Who are you in this story?
Click here for an audio version of this blog post.
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. 25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. 26 But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
27 And Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 And he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace.
29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. – Genesis 19:23-29
One of my favorite Bible stories is the account of the seven sons of Sceva. These seven sons undertook to invoke the name of Jesus over some evil spirits. “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims,” they said. The evil spirits said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” These seven sons were sent bleeding and bruised from the house. Dismissed summarily.
The question of the evil spirit is a worthy one for us: Who are you? How is it that we claim to Jesus’ name and God’s power? That question is answered when we take our proper place in this account of Sodom and Gamorah’s destruction. Who are you in this story?
To some extent or another we are all Rescued Lot. Safe by the grace of God and the agency of his messengers. Some of us have been visited by angels as we normally think of them who have come to our aid in miraculous ways. All us us have been visited by angels in the less dramatic form, for the word means “messenger.” We have heard the message of God through these agents of God’s grace: Mother, father, grandmother, Sunday school teacher, friend, or pastor. We can survey the landscape of destruction from which we have been spared having been rescued.
We might be faithful Abraham who surveys the ruins of Sodom and Gomorrah after having interceded for the righteous people in those places. We may have succeeded in interceding for someone but seen the sad desolation of godlessness in the wake of its demise as it cave in on itself. Evil cannot forever stand, it will collapse under its own weight. We might sadly watch that happen.
Surely we are not Lot’s wife who could not resist one last look back – a furtive one??? – at the place she had lived. Did she not believe the destruction would be so cataclysmic? Was she simply fascinated by the devastation being visited on her erstwhile home? Looking back on a sin abandoned is a temptation we may give into. The children of Israel will do so after they are rescued by Moses (cf. Numbers 11:5), yearning for the good old days, forgetting the travail of their slavery there. But we must not neglect the warnings of God and treat them as optional guidelines when they are dire warnings of grave danger.
We will certainly not place ourselves in this story as the One who orchestrates it all. We’re not the One to whom everyone else must answer. We are not the One who holds life and death in our hands. We are not the One who saves and destroys.
We are, however, his. And that identity is most important of all. We are the children of God. His beloved. His redeemed. His precious. His delight. His joy. And from whomever else’s perspective we may view the events in this account, our true identity is found in his loving kindness toward us and our place of delight in his heart.