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.

The Bow in the Sky: a Young Woman's Perspective

This voyage that had been cast upon us was memorable. From the first day, my father-in-law had told us that he was planning on building a great ship to save us from a world wide flood, to the day we finally stepped off what had become our floating home, I never doubted. It is odd, really. When I had been betrothed to Japheth I knew I was marrying in to a descent family. There was so much evil in the land around us and even in my own family, that I was grateful, when Noah and Japheth came to my father to arrange our marriage. I knew my future father-in-law's reputation was good. He was know in our village as a man who had found favor with God. When Noah gathered his sons and their wives together to tell us of God's plan to destroy the earth with a flood, I believed him. He was a good man and treated each of his daughters-in-law with fairness and love. I knew that He spoke the truth, even when the passage of time brought constant scorn and mocking from others.

Those years that Noah and his sons spent building, we women spent preparing baskets and blankets, clothing and other provisions we might need for our long journey. We talked about the coming flood. We did not even really understand what a flood was, let alone how it could destroy everything and everyone we knew. Oh it wasn't that we didn't try to warn people. I spoke to my mother and father and my siblings repeatedly, telling them to come with us and be saved. They only laughed at me and tried to convince me to join them in their lewd and malicious deeds. 

Finally, the day came. The ark was ready and God had miraculously brought animals of every kind to take the journey with us. Noah said, God was looking out for our future. That He knew we would need to repopulate the earth after the flood was over and the animals were part of that plan, just as we were. His words made me warm inside. God, this being that seemed so far outside my mind's imagination, was concerned for our future. As the animals were boarding I ran one last time to my family. They had gathered with many of the other villagers to see this spectacle of Noah. I pleaded with them to come with us, but they would hear none of it. Finally, Japheth took my arm and lead me away. We walked up into our noisy, teaming barn of a home. As I turned to look back on my family, the door of the ark closed.

I will not say that I wasn't afraid. I also won't tell you that I did not grieve for my family and the people I knew as I grew up. When the rain started and the earth began to tremble beneath our mighty ship any doubt I might have had was put to rest, but it was replaced with fear and with deep sadness. The screams did nothing to alleviate my grief, but soon enough the screaming ceased and my father-in-law gently acknowledged our loss. He took our hands and squeezed them and caressed our faces where tears had fallen. He and his wife and sons were our family now and we needed to work to ease our grief and survive.

Life on the ark became a routine of sorts. It took a week or so to get used to the rocking of the vessel and it seemed the weeks turned into months before the rain stopped. We had little time to worry or even really think about the waters that surrounded us. I think if I had thought about it too much, I would have gone mad. Our lives revolved around caring for the animals and caring for ourselves. We tried to make the long days and nights fun by telling stories, playing games and sometimes dancing with the flute that Shem liked to play. Our father and mother-in-law told us the stories of the past: the beautiful garden where God had once walked with man and women, their choice to disobey HIm and their removal from that wonderful place. Now that garden was under water and God was starting over with us.

One evening after I had finished cleaning up our dinner dishes I heard my father-in-law let out a hoot! He had been sending out birds to see if there was any place for them to land, but they always flew back to the ark. This particular evening the bird came back with a freshly picked olive leaf. What a celebration we had that night! After another week, the dove Noah sent out did not come back. In the morning, Noah removed part of the roof and was able to look out. All around he could see dry ground. He shouted for all of us to come and have a look. We laughed and cried. Then God told my father-in-law we could leave the ark. What a happy day!

Those first few days back on solid earth are a blur. We were so busy helping to get the animals off the ark, looking for our own suitable places to pitch our tents and learning to walk again on dry ground. My father-in-law built an altar on which he offered clean offerings and it seemed to please God. He told Noah and his sons to be fruitful and multiply. I laughed when Japheth told me that, since all three of us were with child. But then God did something beautiful, he made a covenant with us that He would never again bring a flood to destroy the earth. He sealed the promise with a bow in the sky. I had never seen such a wondrous thing as the colors arching through the sky. 

Over the many years that passed since then, I cannot help but get anxious when it begins to rain. It also reminds me of my lost family. But then, that bow of colors will appear as if by magic and I will remember He was and is faithful to us.



