Luke 17:32 is one of the shortest texts in the Bible. In most English versions, it is just three words, but they are the words of Jesus, and all the words of Jesus are important. Although the story from which these three words originate is recorded in the Book of Genesis, it is spoken of a number of times throughout the Bible. We will study the three words that Jesus spoke: “Remember Lot’s wife.”
Have you ever noticed that the few things in the Bible about which God says, “Remember,” are the very things that mankind tends to forget?
The longest commandment in the Ten Commandments, the fourth, begins, “Remember.” Of all the Ten Commandments, which one is the most forgotten? The fourth! How interesting! How paradoxical, ironic, and astonishing, that the one commandment that God specifically said, “Remember this,” is what people forget!
Which of the Ten Commandments are mentioned explicitly by name in the first chapters of Genesis? There is only one¾the fourth commandment! It is interesting that the one commandment that is mentioned in the second chapter of Genesis, before sin entered the world, is the one commandment that a large proportion of the Christian world wants to call ceremonial.
If you would like to do an interesting word study some Sabbath afternoon, get a concordance, such as a Strong’s Concordance, look up the word remember, and write down everything in the Bible that God says to remember. The Sabbath is just one of the things.
A Little History
Jesus said, “Remember Lot’s wife.” What are we supposed to remember about Lot’s wife? Let us just review a little history.
Lot’s father, Haran, died before his grandfather, Terah, died. (Genesis 11:28.) Lot’s uncle, Abraham, assumed the role of a father to Lot. When Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees and went to Haran and later on to the Promised Land, Lot accompanied him. (Genesis 11:28-31.)
Evidently, Abraham even got Lot started in the cattle business. (Genesis 13:2-5.) Ellen White distinctly says that “Lot owed his prosperity to his connection with Abraham.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 133.
Early in life, Lot made a very serious mistake. Actually, this is not uncommon. Many, many people make some of the most serious mistakes of their lives when they are young, and these grave mistakes follow them all the way through their lives. The mistake that Lot made not only followed him all the rest of his life, but it resulted in the change of the whole course of world history.
What mistake did Lot make? He made a poor choice for his marriage partner. Read about it from the writings of inspiration: “The wife of Lot was a selfish, irreligious woman, and her influence was exerted to separate her husband from Abraham. But for her, Lot would not have remained in Sodom, deprived of the counsel of the wise, God-fearing patriarch. The influence of his wife and the associations of that wicked city would have led him to apostatize from God had it not been for the faithful instruction he had early received from Abraham. The marriage of Lot and his choice of Sodom for a home were the first links in a chain of events fraught with evil to the world for many generations.” Ibid., 174.
Let me tell you, that is not the last time some young man has done something like that! One of the things that I have wondered about, as I have grown older, is why young people do not ask certain questions before they marry someone. A lot of questions do not need to be asked, but, amazingly, most young people do not ask the right questions.
I am not going to try to give you all the questions you should ask before you get married, but there are three questions I have especially noticed that many young people never ask. A young person, whether a man or a woman, should never marry someone without asking these three questions. If Lot had asked these three questions, he would never have married the woman he did.
The first question is this: Is this person whom I am planning to marry proud?
If you marry someone who is proud, you are guaranteed to get into trouble in your marriage. Study the Book of Proverbs; Solomon figured this out. He married a number of proud women, and got himself into trouble. In Proverbs, he talks about it and about how dangerous it is: “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife.” Proverbs 28:25. We are going to study about strife, because Lot got into a bunch of strife.
If you marry someone who is proud, it is guaranteed that you will have trouble; you are going to have strife and contention. An amazing thing is how few young people, when they are thinking of marriage to someone, ask the question, Is this person proud? This is one of the most important questions to ask.
The second question is this: Is this person whom I am planning to marry selfish?
Ellen White stated that Lot’s wife was a selfish woman. No man or woman should ever consider marrying a person if that person gives evidence that his or her character is selfish. That is one of the most dangerous things someone can do. A life of sadness is guaranteed if you marry someone who is a selfish person.
