Facing a Hard Passage
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 Plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. (Genesis 19:24-26)
I find this story to be one of the least favorite in the Bible. I am appalled for a number of reasons. First, here is God killing more people, including poor Mrs. Lot, just for looking back at the cities. Second, Lot is found negotiating with God and being more compassionate than the Creator. This story seems to go against so much of what I believe about the one true God.
This isn’t the only place in the Old Testament where God is portrayed in such an unsavory manner. In the Book of Exodus, Moses is found negotiating with God, trying to save the people from God’s wrath. I’ve come to believe this is more about human writers attempting to interpret a situation and less about God actually acting in such a horrendous manner.
The Bible and its stories, are not a result of God’s dictation. The Biblical writers did not sit down at a table, and write exactly what God was saying to them, word for word. The writers were people of faith, who interpreted their situation in light of how they believed God was working in the world at that particular point in time. Sometimes they interpreted correctly, and at other times, like this one, they may have misunderstood. Now, that doesn’t make the Bible wrong, or misguided.
No, the Bible remains the inspired word of God. It is different from Shakespeare or Tolstoy, because the Bible is the inspired word of God, blessed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit reveals God to the world in ways that no other writing in the history of the world can convey. It does this through the movement of the Spirit. It doesn’t need to be historically or even theologically accurate in every verse, in order for it to remain inspired.
Think about a time when a group of you experienced a shocking event. Then, years later the group gets back together, and they start retelling their stories. Each person shares their remembrance of the common event, but the stories are significantly different. The individuals are not robots. As they witnessed the event, and in the months and years to come, they began to interpret what they witnessed. Soon, their interpretation transformed the facts of what they witnessed, which allowed for many different descriptions of the same event. So, too, with the Biblical accounts.
Today, go back and read this passage. Think about the stress and fear these characters were feeling. What might the event look like, stripped of its theological interpretations? In doing this, take out the descriptions in the text of God’s interventions. What is the story once you do this? Then, pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you, so you can seek God’s divine interpretation. The more of the Bible you’ve read, the more you get a feel for the mind of God. You begin to see patterns in the way God relates to humans throughout Scripture. Ask the Spirit to speak to you and bring that Biblical history back to your heart and mind. When you do this, the Bible, and God’s will, begins to speak to you.