The above is my own fictional account of what it could have been like for the women in the family of Noah. The Bible only tells us that Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives went onto the ark along with the animals. See the full Biblical account in Genesis 6 - 9. The rainbow was and is a memorial of sorts. It reminds us of the faithfulness of God. God chose a remnant to preserve and restart. It reminds me that He is never finished with me. Every morning and every rain storm is a chance to start again. 


The Cherubim and the Flaming Sword

When I think of the word memorial my mind fills with images made of stone: buildings, statues, cement benches, large rocks and walls engraved with names and dates of people who are no longer with us. Memorials are built to help us remember. They are there to remind us of lives sacrificed for ideals or to bring to remembrance great men and women who changed our world for the better because of their ideals. Popular memorials include The Lincoln Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A gravestone is a memorial and so are the vast faces of Mt. Rushmore. In the Bible memorials often took the form of altars that men such as Noah, Moses and Abraham set up to worship God.

Wikipedia defines the word memorial:

A memorial is an object which serves as a focus for memory of something, usually a person (who has died) or an event. Popular forms of memorials include landmark objects or art objects such as sculptures, statues or fountains, and even entire parks.
— Wikipedia.org

Over the next few weeks, I would like to look at some Biblical memorials. What I refer to as a memorial may be my own interpretation of the word. The point I want to try to make is a memorial should be a "thing" that makes us remember. Obviously, when you look at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, if you know your history, you remember what a great man and President he was and what he did to end slavery and bring unity to our Nation. The large carving in stone brings to remembrance the blood and sacrifice of thousands of men we do not know. Some were brothers by blood. Some were brothers by faith, but all of them believed they were fighting for a higher purpose. We should remember that.

In the third chapter of Genesis, we read about the fall of man (and woman) from God's grace and their subsequent expulsion from paradise. God had given them freedom to enjoy any of the delicacies in the garden, except from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From that one tree they were instructed to not eat. If you read the story here, you see how crafty the serpent was. He was and is a master of manipulation. He came to the woman, possibly because she is relational. She had no qualms about talking with the serpent, who happened to be very beautiful. Adam, may have just hit it over the head with a shovel for skulking about the garden. But Eve, she spoke with the beautiful snake. What I am curious about here is why Eve misquoted what God had said. God had told them not to eat of the tree, but she goes on to tell the serpent God said, "You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die." I am not going to spend time in this post discussing how that came about, but what happens thereafter has affected us all. The serpent manipulated and the women ate, and the man ate. They disobeyed and they were driven from the garden.


We can sit here and think, why did they do such a stupid thing? It was paradise! Perfect weather, sunshine, blue skies, green grass, no mosquitoes....I am just believing that part. But we are all guilty of not being satisfied. We all struggle with pride, thinking, I got this! So where does the memorial fit into all of this? Read on:

So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
— Genesis 3:24 (NASB)

I think the cherubim and the flaming sword are a memorial of sorts. They were put there, according to the scriptures to guard the way to the Tree of Life. Life was no longer being offered, now only hardship, aging and death. Obviously, in our day and age the garden of Eden no longer exists. There is no cherubim with a flaming sword sitting outside some garden gate in the Middle East. But at that time I think the cherubim and the flaming sword were a sign; a memorial that this could not be undone. Sin had come into the world and no one was allowed to go back. The beauty and perfection of the garden had been given over for the selfishness and pride of the flesh. That angel and his flaming sword were a memorial set up so that all who passed by could see and remember. They could see that this was once the place where God walked with His man and His woman. They could know and remember that it was no longer possible, at least not for the common man, until the cross. 

Why is this important for us, as Christians to remember? Because this is where we came from. This is our heritage. Yes, you heard me. Sin is our heritage. 

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—
— Romans 5:12 (NASB)

We really don't like to talk about sin. It make us uncomfortable. But so do memorials. Memorials remind us that someone gave their life so we might live. In the same way, Jesus gave His life so we might live. The cherubim and the flaming sword remind us why Jesus had to give His life for us. And praise His name, there is hope. 

For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
— Romans 5:19 (NASB)

No! We cannot go back to the garden. That way has been closed, but a new way has opened up. And there is no angel with a flaming sword standing in front of that way, but a Savior with open arms.