You see, you cannot make a marriage partner happy unless you are an unselfish person. And yet, this is a question that millions of people, and many thousands of Seventh-day Adventists, never even ask when they are considering marriage. Evidently Lot did not ask this question. Ellen White says that he never would have stayed there in Sodom if it had not been for his wife. He would have returned and been with Abraham. It was a very serious mistake, and he never recovered from that mistake.
The third question is this: Is this person whom I am planning to marry irreligious?
Ellen White says that Lot’s wife was not only proud and selfish, but she was irreligious. This is the question that no young person should ever marry without asking. Is this person, whom I am considering marrying, religious or irreligious?
“Well,” someone may ask, “what do you mean, Pastor John? Do they go to church?” No, whether or not they go to church is not the question. That is important, but that is not the question.
What is a religious person? James 1:26, 27 says, “If anyone seems to be religious among you, and does not bridle his tongue . . . .” A religious person will be able to control his or her tongue. Just marry someone who cannot control his or her tongue, and see what happens to you! “. . . this person’s religion is worthless. He is deceiving his own heart. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: To visit the orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” If a person is really religious, you will be able to see it in the way that person acts and deals with people who are in trouble.
We are all in contact with people who are in various kinds of trouble. How do we relate to these people? A person who is religious will be helpful to people who are in trouble. If you marry without finding out whether or not your future life partner has that kind of practical religion, you may be headed for trouble. Lot’s wife was irreligious.
Lot made a terrible mistake when he married his wife, and he never recovered from that mistake. His wife got him into the most horrible trouble of his life. But, as we will see in this study, he got her into more trouble than she got him, because we influence each other.
Writing about the subject of Lot’s marriage, Ellen White stated, “No one who fears God can without danger connect himself with one who fears Him not. ‘Can two walk together, except they be agreed?’ Amos 3:3. The happiness and prosperity of the marriage relation depends upon the unity of the parties; but between the believer and the unbeliever there is a radical difference of tastes, inclinations, and purposes. They are serving two masters, between whom there can be no concord. However pure and correct one’s principles may be, the influence of an unbelieving companion will have a tendency to lead away from God. . . .
“The marriage of Christians with the ungodly is forbidden in the Bible. The Lord’s direction is, ‘Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.’ 11 Corinthians 6:14.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 174, 175.
Once your choice is made, even if your spouse is proud, selfish, and irreligious, the Bible says that you are not to leave him or her. Read 1 Corinthians 7. Lot married, and he made a poor choice, but he was not to leave her. He was to be faithful to her, but now Lot’s troubles begin.
Remember, if you are proud, the result is strife. The Bible does not go into detail about this, but Lot’s herdsmen and Abraham’s herdsmen got into some strife over the pasture and the watering places for the cattle. (Genesis 13:2-7.) “The pasturage was not sufficient for the flocks and herds of both [Lot and Abraham], and the frequent disputes among the herdsmen were brought for settlement to their masters.” Ibid., 132.
This whole thing about strife is such a big subject. Read the following references from the inspired writings.
“Contention among God’s people is offensive in His sight.” The Signs of the Times, August 19, 1880. “Charity does not rejoice in evil; revenge does. Be careful to manifest zeal for yourselves that you may show out of a good conversation your meekness of wisdom. Avoid every bitter word, every unkind action. Love as brethren; be kind; be courteous. Do not scandalize the truth by bitter envying and contention; for such is the spirit of the world. Let not these unholy traits once be named among you.” Ibid., February 14, 1895.
In 1887, Ellen White wrote: “The Lord has not closed Heaven against his people; but their own course of continual backsliding, of bickering, envying, and strife, has separated them from him.” Ibid., July 14, 1887.
