The Point of No Return: Crossroad Complications and the Danger of Looking Back (Genesis 19)

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All gamers have felt the enormity of this moment at some point in their gaming experience… a moment we were anticipating throughout the game, but now it is actually HERE. It is that anxious feeling we get in the pit of our stomachs similar to reaching the apex point of a roller coaster just before it drops… that moment when the game let’s us know we have reached the event horizon of our gaming experience and are passing the point of no return. When the game suddenly interrupts the action and tells us to “insert disc 2” or politely but firmly asks us if “we would like to save our game before proceeding”, we know something irreversibly BIG is about to happen. As this new path opens up in front of us, we also become fiercely aware that the road behind us is about to be closed with the finality of entering the Omega 4 relay in Mass Effect 2. We may not know exactly where we are going, but we know THIS with finality… there is no turning back from here. And that brings some very complicated emotions to the forefront… are we prepared to move forward knowing that our status quo is about to be shifted forever? Or do we linger at the threshold of this inescapable choice in an ultimately pointless attempt to delay the inevitable?

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“Crossroads” in our video games bring us to places that force us out of our comfort zones and keep the story progressing towards an outcome that was already built into the game. Regardless of the choices we have made, some of our favorite characters are destined to be removed from the story, some doors will be opened that we MUST walk through, and other doors will be closed off permanently. While we may have the luxury of choosing between a few different paths to get to this place in our game, all these roads eventually lead to the same spot… the valley of decision. Recognizing the enormity of this moment can be a paralyzing feeling… not necessarily because we are afraid of making the wrong decision, but because we recognize that no matter what happens next, nothing will ever be the same again.

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In life we experience many of these seismic “paradigm shift” moments, and if I am being honest I typically struggle with my emotions when I realize I am approaching a “disc change” in my life. Even if it is a change I wanted, prayed for, and have been anticipating, it can still be frightening to actually put one foot in front of the other and begin walking down that path. And in this place of dragging my feet while pursuing the destiny that the Lord has placed in my life, I have to recognize a warning that Christ issued that is as challenging to read now as it probably was when He first said it to some prospective followers around two thousand years ago…

Luke 9:57-62 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

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That is a little intimidating to read. But the concept of “looking back” is one that Christ takes VERY seriously. As a matter of fact, in the middle of a sermon about His future return He reminded His listeners of the very chilling and serious consequences of looking back towards what we previously had instead of following Him into the destiny He has prepared for us…

Luke 17:32-33 Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 

So… Lot’s wife. She doesn’t really get a lot of “character development” in the Bible… I mean, she doesn’t even get her actual NAME in the credits. She has an incredibly brief mention way back in the book of Genesis, but if Jesus thought she was important enough to “name drop” into His sermon and tell us specifically to REMEMBER her, we should probably take a deeper look at what He is actually wanting us to remember ABOUT her. Her story begins and ends during the dramatic destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah back in Genesis 19, when her entire family is given an express pass out of danger as long as they follow ONE simple command… yep, you probably figured out where this is going. Don’t… look… BACK…

Genesis 19:15-17 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”

Genesis 19:23-26 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

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On the surface, this seems pretty cut and dry. The angels said “Don’t look back”, Lot’s wife said, “Yeah, but imma look back tho”, and then her story ended pretty dramatically. And without the opportunity to do a post-game interview, it is hard to know exactly what she was thinking and why she would directly disobey such a simple and straight-forward command. We can speculate on her motivations and intent all day long, and there are many very credible theories out there. But if we take a deeper dive into the actual Hebrew words used here, we can avoid a lot of guesswork and get a bit closer to what we are truly meant to take away from this…

Looked: wat·tab·bêṭ” (from the root word nabat) – To look upon and regard with pleasure or dependence (this particular version of the word used three times in the Bible: here, Psalm 92:11, Isaiah 22:8)

Back: mê·’a·ḥă·rāw (from the root word achar) – Following after or from behind, pursuing (this particular version of the word used twelve times in the Bible and is always used in reference to following, pursuing, or what immediately comes after something)

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Okay, I know that’s a lot to absorb. Let’s break this down… the “looking back” that occurred here has some pretty specific connotations when reviewed in how this exact same set of Hebrew words is used in other contexts. Without knowing her state of mind, we can understand that her “looking back” was more than mere curiosity as to what was happening behind her or a feeling of compassion for those who were not making this same journey towards safety. The direct implication here is that she had ceased following or pursuing the path she was directed to take because she still had a dependence and passion for what she was moving away from. Maybe it was because the lifestyle she had previously lived and was accustomed to was about to change dramatically, perhaps it was because everything was happening so fast and she was feeling nostalgic, or it could have been that she simply didn’t take the command from the angels as seriously as she should have. I doubt we will ever have all of the answers to those questions. But we do know one thing with absolute certainty… her failure to obediently choose to insert “disc two” WITHOUT looking back when the Lord told her SPECIFICALLY to do so ended her story quite abruptly.

Final--Fantasy--VII | DeviantArt

So what is the real lesson here? What is the actual cautionary tale of Lot’s wife and what are we supposed to DO with this information? We have to keep the context of WHY Jesus said to remember Lot’s wife… let’s look at it again one more time.

Luke 17:32-33 Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. 

When we read that verse it is easy to think that Jesus is talking about the difference of physically living or dying, but that is clearly NOT the story of Lot’s wife. It wasn’t that she was trying to preserve her life in reference to her physical mortality, because the outcome that the Lord had presented her was the only one in which she would physically SURVIVE. This was never about Lot’s wife trying not to lose her life… it was that she did not want to lose “her life”. She was presented with the ONLY scenario in which she would turn the next page on the story of her life and continue her journey… but that would mean she would have to say goodbye to her old life and all that life entailed. The angels were not leading her to death in the physical sense… they were actually trying desperately to save her. SHE chose that ending by being unwilling to move with 100% commitment towards the only choice that was being presented to her. The Lord had brought her to a place where her old “life” had to die so she could embrace the new “life” she was being presented… and the only thing she had to do to receive it was to not look BACK. She was unwilling to fully let go of what she previously had so she could receive something new… and as a result, she lost both.

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Perhaps you are at a similar place of decision in your life… maybe the Lord has placed a calling on your life, but walking towards it will mean that you will have to leave your current comfort zone behind and never return. You have a God-given direction you have started to walk down, but now you are beginning to have second thoughts as the full impact of this decision becomes real. For many of us it is not the challenges that lie in front of us that restrict our progress… it is those things in our lives that we will have to be willing to permanently walk away from that prevent us from moving forward. It doesn’t necessarily mean that those things were bad or unhealthy… there is actually a very good chance those were part of the Lord’s plan and provision for us as well. But that doesn’t always mean that they get to come with us as we insert the next disc and press start on the next chapter of our lives.

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I pray this encourages you today to remember the REAL lesson about Lot’s wife… the next step in our journey is inevitable and unavoidable. In the end, we don’t get to choose when or how the game presses us forward… we simply make the choice to be willing to make that jump without looking back. When we allow our nervousness, fear, or nostalgia to control our emotions and make our decisions for us, we will also become “salty”… just ask Lot’s wife. Life is full of seasons, and eventually all good things come to an end (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)… but that is because He has MORE good things in store for us and new seasons of life for us to experience. Let’s be thankful for the path that lies behind us while moving confidently towards what the Lord has placed before us. Please insert disc two now. I will see you on the other side 🙂

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