Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Obedience Will Lead to Joy

Leslie Basham: Is there some area in which you’re not obeying the Lord? Here’s Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Obedience is not usually hard, in the sense of complicated or, “I don’t really know what to do.” There’s some times when it’s hard to know what to do but, more often than not, our disobedience is we know what to do, and we just don’t want to do it.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Lies Women Believe, for May 2, 2019.

Nancy is continuing in a series on one of the shortest verses in the Bible, “Remember Lot’s wife.”

Nancy: I got an email late last night while I was preparing for this session asking for prayer for one of our staff members who lives in California. He and his family just had to evacuate their house because of a wildfire headed their direction and this was an S.O.S. sent: “Pray for this family.”

And I tell you, when the family heard that the fire was headed in their direction, they got out. They evacuated. I don’t know the details yet. I haven’t heard an update this morning. I don’t know what all they had to leave behind, but certainly they didn’t take most of what was in their house with them. They got out with their lives and wanting to be safe.

Well, we’re looking at a biblical account in the Old Testament, Genesis chapter 19. Let me invite you to turn there, and I want you to follow along in this passage as we talk about God rescuing, evacuating His people out of coming judgment.

We’ve been talking about Lot, the nephew of Abraham, who was living with his family in Sodom, which was a wicked city. And God sent two angels—they looked like men—to say to him, “We’re going to destroy this city, and you need to get out.”

Genesis 19, beginning in verse 13: “The angels said, ‘Bring your family out of this city for we are about to destroy this place.’”

You see over and over again in this passage the threat of coming judgment: “This place is going down.” And the invitation to escape, the mercy of God. “There’s a way out. Get out of this city.”

“We are about to destroy this place [and this was not a capricious or arbitrary God. He was justified in what He was about to do. He says,] because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it” (v. 13).

So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law who were to marry his daughters, (they were apparently betrothed or engaged to be married to his two daughters),

“Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting (v. 14).

They thought the whole thing was a joke. They didn’t think he was serious. It makes you wonder if that’s the way the people felt in the days of Noah when that ark was being built. Scripture doesn’t actually tell us that the people mocked Noah, but you can imagine that they’re going, “What in the world is he doing building this . . . what? . . . a boat? What is this thing?” I mean, there had never been rain. There had never been floods.

And the sons-in-law thought Lot was jesting.

Second Peter chapter 3 talks about “scoffers” who “follow their own sinful desires.” They want to live the way they want to live, and in the context of 2 Peter there, it has to do with sexual immorality. And they say, “Where is the promise of his coming? Where’s judgment? We don’t see any evidence of that” (see v. 4). So they scoffed. They think that God is joking, and they joke back. “Judgment? Yeah, sure. Really? Naw.”

As close as these men, these sons-in-law-to-be, were to Lot and his family, the fact is they really belonged to Sodom. You can tell where somebody belongs, where their heart is, by whether they believe the gospel and take the gospel invitation or not. They didn’t have ears to hear. They didn’t have hearts to receive the warning.

Now, I’ve been meditating on this chapter a lot over the last weeks. You also get the impression that Lot didn’t have a lot of influence with these sons-in-law. It makes you wonder if that might have been different if his walk with God had been more consistent and more compelling. Now, I say, “might have been,” because there are situations where people—in the Scripture and today—where people do live consistent, compelling, God-filled lives, and people still mock them. People still refuse to believe the gospel.

But in this case, you wonder if Lot hadn’t been so assimilated into the environment, the culture of Sodom, if his sons-in-law might have taken him more seriously or if those daughters would have even been engaged to be married to these particular sons-in-law.

Well, verse 15, “As morning dawned . . .” It’s been a long, hard night. There’s been a lot of violence. There’s been a lot of . . . the angels having to stave off the attack of the men of the city who wanted to do violence to Lot and his guests, but now it’s morning, it’s early morning, and,

. . . the angels urged Lot, saying, "Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city” (v. 15).

Again, we have the threat of judgment, the promise that it is coming, and the invitation to escape, the command to get out. “Get out of this city lest you be swept away in it.”

Verse 16, we’ve talked about this over the last couple of sessions,

But he lingered. [He lingered.] So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him.

