Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
I could have hit her—the woman walking her dog on the side of the road. Without a sidewalk, she was forced to walk on the narrow shoulder, which put her in a dangerous position for inattentive drivers like me. I wasn’t driving fast or recklessly. I just didn’t see her because I was driving while looking in the rearview mirror when I should have been looking through the windshield.
You might ask, “Why were you looking behind rather than forward?” The answer has more to do with escape than arrival. I had just made a right hand turn at the stop sign, and I wanted to see if I had succeeded in losing the car that had been driving close on my tail.
Sometimes we’re so focused on what’s behind that we fail to see what lies ahead.
Consider the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God planned to destroy them because of their sinful nature. Abraham’s nephew, Lot, lived there with his family, so Abraham pleaded with God on their behalf. In his mercy, God sent two angels to Sodom to oversee the rescue mission. With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished” (Genesis 19:15).
The angels were able to lead Lot and his family safely out of Sodom. But the story didn’t end there. Once outside the city gate, an angel of the Lord directed them to flee for their lives.“Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere on the plain” (Exodus 19:17). In other words: keep moving forward. Focus on what lies ahead, not what you left behind.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But it’s not. An unknown future can be more frightening than an ugly but predictable past. What if the place we’re going to isn’t as good as the place we left?
By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Exodus 19:23-26)
The clear answer has to do with disobedience. God had directed Lot and his family not to look back. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was an order. Lot's wife disobeyed.
There have been times in my life when messages from God came through loud and clear. In such cases, it was not my prerogative to question or ignore what I heard. My responsibility was to comply. Jesus himself said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (Luke 11:28). Based on this line, I think we can safely assume the following transposition is also true: Those who hear the word of God and disobey it will be cursed. Adam and Eve disobeyed and brought sin into the world. Jonah disobeyed and was swallowed by a whale. Saul disobeyed and the Lord rejected him as king. I could go on, but you get the picture.
The not so clear answer has to do with trust. Though Lot’s wife left Sodom with her husband, it’s questionable whether she truly believed that God would punish the city. She had to turn around to see. But “God is not human that he should lie, not a human being that he should change his mind” (Numbers 23:19). Lot’s wife did not fully trust God. She did not believe. “The wise see danger and hide; but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 22:3).
To be honest, I would have been tempted to look back, too–not out of curiosity, but out of faith; not to see whether God would destroy the city (because I believe him at his word), but to bear witness to his power. And if I did look back, I’d like to think that God would accept my act of disobedience as a testament to my devotion, not an act of distrust.
The bottom line is this: God knows our hearts. He sees our intention behind every action. If our hearts are aligned with his, we are safe. But there are consequences in store for those who hear the word of God and choose to turn away or refuse to believe it. “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deuteronomy 5:32-33).
THE SONG THAT COMES TO MIND is
Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus performed by Sovereign Grace
Lyrics: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”