. You say: 'Is that possible?'. I say, Jesus says: 'Remember Lot's wife'!
Peter said: 'For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they had known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them'. If you know the way of the Gospel, my friend, and you have had privileges just like Lot's wife, I'm telling you tonight on the authority of God's word that your judgment will be a double judgment. Her punishment was in an instant, suddenly she perished. One sermon I read today put it like this: 'She hadn't even time to single out her own house'. What if you should perish suddenly? What if the breath were taken from your body in the pew where you sit tonight? Jesus is going to come suddenly, and the awful thing for this woman was that it happened suddenly when she was in the very act of sin. Imagine if, for you, whatever you're dabbling in, whatever you've done, imagine that if suddenly God's punishment should come to you in the very moment of your transgression - it can happen, remember Lot's wife!
Remember her privileges, remember her sin - but, oh, remember her punishment. As Matthew Henry said: 'Be not loathe to leave a place marked for destruction, wherever, whatsoever, whomsoever you leave behind you that may be so dear to you - leave it!'. John Bunyan, when he wrote Pilgrim's Progress, he pictured the man who was realising his burden of sin on his back, and he leaves the City of Destruction before the wrath comes - and his family, his wife and his children, are crying out: 'Come back! Come back home!'. Bunyan says: 'He plugged his ears, and he ran crying for his soul, 'Life, life, eternal life!''. He was going towards a Celestial City, he went by the way of the cross and the empty tomb - but can I tell you something that happens almost at the end of that story? Just before he reaches the gate of heaven he meets a man called 'Ignorance'. Ignorance, rummaging in his pockets, he's fumbling around - he asks him what he's doing, and he's trying to find some money to buy his way into heaven, or to purchase a certificate to get in. All of a sudden, as Christian witnessed Ignorance fumbling around, not being able to get the cost, he sees two shining ones who come down, sent from God. Bunyan says that he grabs Ignorance by the ankles and by the wrist, and an opening appeared at the side of the hill, and the angels threw him into that hole.
Bunyan says in his book these words: 'Then I saw that there was a way to hell even from the gates of heaven'. Do you know that? I don't know what your privileges have been, I don't know what your sin is, but all I know is this: to be almost saved is to be lost. Which will you be? Maybe someone is saying: 'What do I do to be saved?'. Well, can I put it very simply - three things, if you mean them from your heart and do them: one, admit that you are a sinner, that you have offended God, and say that to Him: 'Lord, I confess I am a sinner, and if You give me the power, I repent of my sin and I turn from it and am willing to forsake it'. The second thing is to believe in the Lord Jesus, that means to believe that, being the Son of God, dying on Calvary, He has done all that is necessary to take away your sin. You can't do it or add to it, it is His death and His death alone that you rely on. Say that: 'Lord, I thank You that the Saviour died for me, save me, cleanse me in His blood'. Thirdly, you simply accept that gift of salvation by faith, believe God's word that He says He will save you, and deliver your whole life over to Him. Say: 'Lord, save me, I call on Your name, save me. Take my life'.
Now if you do that tonight, friend, from your heart, He is duty bound to save you. None of us know when the Saviour is returning. None of us know when the hour of our death will be, but all of us can know that we are ready to meet our God.
Lord, save in this place tonight, move by Thy Spirit and do the work that only Thou canst do. To the glory of Christ we pray, Amen.
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This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording, titled "Remember Lot's Wife" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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