Abraham and Sodom. 18:16-33
Abraham's concern for the righteous residents of Sodom is but the fruit of mercy evidenced in those to whom mercy is shown. The Lord raises the issue of Sodom with Abraham, allowing him to respond in kindness rather than condemnation. Abraham does respond in mercy, pleading for Sodom, but he also tests the kind justice of the Lord. Will the Lord destroy fifty righteous people along with the unrighteous? What if there are ten righteous people, will the Lord condemn them along with the unrighteous?
v16-19. Three travelers, most likely angels, head off toward Sodom accompanied by Abraham. The impression is that they are on a mission to execute God's judgment on Sodom. The point of the rather guarded conversations between the Lord, the angels and Abraham is a little unclear. Probably the angels intend hiding their intentions from Abraham, but the Lord includes Abraham in the divine plan, affirming his special place within that plan. He will "become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him." He is to "direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just." We see here Abraham in training for eternity, a training progressed by divine insights, daily applied under the overriding principle of grace.
v20-21. The angels reveal the Lord's intentions for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. The picture language employed shows that God's judgments are carefully weighed. "The outcry" is either the intercessions of those inflicted with the city's evils, or the display of the evil itself.
v22. The angels leave and the Lord stays to speak with Abraham, or following the Masoretes reading, the Lord waits for Abraham to speak. It is unclear what is intended, but probably Abraham continues in prayer with the Lord after the angels depart.
v23-33. Although terms like "Abraham pleads for Sodom" are used to describe this passage, it is more an exploration of the Lord's just rule. Abraham does exhibit a sense of mercy, obviously fostered by God's mercy shown to him, but he is more focused on how God's mercy is exhibited in the destruction of the city. Abraham knows well that Lot and his family live in the city, so where do they stand in all this? "Will not the judge of all the earth do right?" Will the righteous perish along with the sinners? Yet, the Lord is an awesome God and so Abraham starts with a conservative number of the righteous and moves downward to ten. "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it"; the Lord is merciful rather than vengeful. As we know, Lot and his family are led from the city by the travelers (angels) before its destruction.
Secret children's business
I'm not much into miracles, although I'm not saying that God can't do miracles. The Lord of this universe is quite able to do anything he wants to do. What I am saying is that the God I have experienced in my life is not someone who constantly intervenes in it. I don't see his guiding hand behind all the good things that happen to me and so I don't have to deal with the moral dilemma of a God who makes bad things happen to me.
I'm not suggesting this is not God's world. He made it, made it "good", shaped it from nothing, created it as a free supportive environment for his children and is bringing it to its appointed end. Still, my existence of life is that this world is a "shadow land", an image of something beyond, non substantial, with cause and effect disturbed by a malevolent evil inextricably moving to an appointed end.
Yet, there are times when God does intervene. He does it, in our experience at least, to fulfill his promises. One of his promises is that his children will be led into an understanding of the truth. We, the fools, will become wise, although not with a wisdom of this age.
In our passage, Abraham, a child of God, a friend of God, is welcomed into God's secret chamber. The angels may not think it proper for Abraham to know about the destruction of Sodom, but the Lord certainly does. The revelation does not end there, for as Abraham appropriates his right of approach to God, he learns of the depth of God's mercy. He comes to understand the truth, a truth that sets him free.
I remember, as a young believer, I was increasingly guilty about my vintage car, a 1923 Rugby (called a Durant in the USA). Was Jesus really demanding my all? It certainly seemed that way, but I could never be sure. It was one of those issues of interpretation which was driving me mad. So, I tried out the "fleece" method of guidance, a method I would not recommend! I decided to advertise the car one Saturday at a fair price and if it sold then I would take it as a sign that Jesus meant what he said. The car sold, and just to drive home the point, some hours after the car was driven from my home, we had a massive hail storm that would have shredded it to pieces. Coincidence or design? Either way, God had confirmed his truth despite my youthful innocence. Anyway, I learnt the lesson. It took a few more years before I realized that cross-bearing discipleship was beyond me, and then a few more to realize that Christ had already gone the way of perfection for me, but that's another story.
In John's first letter, 2:27, we are reminded that in the gift of the Holy Spirit "his anointing teaches us all things." Some do make much of "you do not need anyone to teach you", but John is not dispensing with the gifts of a teaching ministry. The point is clear; God teaches his people the secrets of the universe; He is a God who communicates with those who reach out to him. Our task is to wrestle with that knowledge and so come to an understanding of the mind of Christ.
If arriving at the mind of Christ is central to the Christian way, assess the place of teaching in the life of your Christian community.
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