The meaning of the Days of Unleavened Bread is intricately tied to the fact that the festival lasts seven days. Seven is one of the more significant numbers in the Bible, as it denotes completion. During the Days of Unleavened Bread, we eat unleavened bread for seven days, picturing the complete removal of sin, as well as our becoming complete in obedience and godly character.
Several events in the Bible occurred during these days, and they teach us this lesson. The most popular of course is the flight of the ancient Israelites from Egypt, completed fully on the seventh day of Unleavened Bread, with their miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. The children of Israel also marched around Jericho for seven days until the walls and the city fell on the seventh day (occurring at the time of these spring holy days; see Joshua 5:10)—picturing how sin must be completely destroyed. Then, of course, there is the most powerful example—the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. He was crucified so we could receive forgiveness of sin, was resurrected during the Days of Unleavened Bread, and lives in us, empowering us to come completely out of sin.
There is another story that most likely occurred at this time of the year, though the holy days weren’t instituted officially at this time, as they were for Israel when they left Egypt. Still, the abiding lesson of these events is one that coincides with the lessons we learn at this time of the year—one that we must constantly be reminded of. This lesson was summed up by Jesus Christ in three words: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32).
Christ was, of course, referring to the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, cities whose sins were “very grievous” to God (Genesis 18:20), enough to move Him to destroy these cities—save Lot and his family.
The bulk of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah can be found in Genesis 19. This account is attributed to happening during the time of the spring holy days, because when the angels came to visit Lot, “he made them a feast, and did bake unleavened bread, and they did eat” (Genesis 19:3). How appropriately this story fits in to the lessons of these days: coming completely out of sin and being separate from the world.
Many of Sodom’s sins had no doubt rubbed off on Lot. Consider the fact that he offered his virgin daughters to appease the appetite of the lust-filled homosexual hordes outside his home; also, the angels had to physically remove him from the city because “he lingered” (verses 14-16). Still, God called Lot “just” (2 Peter 2:7), and because of Lot, God said his entire family would be spared the destruction of Sodom should they choose to leave with him.
As the famous story goes, Lot and his company were told to leave the city and not look back (Genesis 19:17), but verse 26 reads: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.”
The phrase looked back means to look intently at—to regard with pleasure or care; to have respect for. It wasn’t that Lot’s wife happened to see what was happening to Sodom (even Abraham saw the burning of the cities from afar in verse 28), it was because of her actual longings for the pleasures of Sodom and her disappointment at its destruction that God turned her into a pillar of salt.
Herein lies a key lesson.
Salt is an enduring substance; in fact, the historian Josephus wrote that the pillar still stood when he was alive. Her body stood as a lasting monument to this lesson for many years.
What is the lesson? That we must completely leave sin and the carnal ways of this world behind; we must grow to despise it completely, to where we never look back intently or with pleasure upon it. This is why Christ admonished us to “Remember Lot’s wife.”
Christ also spoke the same lesson in a slightly different manner in Luke 9:62: “And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Remembering this vital bit of history is a matter of eternal life or eternal death!
Let’s view four ways we can heed Christ’s words and thus avoid the fatal mistake of Lot’s wife.
1. Learn to view sin as God does
All the Bible chronicles that occur around the spring holy days have this in common: They paint a vivid picture of God’s view of sin and what God does about it.
In the records of Israel’s exodus, sin is akin to brutal slavery and bondage. When God brought His people out of Egypt, He obliterated the entire Egyptian army. In Jericho the walls of the city were completely felled and the city entirely taken by Israel. In the New Testament, we see the damaging effects of sin in what it did to our Savior Jesus Christ—how it literally tore Him apart in the most excruciating way.
And in the account of sinful Sodom and Gomorrah, God thoroughly burned the cities to the ground.
The lesson is: God hates sin completely, and He completely destroys it!
Genesis 19:28 states that Abraham “looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain, and beheld, and, lo, the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace.” This is what sin does! This is what God thinks of sin!
Can you imagine the sight to Abraham—seeing smoke coming up from these twin cities as if they were one massive furnace that burned and burned? The closest event we probably have to relate to that is the site of the flaming twin towers on September 11, 2001. The sight of those colossal smoke clouds billowing out of Manhattan for days, even after they fell, is still burned into our memory.
It was easy for our leaders and people to see that evil destroys. That is what the evil actions of those terrorists did. It destroyed! It’s easy to see that in those “bigger” sins. But can we see that this is what all sin does? That’s a huge lesson of these seven days—that a “little leaven leavens the whole lump” (i Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). All sin—whether mass murders or “white” lies—eventually destroys!
If we learn to view sin the way God does, we will not want to look back.
“No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” If we look back, as Lot’s wife did, with pleasure and longing, we will steer the plough off course, and we’ll miss the Kingdom of God.
2. Keep focused on the work at hand
We have our “hand to the plough.” Stay focused on that. Keep your heart and mind in the work of Almighty God. Keep in touch with news of God’s headquarters work. Keep active in the local congregation. Keep God’s work foremost in your prayers.
“And the man said unto me, Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel” (Ezekiel 40:4). God wants us to set our hearts on delivering His message.
Herbert W. Armstrong always said that only those whose hearts are in the work can truly grow spiritually. If we don’t have our hearts in the work, we are more likely to fill our hearts with the cares of this world—and we will begin to look away from the work at hand and look back to the dying world behind us.
3. Keep focused on the vision ahead
Christ ends Luke 9:62 with the phrase “the kingdom of God.” That is what we are “ploughing” toward. That is what this work is all about. It is this vision, this goal, that must motivate us. As our last point was to focus on the work at hand, this point could be called focusing on the work ahead. Because getting salvation should not be what motivates us. It should be sharing and teaching this plan of salvation to all mankind during the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment.
One Church member said he had a mental “motivation list.” It was a list of people that he wanted to teach in the World Tomorrow. Focusing on them would give him the strength never to give up or look back. We must have our focus on this vision—this vision of bringing others into God’s family. It must not be a selfish motivation: Self is where sin has us focus. Just having our own salvation as the motivation wouldn’t be as effective, because then we could easily say, Well, so what if I don’t make it, and not consider the impact that could have on God’s future family.
4. Keep focused on our Husband
Notice how Genesis 19:26 phrases Lot’s wife’s mistake: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” Here is what Gesenius Hebrew Lexicon writes about this: “For as the wife was commanded to follow her husband and not to look behind, she ought to have looked straight on, and to have followed her husband’s back with her eyes.”
Christ has gone before us! He is alive and working powerfully through His Church! We must follow Him. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). He is our Head. He is our Pioneer, our Captain (Hebrews 2:10). We must focus on Him, His lead, getting ourselves spiritual ready for our marriage to Him.
Christ never tells us the name of Lot’s wife. Perhaps it is because it isn’t necessary. But could it also be to put the focus on the husband? Our focus must be on our Husband, Jesus Christ!
Let us learn and apply these vital lessons from the events surrounding Lot’s wife and Sodom and Gomorrah. This will help us grow toward coming completely out of sin—as we qualify to rule in the Kingdom of God with our Husband, Jesus Christ.