Think through this situation in which Abraham and Lot found themselves the strife that developed among the herdsmen over the situation with the cattle and the pasture and the water. Do you think that the only way this situation could be solved was by Lot going to Sodom? Do you think it was the Lord’s will for Lot to go to Sodom? Well, then, how did it work out that way? One of the reasons it worked out that way was because Sodom was a very prosperous city, and you may remember that Lot’s wife was a selfish woman. She wanted to go to Sodom because there was a lot of money there.
Lot liked the idea, too, because the area was well watered, the Bible says. (Genesis 13:10.) There was a lot of water and plenty of pasture for the cattle, and if there was more water and more pasture, the herds could be increased, and Lot could gain more wealth. It looked like a situation where a lot of money could be made, and that appealed to Lot’s wife.
If there had not been so much pride, then there would not have been so much strife, quarrelling, and contention. The problem could have been resolved without Lot ever having to go to Sodom.
Sometimes, whether or not we can solve a problem the right way depends on how much pride we have, on whether or not we are quarrelsome. About this, Ellen White wrote: “I feel an intense interest regarding every faultfinder; for I know that a quarrelsome disposition will never find entrance into the city of God. Quarrel with yourself, but with no one else; and then be converted.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 7, 271.
“Are you quarrelsome here? Are you finding fault with your household here? If you are, you will find fault with them in heaven. Your character is being tested and proved in this life, whether you will make a peaceable subject of God’s kingdom in heaven.” Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, 203.
“When a child hears an older person constantly talking about the faults of someone else, he in turn is imbued with the same spirit of faultfinding and criticism. The seeds of contention are being sown.” Ibid., 375.
The strife could have been settled without Lot going to Sodom, but because of the characters of the people, because Lot’s wife was a selfish, irreligious woman, and because of Lot himself, he made a selfish choice. Abraham, since he was acting as a father to Lot, could have disallowed him from going down there. He could have said to Lot, “I am going to take my pick, and you can have what is left.” He could have done that rightly. He was the one who set Lot up in business.
Ellen White describes it thus: “Although Lot owed his prosperity to his connection with Abraham, he manifested no gratitude to his benefactor. Courtesy would have dictated that he yield the choice to Abraham, but instead of this he selfishly endeavored to grasp all its advantages. He ‘lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere, . . . even as the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.’ [Genesis 13:10.] The most fertile region in all Palestine was the Jordan Valley, reminding the beholders of the lost Paradise and equaling the beauty and productiveness of the Nile-enriched plains they had so lately left. There were cities also, wealthy and beautiful, inviting to profitable traffic in their crowded marts. Dazzled with visions of worldly gain, Lot overlooked the moral and spiritual evils that would be encountered there. The inhabitants of the plain were ‘sinners before the Lord exceedingly’ [verse 13]; but of this he was ignorant, or, knowing, gave it but little weight. He ‘chose him all the plain of Jordan’ [verse 11], and ‘pitched his tent toward Sodom’ [verse 12]. How little did he foresee the terrible results of that selfish choice!” Patriarchs and Prophets, 133.
Much to Learn
We have much to learn, of course, from Abraham. Abraham was a very gracious person, and even though by right he could have made the first choice, he said to Lot, “Let us not allow there to be any strife between you and me, because we are brethren.” Genesis 13:8.
Oh, would that we could learn that today! Do you realize, friends, it is a disgrace to the cause of Christ when those who claim to be followers of Christ have strife among themselves? It is an insult to the Lord. “Let us not allow there to be any strife between you and me, because we are brethren.”
So, Abraham said to Lot, “Well, you choose which way you want to go and you go there, and I will take the other.” (Genesis 13:8.)
Lot looked around, and he saw that the plain of Jordan was well watered. He said, “I will go down here.” (Verse 10.) So Abraham stayed at the oaks of Mamre, and Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom.”
Lot “pitched his tent toward Sodom.” Evidently he was not right inside the city at first. Sodom was a wealthy city, and after a while he moved right into town. It was one of the wealthiest cities of that time. It was easy to make a lot of money there, and, of course, Lot’s wife liked the money, so they moved into Sodom.
To be continued . . .
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.