|Godprint: The Life of Abraham
We're in Genesis chapter eighteen. A warning: we're going to be here until 8:30. I call it a warning; for most of us, it's not a warning. We're used to it. But not everybody is used to a Bible study that would last an hour. So I'm giving you in advance the warning. If you feel you need to make an adjustment, it'd be better to do that, and I probably should have said that before we prayed, so we could bow our heads and then we wouldn't see you make that decision. Because now you're going to be very conspicuous if you try to move around. But everybody basically keeps their seat and we ask you to show respect to the Word of God by doing so. I don't want to put anybody on the spot. We understand if you have an emergency but it better be an emergency. I'm just kidding. We've been looking at the life of Abraham. Abram, he was called, at first. Exalted father. His name was changed in chapter seventeen to father of a multitude--Abraham. In chapters eleven and twelve, we noticed his calling. His home was Ur of the Chaldeans. Iraq would be modern-day area he was from. Called from Iraq into the land of promise, the land of Canaan. So that was chapter eleven, principally chapter twelve. That was his calling. Then we also noticed in chapter twelve his carnality. How he didn't trust the Lord in the land of promise but he went down where? To Egypt because there was a famine in the land. So the end of chapter twelve and part of chapter thirteen is his carnality: going down and trusting in the arm of the flesh, Egypt, rather than the Lord. In chapter fourteen we saw a different side of Abraham. We saw his courage. As he, along with 318 trained household servants, went against a coalition of four kings headed by one Chedorlaomer, who subdued five cities. And Abraham went after them and delivered Lot, delivered the spoils of war back to the kings, even going as far as Sodom to take it back.
Also in chapter fourteen we saw Abraham's communion. Let's call it that; that's when he met Melchizadek, who brought bread and wine, entered into a relationship with Abraham, who paid tithes to Melchizadek, who was called the King of Salem. In chapter fifteen, we saw Abraham's covenant. God told Abraham to look up and said, See all those stars? You're descendants will be like those stars. And it says, 'And Abraham believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.' God establishes His covenant, all the way along, but it came to a real head and a real prominence in chapter fifteen. In chapter sixteen, we saw Abraham's compromise where his wife Sarah said, Look, I've got this young Egyptian handmaid named Hagar. I'm obviously too old to have children. She's young. Let's fulfill God's promise and help God to fulfill His promise by you going into Hagar and having a child through her. Chapter seventeen Abraham's name was changed to Abraham from Abram. And we saw Abraham's circumcision. He was 99 years old when that event took place. Enough said about that. We now come to what I'm going to call Abraham's contrast, to keep all of the alliteration going, the C's going. A contrast between Abraham and Lot and what a difference there is. Because chapter eighteen and next week, chapter nineteen, we see both of these lives together. Abraham versus his nephew Lot. A remarkable contrast. One, Abraham lives the blessed life. Two, Lot lives the blighted life.
Remember what it says in Psalm 1? Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of the sinners, nor sit in the seat of the scornful, but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night. That really fits Abraham. He was a blessed person. God blessed him and he became a blessing to others and the promise was that, through him, all the families of the earth would be blessed. But not Lot. His life was blighted. On one hand, Abraham was blessed. He gained. On the other hand, Lot lost everything. Abraham gained God's promises, Abraham gained land, Abraham gained descendants. Lot lost the place that he loved, Sodom. He lost his wife. He loses his children. He loses everything. Abraham gains and keeps on gaining, though imperfect, though faltering, fumbling, failing, he gets back up and he learns new things about God. And his life becomes like the man in Psalm 1. Even in old age he is bearing forth fruit. So we begin looking at the contrast between Abraham and Lot in these two chapters.
C.S. Lewis once said, 'If you put first things first, second things will be thrown in. If you seek second things first, you will gain neither first nor second things.' Now that little statement by C.S. Lewis goes hand-in-hand with what Jesus said. If you seek first the kingdom of God, all these other things will be tossed in--added to you--as well. The problem that we often have is that we, instead of seeking the kingdom of God, seek the other things that God said we would add. But we seek them; we get preoccupied with this world, with this life, with our agenda, with ourselves and we find that we're not really seeking first the kingdom. We're seeking other things and really hoping that God will toss in the kingdom as well. But if we could grasp that, like Abraham, I know it doesn't make sense but I'm going to trust God even though everything seems against trusting God. I'm going to do it anyway. You'll become blessed and everything else will be added to you.
