Sparing Sodom, Part 1 (Genesis 18:1-21)

There are some epic interventions in the Bible:  Jesus saving Peter from drowning, or calming the storm.  If you think about it, most all of Jesus’ miracles were intervening to save someone:  calming the storm, feeding 5,000 and 4,000, casting out demons, healing the sick and handicapped and even turning water into wine was an intervention to spare the newly weds from a social disaster.  In the OT Moses prayed God would not wipe out the whole nation of Israel, Zipporah circumcising her son and saving Moses from God, Jesus preventing his disciple John from calling fire down on the Samaritan village.

In Genesis 18 we have one of the most famous and remarkable intercessory episodes in all the Bible.  Before God obliterated Sodom and Gomorrah Abraham courageously petitioned God to spare the cities.  

Our passage today brings us to those notoriously wicked cities:  Sodom and Gomorrah.  These 2 cities stand as poster-cities of abomination and perversion.  Other passages tell us that there were more cities around that God destroyed along with them,  but these two were the cities, and in a way representative of all the evil of the day.  In Genesis 13:13 it said, “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD.”  

SUMMARIZING the chapter we see that God appeared with 2 angels to Abraham while on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham made them a meal, and God promised within a year he and Sarah would have a son.  The 2 angels leave towards Sodom and Gomorrah while the Lord stays back with Abraham.  Then Abraham pleads with God to spare Sodom if there are at least 10 righteous in the city.  

We will travel under 3 headings:  1) Meal, 2) Meeting, 3) Mercy

MEAL (1-15)

There are 3 things, briefly I want to draw out here.  

First:  Look at the humility and the hospitality of Abraham.  As for humility and hospitality, he is putting on a clinic for us.  See how he urges his visitors to stay so he can serve them.  See how his motivation is to “refresh” them before they go on their way.  That is what each of us should be for each other:  a refreshment while we’re on our way.  Abraham wanted to make sure they got a “boost” being with him.  He wanted to put some gas in their tank, lift their spirits, replenish them so they could not only get to where they were going but get there in good shape.

Remember what Paul said about Onesiphorous in 2 Timothy 1?  Remembering how so many betrayers and enemies tried undermining his ministry there was one man who blessed him. He said, “May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorous, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains.”  

Are we not all going along together to the same destination?  Are we not all depending on each other to be refreshed?  Don’t I need you to replenish me today, and don’t you need me to replenish you tomorrow?  Yes I do and Yes you do.  Thank you Abraham for this glorious lesson.

Second, look at HOW the LORD appears here.  He appears like a man, and he comes with 2 angels who also look human.  Verse 2 says there are 3 “men.”  Now we might be tempted to jump to the conclusion that this is the Trinity:  the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  But that would be hasty.  We have to look at the whole passage.  If we do, it becomes clear that one of them is divine and the other 2 are not.  They are merely angels.  All 3 have the appearance here of “men” but they are not men.  This is not uncommon throughout Scripture to see how “human” angels and even at times the Lord look when they appear. 

Look with me at the text though:  They are called “men” in v 18:2, 16, 22 and in 19: 5, 10, 12 and 16.  You could say they “act” like men in that they ate Abraham’s food (18:5, 8) and in 19:3 we they would eat Lot’s food as well.  Furthermore, the homosexual men of Sodom wanted to “treat” them like “men” (19:5).  But we also see that 2 of these “men” are called “angels” in 19:1 and 15.  So what do we do when these two men are called men in one verse and angels in the next?  Simple:  we conclude they are angels who looked human.   

Most importantly, only 1 of them is called “the LORD” – He is the one who stays behind to talk with Abraham and He is the one who sent the angels ahead.  The 2 angels told Lot in 19:13 “The outcry to the LORD against Sodom is so great”  Notice they didn’t say, “The outcry to US against Sodom is so great.”  Notice the rest of the verse, “The outcry is so great that He [the LORD] has sent us to destroy it.”  

Third we see Sarah laughing at the idea of having her own son by next year.  Remember Abraham also laughed to himself when God told him the same thing in the previous chapter, and he was in front of the LORD when he laughed!  

