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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

November 11, 2015

Genesis 18:16-33

  1. Verse 16. Abraham visitors begin to leave and they move toward Sodom. Notice that Abraham didn’t just wave good-bye to his visitors. He walked with them awhile to "send them off" (18:16). It was during this time that Abraham learned about Sodom. Abraham wanted to spend as much time with them as possible. If he hadn't taken the time to walk with them he would have never had the opportunity to understand God's purposes and plans. This is a simple principle: If we do not make time to spend with the Lord we will not understand His ways and will be confused in our thinking about Him (Isa 55:8-9).

  2. Verses 17-18. The Lord chooses to disclose His intentions to Abraham because he is to be a channel of blessing to all the nations of the earth (12:2a; 13:3b). Additionally, Abraham is the only man in Scripture that is called God's "friend" (2 Chron 20:7; Isa 41:8; Jas 2:23); and good friends share intimate secrets with each other. This is an important truth. There is a difference between a servant and a friend. A servant may not know his master's purposes, but a friend does (John 15:15).

  3. Verse 19. The Lord further explains His purposes for Abraham. Abraham was chosen to be a blessing to the whole earth (12:2-3), but his vocation was to begin to take effect in the simplest way. He was called to “command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD." His being a blessing to the world depended on his being a blessing to his own home. Have you spent the necessary time this past week investing well in your children? Are you helping them to “keep the way of the LORD?” There is no greater task that parents must fulfill. It is important to recognize that grace was not transmitted automatically to Abraham's offspring, but through godly parenting (Deut 6:6-9; Ps 132:11-12; see also Eph 6:4). This is a general rule today as well. One of my daily prayers is that Lori and I would do four things for our children: (1) pray for them, (2) instruct them, (3) exemplify Christ, and (4) discipline them. God requires parents to be faithful in this most important stewardship. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus declared, "whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea" (Matt 18:6; cf. Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2). These are sobering words for parents. The Lord further tells Abraham that he will accomplish this task by training his children in "doing righteousness and justice" (cf. Mic 6:8). Like Abraham, we are to instruct our children in "doing righteousness and justice." This means explaining to them what God expects of His followers when it comes to right living and justice and then providing them opportunities to fulfill God's commands. This may lead to ministering together as a family in capacities that carry out righteousness and justice. The last phrase in 18:19: "so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him, “emphasizes the conditional aspect of God's unconditional covenant with Abraham. If Abraham and his descendants are to personally enjoy the benefits of the covenant, they must follow God's commandments. Like Abraham, if we are to enjoy our fellowship with God, we must obey Jesus. When we do we experience the abundant life (John 10:10). God wants you to experience all that He has for you but it takes place as you obey His will. Right Christian living comes out of right Christian thinking.

  4. Verses 20-21. We naturally think of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah as largely sexual in nature. After all, Sodom provides the basic word (sodomy) for sins outside of normal sexuality. But if we imagine the sins of these cites only in sexual terms, we miss the depth of their depravity. The word for "outcry" is used in Scripture to describe the cries of the oppressed and brutalized. It is used for the cry of the oppressed widow or orphan (Exod 22:22-23), the cry of the oppressed servant (Deut 24:15), and the cries of Israel in Egypt (Exod 2:23; 3:7, 9). This is confirmed by Ezekiel who described the inhabitants of Sodom: "Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy. Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me. Therefore I removed them when I saw it" (Ezek 16:49-50).There is an equation in this passage that is instructive: Arrogance + abundant food + careless ease = a lack of concern to help the poor and the needy. This eventually led to haughtiness and "abominations" (the sins we usually equate with Sodom). Yes, Sodom was sexually depraved (2 Pet 2:6-7; Jude 7); but there were also no human rights. The poor, the needy, and the defenseless were especially brutalized. The sad reality is "abundant food” which speaks of great wealth and leisure time leads to "arrogance" and “careless ease." The greatest evaluation of whether we're guilty of the sin of Sodom is whether we're genuinely hospitable to poor people. In 18:21, the Lord declares, “I will go down and see..." He is not going down to learn the facts; He already knows everything (Job 38-39; Ps 139). This is Moses’ figurative way of saying that God always thoroughly investigates the crime before passing sentence (see 3:11-13; 4:9-12; 11:5). By this He assures Abraham that He would base His judgment on full, accurate information He already perfectly knew. In this verse, we must come to grips with the reality that God personally observes sin (18:21). The Hebrew text literally states, ”I will go down personally and see if their sin is made complete.” Sin has been building up in Sodom. God has delayed judgment because of His love and mercy. More sin builds up. Now the cup of sin has been filled, and God moves in judgment. And He does it personally. He does not send angels or other messengers. He does not judge sin on what others report. He does not judge the observations of His assistants. He does it Himself. He never delegates the matter of judgment.

  5. Verses 22-23. The two angels leave and the Lord remains with Abraham. Abraham then "came near” and began praying. The principle is this: Effective prayer is a matter of drawing near to God so we can pray with His heart. In this section, Abraham, the friend of God, becomes a true friend of men. Earlier Abraham was the savior of Sodom (14:13-16); now he becomes Sodom's intercessor. To “intercede" is to plead the case of another person. Here, Abraham's relationship with God had taken on a new dimension—concern for someone other than himself. His prayer did not save the city, and it was never intended to do so, but it did make Abraham manifest in his own life the mercy and the compassion of God. This is why God asks us to pray, that we might take upon ourselves something of His own character. In Prayer, God is looking for us to line our desires up with his.

  6. Verses 24-25. Abraham's primary purpose seems to have been to secure justice (i.e., deliverance) for the righteous minority in their wicked cities. Secondarily, he wanted God to spare the cities. This interpretation finds support in Abraham's appeal to the justice of God rather than to His mercy (18:25). This appeal was the basis of his intercession. Abraham was jealous for the Lord's reputation among his neighbors. If this was his primary purpose, Abraham succeeded in obtaining justice for the righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah.

  7. Verse 26. To save the cities for 50 righteous showcases God's amazing grace. Although He is a God of justice (Deut 32:4), His grace is all-encompassing and all-surpassing. When we ponder this truth it will affect our lives. Right Christian living comes out of right Christian thinking.

  8. Verse 27. Abraham models profound deference and humility when he says, “I am but dust and ashes." By this he means, dust in origin, ashes at the end. We ought to approach God with this same reverence and awe.

  9. Verses 28-29. Abraham turns into a reverse auctioneer by asking God about an even less number of righteous people as a reason to save the whole city.

  10. Verses 30-32. Abraham's boldness grew and for his last petitions he lowered the number of necessary righteous by tens! The Bible tells us that God is a "consuming fire" (Heb 10:31; 12:29) and yet it also tells us to come to Him boldly (Heb 4:14-16). The Bible also exhorts us to persist in prayer (Luke 18:1-8). One of the questions from this text is: Why did Abraham stop at the number ten? Why did he not press for five? The answer was that he probably felt there were at least ten righteous people in Sodom. It may be that he figured that there were ten righteous people in Lot's family (Lot, his wife, at least two sons (19:12), at least two married daughters and their husbands (19:14), and two unmarried daughters (19:8)-exactly ten).

  11. Verse 33. God changed Abraham's understanding of divine justice and mercy. Abraham did not change the mind of God; he demonstrated it. God did not suddenly alter His purposes; He informed Abraham of His purposes so that He could evidence His mercy and justice and compassion.

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