I love chapter eighteen. I love this chapter. It's long and that's why we're only going to take one chapter tonight and not be as ambitious as last week. It's an unusual story. It's the story of three visitors that come to Abraham unexpectedly in the heat of the summer day. They're unusual because one of them is called Lord. In fact, so it's unmistakable, it says in verse one, 'Then the Lord.' And the term is Yahweh, the covenant name, that tetragrammaton of the Old Testament. YHVH. The covenant name that God will introduce Himself as to Moses. "The Lord appeared." But the Lord shows up with two others. Now we can only guess who they are because they're all three disguised as men. Three human beings; three Bedouin-like visitors who are nomadic. They travel through and they visit with Abraham and then they leave toward Sodom. And we'll discuss them as we go on, we'll try to identify at least as best we can, who that might be. But what I want to zero in on in the first several verses is the idea that was introduced at the beginning of the evening. What it means to be the friend of God. It's a beautiful title. It's one that when we hear the concept that you could be God's friend, it boggles the mind that any human being could be the friend of God who needs nothing and has no equal, no parallel. But it delights the heart--it draws us in.
Especially when we consider what Jesus said in John 15. Henceforth, I no longer will call you My servants but I call you My friends. Three times in the Bible, Abraham and Abraham alone, is given the title 'the friend of God.' The first time it appears is 2 Chronicles 20, when King Jehoshaphat of Judah refers to Abraham as the friend of God. The last time that it appears is James 2:23 where James quotes the famous verse in Genesis. "Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him for righteousness and he was called the friend of God." But the third time, the middle one, is the one that interests me the most because it's when God Himself gives Abraham the title. That's found in Isaiah 41, no need to turn there, but if you want to write it down to study it later, Isaiah 41 where God says to Israel, 'You are Israel, My servant, the descendants of Abraham, My friend.' So what kind of attributes would there be in being God's friend?
Let's work our way through the passage. I'll give you four of them. If you want to be God's friend, here it is, number one, it will take spontaneity. Some of you may not like that. You don't like being spontaneous. Well if you're going to be God's friend, get used to it. God just shows up unexpected, doesn't tell you 'I'll be there next week at this time,' won't always do that. He just shows up. Now watch: 'Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold [like, huh, look who's here out of nowhere, behold, check it out] three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground.' It was the heat of the day, we're told by Moses, the author of Genesis, the human author. During the heat of the day in the summer, people who lived in tents, even still to this day, nobody travels. You do your work and you do your traveling early in the morning when it's cool and late in the afternoon toward evening when the air once again cools down. But in the heat of the day, nobody does anything. They hang out. The old siesta comes from ancient times. It's a good idea. You just take the middle part of the day and you just relax.
So Abraham was not expecting anybody to come. It was the last thing he would expect, a visitor, let alone three to just suddenly appear. But the Lord appeared and behold, three men. If you're going to be God's friend, as I mentioned, you just need to get used to this truth: that God can suddenly change directions in your life. You know, you've got it all planned, you've got your daytimer marked; you've got your agenda set. And God might just say, 'I've got editing rights.' And a phone call comes or an announcement comes your way and something occurs that drastically changes the direction of your life. There's a great old saying, not from the Bible, but it has a biblical truth to it: 'Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be broken.' Learn to be flexible. Here the Lord shows up. Sarah had no time to vacuum the tent, pick up Abraham and Ishmael's dirty socks if they were lying around. Just: there's the Lord. Three visitors and one of them is the Lord.
Now it mentions three men and because of this the Church of England has interpreted this as the Trinity, because there are three persons but they're addressed as one and the name 'the Lord' verse one is given. And that is why every year, on Trinity Sunday, they read the first part of Genesis eighteen. Because they see this as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I don't quite see it that way. I think it's best to see one of them as the Lord. Let's call it a theophany, the appearance of God in some human form. Whether you want to make it more precisely a Christophany, the appearance of Christ in the Old Testament, or not, it's God appearing in some human form and two of them are angels. The Lord and two angels. So a theophany and two angelic beings.