Fourth, Nothing is too hard for the LORD!   That is all there is to the point!

Fifth, we have to ask “Why did God even stop by Abraham’s in the first place?  Why did He involve Abraham at all?  Why didn’t he just skip Abraham altogether and go straight to Sodom and Gomorrah?”  I mean, we have to fit the episodes together.  Why does this episode happen in the first place and why right before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah?  I have several suggestions that I think are edifying to consider.  I’m not being dogmatic but I’m right 🙂

  1. It is consistent with the Biblical theme that God fellowships with the righteous before judging the wicked.  In the end-times judgment, the righteous will be judged and awarded first.  Then, God will judge the wicked.  And in their judgment God will have the righteous stand there as witnesses and judges also, expressing condemnation of the wicked.  You doubt this?  Do you remember what Jesus said in Matthew 12:41-42?  Turn there with me…
  2. God is giving Abraham the chance to intercede.  And here’s where your brain is going to cramp along with mine:  God knew he would intercede.  God didn’t roll into Abraham’s camp “hoping” Abraham might try to talk him out of crushing Sodom.  God is God and as God He knows everything and part of knowing everything means that He knew that if He went to Abraham and let him know what was about to happen then Abraham would intercede for Sodom.  He knew Abraham would, given the chance, and upon finding out Sodom’s fate, try to convince God to spare Sodom.  This is not all that hard to understand actually.  God knows not only what we would do, but, what we would do in a different set of circumstances.

    APPLICATION:  Make your heart ready and willing to do anything to glorify God so that God will bring your way more chances to serve Him.  Maybe there are things God doesn’t even give us the chance to do because we do not have a readiness for serving Him.  Abraham had the kind of heart that would intercede for Sodom and so God gave him the chance to do it.
  3. Another thought here is this:  one pattern we see throughout Scripture is that God brings the righteous in on His plans.  Notice God says, “Should I tell Abraham what I’m about to do?”  Then he tells him. 

    Jesus explained in John 15:14-15 (turn there) the difference between servants of the Master and friends of the master, [Read….]  Servants don’t know what’s going on, but friends do.  The Master makes his plans and his mind known to his friends.   

    When Judas (not Iscariot) asked Jesus why he would not appear to everyone after he came back from the dead Jesus responded in John 14:22-23 by saying, “……..”  At first seems like an answer to a question that Judas didn’t answer.  But it was exactly the answer for that question because Jesus’ point was:  the righteous are those who have His commands and obey His commands and God fellowships with those who walk righteously in obedience to His commands – and those who walk with Him will be given insight, light, understanding, into God’s mind and purposes.  “Reflect on these things I am saying Timothy and the LORD will give you insight” Paul said in 2 Timothy 2.

    The point of all this is that Abrahm was a man who believed and obeyed God and served God with humility and walked with God in faith and THEREFORE God revealed things to Him.  God does NOT reveal things to fools and the wicked and unbelievers.  Who could read the Bible and come away with that?  No one.  “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God  will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”  (Jn 7:17)  See how obedience leads to understanding and revelation?  “Reflect on these things Timothy Paul said “and the Lord will give you insight into what I am saying.”  (2 Tim 2:7)  “I have more understanding than the elders for I obey your precepts.”  (Ps 119:100)

Okay lets move on, this isn’t the main part to the chapter I want to focus on anyway!

MEETING (16-19)

After the meal the 3 men – the Lord and the 2 angels – get up to go on their way to Sodom.  Abraham  walks with them.  God tells the 2 angels about Abraham’s destiny and then dispatches them to Sodom.  Notice what God says in as they “walk and talk.”

First, God reiterates His covenant promise to Abraham about becoming a great nation and all nations being blessed through Him.  We covered that in the last couple weeks.  

Second, though notice why God chose Abraham in verse 19:  to keep the way of the LORD, which means to keep the commands of the Lord, to act “right and just” in all his ways.  Here we see again, as we’ve been seeing, that to know God and walk with God means to live a life that is consistent with the righteousness of God.  God expected Abraham to live righteously.  

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