I love that phrase! Even in the midst of this crisis, even in the midst of Lot’s reluctance and his hesitation to escape, the Lord was merciful to him. He sent these angels to take one in each hand—Lot, a wife, and two daughters—and to pull them out of the city, to lead them, to seize them by the hand.

. . . and they brought him out and set him outside the city. And as they brought them out, one said, "Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley” (v. 16–17).

Is that pretty clear? I mean, any ambiguity about that? Anybody wonder what that means? Anybody say, “Well, like, what does that mean in the original Hebrew?” (laughter)

“Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (v. 17).

God’s command was clear. Lot’s wife knew the command.

This reminds me so much of Eve. “Don’t eat the fruit of the tree.” Eve knew the command. The command was clear. It was simple. It wasn’t that hard. Obedience is not usually hard, in the sense of complicated or, “I don’t really know what to do.” There’s some times when it’s hard to know what to do but, more often than not, our disobedience is we know what to do, and we just don’t want to do it.

Lot’s wife could not claim ignorance. She had been warned. And there’s the implication here, the reminder, as we see all through Scripture, that God’s command was not because He was being mean or cruel with Lot and his family. It was for her good. It was for her blessing. It was for her protection—and it always is. It doesn’t always seem that way.

In the end, Lot’s wife considered that what God was asking her to give up was something she couldn’t give up, that what was in Sodom was more good than what God was offering her. But she was wrong. She was dead wrong—literally. God’s command was for her good. It was for her blessing. It was for her protection. And it is for you and me as well.

The consequences were clear as well, not just the command, but, “If you don’t get out, you’re going to perish.” “In the day you eat this fruit, you will die.” Clear command. Clear consequences. Clear warning, and for her good.

Well, look at verse 23:

The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. [Time is passing quickly.] Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven. And he overthrew those cities, and all the valley, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground (vv. 23–25).

God did exactly what He said He was going to do. And when God says He is sending judgment to this earth, this fallen, sinful, prodigal world, He means it. He did it then. He said He was sending a flood—and He did it. He said He was going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah—and He did it.

And the New Testament writers remind us to look back to that and take heed. Be warned, that when God says He’s going to judge this earth, this time it’s not going to be just one city. It’s not going to be just some people. It’s going to be every unbelieving, unrepentant sinner on the face of the earth. God does what He says He’s going to do.

And then verse 26, “But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.”

The command was clear. The consequences were clear. She could never say she hadn’t been warned. But she disregarded the direction she had been given. She thought she could get away with doing her own thing.

Now, as I read this passage, as I’ve been meditating on it—and, again, some of this is speculation because we’re not told more than we’re told—so, stick to the text. But it’s okay as you meditate on the text to say, “What might it have been like?” It doesn’t seem to me that she looked back, turned back out of defiance, though that could have been the case. I get more of a sense of her being pulled, being torn, being conflicted.

It’s like those who want salvation, they want deliverance, but they also want to hold on to what this world has to offer. This world has an attachment to them, and they have an attachment to it. Or sometimes they’re . . . and maybe this was the case with Lot’s wife . . . just being casual, flippant about God’s direction. They’re not taking Him seriously.

Why did she look back? Well, again, we’re not told, but I think it could have been any of what I just said or any of the following:

Perhaps she was curious, like, wouldn’t you want to know what happened? This was a familiar place to her. These were people she knew and loved. “What would it look like?” Maybe she was just curious.

I think maybe there was some element of curiosity with Eve that got her in trouble.

I don’t want to over generalize, and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this, but would you agree that maybe women are a little more prone to curiosity sometimes than men? They don’t just like taking it at face value, but sometimes we as women want to know a little more. (Don’t write me about that which I just said. I’ll take it back if I need to.) But curiosity.

She didn’t believe God’s warning. She couldn’t imagine that this could happen. “Would it really happen as the angels have said that the whole city was going to be destroyed?” There was no evidence to suggest that that’s what was going to happen. People were prosperous. They were still going to work as the day rose, cooking in their homes, and sending their kids off to school, and the weather looked fine. So maybe she just didn’t believe that it was going to happen.