I think there is more proof of that if you read down all the way to verse twenty-two. It says, 'Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom but Abraham still stood before the Lord.' So if there were three, and two of them leave, these two men, and Abraham's talking to the Lord. And then if you'll look at chapter nineteen real briefly, verse one, notice 'Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening.' So if you piece it together, it would seem like the three are the Lord, Yahweh, in some human form, and two angelic beings. Back to our friendship idea. A good friendship can withstand spontaneity. You know what I mean by that? You have friends, doesn't matter when they call. They can call any time. You tell them, 'Call me anytime. We're friends.' There are others that you call them your friend but you really don't want them calling you in the middle of the night. But we all have friends and we don't mind if they call us in the middle of the night. But you've got to be good friends with somebody to withstand that kind of spontaneity. Now I had a friend some years ago in California who would show up unannounced. Like all the time. He'd come anytime he wanted to and he'd knock on the door and if we weren't at home, or he didn't get an answer, he'd walk around the house, look in the windows, knock on the windows, make sure that we weren't there. But because of the friendship, it was okay. You better be friends to have somebody around your house like that, right?
Even Jesus said, 'Suppose one of you has a friend who goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread.' Remember that little story? Well, you'd better be a friend with somebody to come at midnight and say, 'I forgot to go shopping. Can I have a loaf of bread?' So if you want to be God's friend, just know that whatever agenda you set in your life, have enough flexibility that the Lord can alter your direction, change your plans, visit you with a blessing or a trial or a testing--anytime He wants to. But because you're His friend and He's your friend, that's okay.
Here's the second mark of being a friend with God: humility. It says in verse two, 'So he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground.' The word 'bowed,' very important word, you're going to find it 100 times in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word 'to bow down, to do homage, to give reverence to.' And it is the most frequently used word in the Old Testament for the translation in our English 'worship.' To bow down; to worship. In the Orient, in the Middle East, especially back then, it was very typical to greet somebody who was more esteemed than you are, like royalty, if you were in the presence of a king or a queen, you would get on your knees and you would gently and slowly incline your head until your forehead would touch the ground. And that was a sign of respect. 'I acknowledge that you are greater, higher, and to be revered.'
Abraham is 99 years old. Abraham has 318 paid, trained servants. He has lots of flocks, lots of herds. He has made an impact already in his culture. He would be called, in the Middle East today, if he were alive, a sheikh. Somebody who has and exerts great influence on large numbers of people. But Abraham, in God's presence, bows down. And that is a proper response to a divine friendship. If you're going to be God's friend, it's not like being each other's friend, where we go, 'Hey dude.' I get a little bit miffed when I hear people talking about God as 'my buddy in the sky' or 'the old man upstairs' and I think, 'How dare you refer to God in that way?' He's God! And if you're going to have a friendship as a human with God it better include worship and humility. I told you the story about that old minister who survived the Johnstown flood back in Pennsylvania years ago and he always liked to tell the story of how he survived the Johnstown flood. Everybody he would meet, he would say, 'Have you heard how I survived the Johnstown flood?' And they'd roll their eyes and he'd tell it anyway. Well the old minister died and went to heaven. One day, Peter said, 'We're going to have a big gathering together tonight and we're going to be telling our stories and giving our testimonies. It's testimony night in heaven.' And so the old minister got really excited and wide-eyed and ran up to Peter and said, 'Hey Peter! Have you heard how I survived the Johnstown flood?' And he began to tell him the story and he said, 'I'd love to share that tonight with everybody else in heaven.' Peter hesitated. He said, 'Ok. You can tell it but just remember Noah will be in the audience tonight.' And I love the story because it illustrates this truth. If you're going to tell about a flood and Noah is listening, it better be good. Because it changes the whole complexion of really good flood stories when Noah's in the audience. He can top anybody.
Here's Abraham, 99 years old, very influential, a sheikh by modern and ancient terms, and he bows down before the Lord, realizing God is in the audience tonight. And when God is in the audience, I may be somebody important but in God's presence, I'm not. And he bows down. And so that's why I love worship and that's why during times of worship, we should all be engaged. Because we're realizing God is in the audience tonight and this is for Him. And when we truly worship God, there's going to be humility. