A Salty Memorial

When we read the Old Testament, we may often feel that God was unjust. We may think that a God of compassion would not allow people to die or suffer. But remember suffering came into the world through the choice of two people, not through an act of God. No choice can be made without a ripple effect. The butterfly effect says that small causes can have big effects. 

In another Old Testament story we find a different memorial of sorts that came about through small causes or choices as the case may be. Abraham was a very wealthy man and so was his nephew Lot. They both had flocks and herds and tents. Eventually, strife developed between the men taking care of Abraham's flocks and herds and the men taking care of Lot's flocks and herds. Abraham did the right thing. He didn't want strife between he and his nephew, so he told Lot to pick the area of land to the north, south, east or west and then Abraham would go the opposite direction. There was plenty of land for everyone. 

Lot lifted up his eyes and saw all the valley of the Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere—this was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah—like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go to Zoar.
— Genesis 13:10 (NASB)

Lot made a choice. To him it was a seemingly good choice. He wanted the land that looked pretty. This land was well watered and green. Like Egypt along the Nile, it was rich and fertile. Abraham settled in the lands of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley along the river Jordan. 

Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley, and moved his tents as far as Sodom. Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.
— Genesis 13:12-13 (NASB)

Please pay attention to the last sentence of verse 13, "Now the men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord." This is where Lot decided to put down roots. He could have settled anywhere along the Jordan in that fertile valley, but for some reason he ended up in Sodom, a city full of wicked men who made a choice regularly to sin against God.

After a time, God decided to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. This became known to Abraham on a different occasion. See that story in Genesis 18. He went to God in prayer and pleaded with him for the life of the one righteous person who lived there, his nephew Lot.

When we finally come in to the story, Lot is sitting in the gate of Sodom as many men used to do. It was a place of business, to converse, exchange news and make sales on merchandise or property. But what caught Lot's attention that night were the two strangers that arrived. He knew immediately they were not from the area. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Lot recognized these men were "other worldly". The angels, of course, had no fear of spending the night in the square of that wicked city, but Lot urged them to come to his home and when there had a feast prepared. But the men of the city also saw the strangers and wanted them for their own sordid purposes. A crowd of them came to Lot's house:

"Hey! Lot! Send out those men who came into the city tonight! We want to have relations with them."

Now I am not going to get into a discussion on what two consenting adults do, but these men were not looking for consent! They were looking for violence and perversion. Lot was so intent on preserving the honor of the two strangers under his roof that he was willing to sacrifice his own daughters to the mob outside. Hmmmm! Not sure how I feel about that. But there is more on that butterfly effect later. The angels temporarily blinded the men outside of Lot's home and told him to prepare to leave town. Lot even tried to convince his future sons-in-law to come with them, but they thought he was joking.

The next morning the angels grabbed Lot, his wife and their two daughters and fled with them out of the city. They told Lot to flee to the mountains, but Lot refused and asked if they could just go to the neighboring city of Zoar. Again, I question this man's choices. The angels agreed, because the compassion of God was on Lot. They were told to escape for their lives and to not look back. Then God rained down fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah. Unfortunately, Lot's wife looked back. I often wonder what caused her to look back. Was she curious? Was she grieving for the life she was losing? Was she sad because they had to leave their future sons-in-law behind? Did she have to leave behind her pearls and mink coat? Whatever the case may be she was changed in an instant into a pillar of salt.


This whole story is disconcerting to me and it all started with the somewhat selfish choice of Lot. He saw the fertile valley, he wanted the best for himself. Okay, so I can see that, but why then did he settle in the most wicked city of all? The memorial is the pillar of salt. Another reminder of what was, and what could have been. Obviously, that pillar is long gone, but I cannot look at a salt shaker without thinking of Lot's choices and the "butterfly effect" they had on his whole family. And he suffered in every way for his choices. His wife died and his daughters went on to have an incestuous relationship with him while he was drunk to guarantee they have children. You can't tell me that Lot's choice didn't affect his family for generations.

Memorials are about remembering. Maybe today would be a good day to think of a memorial that you could set up in your heart to remind you that your choices do have long term effects. All of our choices do. Let's try to make some good ones.