Maybe there was regret in her heart about the judgment of God because, after all, the people she knew and even these sons-in-law, the two men that her daughters were engaged to, she lost them all. This was home to her. Maybe she was regretting that God had done this or even angry with God for destroying that which was so familiar and precious to her.

Maybe she was afraid—afraid of an unknown future? She didn’t know what lay ahead of her and Lot and their daughters, and fear of losing what was familiar. If you’ve been through a move, you get this. I mean, just under good circumstances, you go through a move, and you’re like, “What’s it going to be like? Will I meet new people?” There’s fear. There’s fear of not wanting to leave what behind.

I think a huge thing in this woman’s heart was longing—longing for what she was leaving behind and what she was losing. Her body had left Sodom, but her heart was still there, and it showed. That’s what made her look back.

I have a friend who has worked with us some on some publishing projects, and he’s written a devotional that had a day’s reading in it about Lot’s wife. Here’s what he said about her longing. He said,

Her home, her friends, all the life she had known for years was melting in an acid bath. Who of us could’ve kept from glancing over her shoulder? But God knew that she was not turning her head in horror, but in homesickness.

Longing. Homesickness. She loved Sodom. It was home. Everything she owned was there. She may have been from Sodom. We don’t know whether Lot found her in Sodom and married her there or whether he had taken her with him to live there. But it was familiar to her. It was precious to her. Her friends were there.

Sodom provided the convenience and the glamor of civilization, of city life—as compared, for example, to her husband’s Uncle Abraham, who was still living in tents in the desert. She, maybe, wasn’t interested in that. I think a lot of people who live in the city love the city.

And maybe Sodom represented to her permanence versus transience. “We’re going to be moving. We’re going to be nomads. We’re not going to be able to settle down.” She was settled in Sodom. It offered culture—advanced culture for its day—shopping, prosperity, pleasures.

And now here they are escaping to Zoar. The name means “small and insignificant.” So here’s a woman who’s enamored with the city lights, perhaps. She loved the excitement of the city. Who, who loves the city, wants to move to a small, sleepy town—like Niles, Michigan—(laughter) where we happily live, those of us who serve here at Revive Our Hearts. But from her vantage point, moving from the big city to Zoar—small, insignificant, no social life—all she had now was her husband and her two daughters.

I think that Sodom represented something to Lot’s wife that she could not bear to leave behind. She couldn’t bear to let go of it. She “looked back” with longing for her old life, still under the deception that the sin she was used to tolerating wasn’t worth fleeing. She wanted the “best of both worlds.”

Now, again, give me a little liberty here because we don’t know what was in her heart. We don’t know what was in her mind, but you think about the journey she was on, about all that had just taken place, and the clear command not to look back, and you’ve got to ask yourself, What might she have been thinking and feeling?

I think her decision evidences a lack of gratitude—a lack of gratitude for God’s protection, for His rescue, for His provision of a safe place for them to go. She’s focused on what she didn’t have and what she was giving up rather than what she does have. Yes, of course, they were leaving everything behind in Sodom, but they still had their lives. They had each other. They had the promise of a new life. They had God. And they were free from that wicked, sinful, oppressive place, but not grateful for that. She wanted something she didn’t have.

Again, how like us. Right? We want what we don’t have. We don’t want what we do have. We fail to be grateful for God’s provision and protection.

I think also at heart here is a love of this present world. To say it the way the apostle John says it in the New Testament, “Love of this present world.” Her treasure was in Sodom, so that’s apparently where her heart was because “where your treasure is, there your heart will be,” Jesus said.

God judged Sodom because of its extreme wickedness, but there was more in this city that Lot’s wife found desirable, than what she found repugnant. She was more attracted to what she enjoyed and treasured about the city—friends, convenience, comfort, luxury, pleasure, entertainment—she was more attracted to what she treasured about the city than she was repulsed by the rampant wickedness of Sodom.

Now, this woman may not have participated in the wickedness of Sodom, we don’t know. But it’s possible that she didn’t participate in this gruesome, sexual immorality that was so characteristic of this city, but apparently she tolerated it. And she was comfortable there. Maybe she’d gotten accustomed to the evil around her, the same way your eyes got used to the dark.

She was willing to tolerate and accommodate that which God hated, in order to experience and enjoy that which she found enjoyable/pleasurable and desirable. She loved the things of this world more than she loved God, which in the end was evidence that she did not really love God at all.

This city was a moral cesspool. Evil was celebrated and flaunted and extreme. And yet this city was like a magnet to her. It was a magnet because the city had a hook in her heart. It represented the things that she held dear. Her heart was attached to a place, a lifestyle, and a world system that was sinful and doomed to destruction.

And how like so many people around us, and some of us listening to this message today. Our hearts aren’t attached to heaven, to purity, to holiness, to God, to truth. Our hearts are drawn like a magnet. The world keeps pulling us into a lifestyle, a world system that is sinful, evil, wicked, and doomed to be destroyed.

Now, don’t forget that Lot’s wife had a lot of privileges. Whatever was going on in her heart, in her mind, her longings, her love, her fears, her regrets, her disbelief, her curiosity or lack of gratitude, she, nonetheless had some pretty amazing privileges.

She was wealthy. She was married to a powerful, influential man. She enjoyed the good life. And when Lot was rescued, she was given the opportunity to be rescued with him—that’s a privilege.

The family she married into was the only family on earth at that time that knew and served the one true God. Think about that. She likely knew, or at least knew of, Lot’s Uncle Abram. She would have heard stories about his encounters with God, about his faith. And, for sure, her husband Lot had failures and inconsistencies in his own walk with God, but he is called a righteous man in 2 Peter chapter 2.

But in the end, these advantages proved to be her undoing. How so? Her connection to this great family of faith did not and could not save her nor did her husband’s wealth and influence. In the end, that could not save her. In the end, all she knew about God didn’t do her any good because she didn’t believe it. She didn’t exercise faith herself.

She may have been trying to ride Lot’s spiritual coattail. You can’t do that and end up in heaven. She didn’t act on Lot’s faith and make it her own. And the fact that she knew about God, that she had connections to godly people only made her more accountable in the day of judgment.

The angels had warned her and her husband about the coming judgment. They had given explicit instructions. “Don’t look back. Don’t turn back. Don’t stop anywhere until you get out of here.” And they had also given her opportunity to escape to be saved from judgment. She had all she needed to be saved in an Old Testament understanding of the gospel, which we now understand a much fuller form today. So how much greater account will we be held to because we know so much more?

But God knew that she knew enough, and she had enough to be saved. But in the end she declined. She resisted. She said, “No,” to the grace and the mercy of God. Her heart was divided. And, as a result, she suffered the same judgment as the sinners of Sodom and Gomorrah. They died. She died.

Now, you say, “Was that because she was as wicked as they were?” We don’t know. But we know she declined the grace of God. She resisted. She didn’t believe. God had offered her salvation and mercy. God offered the salvation and mercy.

Listen, the thing in the end isn’t, “How bad were the sins you committed? How ungodly were you? How wicked were you? How many sexual sins did you commit? How many other kinds of sins did you commit?” But, “Did you believe the gospel and repent of your sin and flee to Christ for mercy?”

A lot of people sitting in church (I’m going to keep saying this), they’re the ones in greatest danger, I think, because there’s a lot of people in this world who are sinning flagrantly and knowingly and don’t care. But there are a lot of people sitting in church who think they’re fine. They think they’re going to make it. Outwardly, they’re not doing what all those people outside the church are doing, or they’re covering it, they’re hiding it. But their hearts are divided.

They want Jesus. They want salvation. They want to get out of Sodom, though they may be being dragged out, but they also want Sodom because Sodom has a hook in their hearts. And the way you look and the way you turn in the end shows whether you’re from the city of man or the city of God, whether you will experience this eternal wrath and judgment, or you will be saved, rescued, to experience eternal life.

Listen. Lot was no angel himself, but Lot was saved because he believed the gospel. He fled. He didn’t do it as quickly as he should. Yes, he lingered, and there’s more in his life—so many imperfections in this man’s life. God doesn’t save people because they’re good. He saves them because they believe they’re bad, and they need to be saved.

So what’s the message here? We’re going to come back to it in the next program, but I want to just keep saying it: Repent and believe the gospel. Repent and believe the gospel and be saved.

In the book of Acts, as Stephen was getting ready to be martyred—the first Christian martyr, he gave an Old Testament history lesson. And he says in the middle of that message, “Our ancestors were unwilling to obey. (He’s talking about the children of Israel not obeying Moses, at this very moment in his message. They were unwilling to obey Moses who was God’s spokesman). Instead, they pushed him aside, and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts. 7:39 CSB).

Turned back to Egypt. God said, “Don’t look back. Don’t look back. Don’t stop. Don’t look with longing. What’s going down there is not what you need. It won’t save you. It’s no good for you. It may look like pleasures, joys. It may look like you’re sacrificing something to turn your back on it, but, really, what lies ahead that God has for you is unspeakable and more precious and beautiful and good and truer than anything you could be saying “no” to back there. Don’t look back. Remember Lot’s wife. Don’t look back.”

Leslie: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has been showing us the danger of holding back from total surrender and obedience to the Lord.

Last fall a woman heard Nancy and other speakers at the True Woman ’18 conference. She was convicted that she’d been resisting complete obedience. She wrote to tell us about it.

Woman: I had kept a horrible, secret sin in my heart. It was very well guarded, but the Holy Spirit revealed it to me through the teaching I was hearing. I repented before the Lord, but I had so much pride that I didn’t want anyone else to know.

Leslie: She knew it was wrong to keep her sin hidden, so she confessed it to a sister in Christ in the prayer room, but she still hesitated to share it with her friends.

Woman: I went to ask for prayer where nobody knew me because that meant my reputation as a leader of ladies wasn’t going to be hurt, but the Lord kept working in me. And the next morning, by His grace, I was finally able to confess my sin in front of my sisters. It was as if someone took from my shoulders a very heavy backpack that I was carrying for a long time. I felt free. I felt light. Glory to my Lord for His mercy.

Nancy: And all glory does go to the Lord. I’m so thankful for how He used this major initiative, the True Woman conference, in this past year.

Here during the month of May, we always pause and reflect on what the Lord has done. My heart is so full right now as I reflect back just on the past several weeks and the fruitful time of ministry we have had in South Africa and then in southern and northern California.

Again and again and again women came up to me—younger women, older women, women who’d been listening to the Revive Our Hearts podcast for years, women who’d been using our resources and growing in their understanding of biblical womanhood, women who would say things like, “This ministry saved my marriage.” I heard these kinds of testimonies over and over and over again, and I thought how grateful I am to be a part of something that God is using in such a significant way to help women around the world experience freedom and fullness and fruitfulness in Christ.

But we don’t want to just reflect on what God has done. We also at this time of year look ahead to a new year of ministry and outreach. This is a natural transition time for us because it’s the close of our fiscal year. So our team is asking, “What do we see the Lord doing and how can we plan to join Him in the year ahead?”

A few of those projects that we’re needing to fund in the coming twelve months include: Two major conferences—one in Indianapolis; the other in Mexico. And then more materials translated into Spanish, Farsi, French, Portuguese, Turkish, and other languages where women are saying, “We need those materials in our language.” And then we’re working to develop new podcasts to share biblical truth with new generations of listeners.

But we can’t engage in projects like these without your help. We’re asking the Lord to provide at least $775,000 to close out this fiscal year in a healthy place and to prepare us for a new season of ministry.

When you join hands with us, along with other listeners, by donating any amount this month, we’d like to say “thank you” by sending you a brand new resource that we simply called, Refresh. This set includes a booklet with devotional readings and a place to journal along with cards with daily reflection questions to help walk you through the process of experiencing personal revival over the next thirty days.

Here’s an example of one of those questions. It says, “Do you remember a time when you walked more closely with the Lord than you do now? What contributed to that closeness?”

So you pick up that card. You read the question. And then you can journal your response in the booklet that’s provided. All of this comes in a beautiful package that will make you think of spring.

Be sure to ask for the Refresh Journaling Set when you make a donation of any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com. You can also call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Now, this may be the most sobering news that you hear today: Someone is going to die for your sin. The fact is, you’ll either lean on the death of Jesus for your salvation, or you will die for your own sin. I’ll explain more tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants you to find freedom in Christ. It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

Join the Discussion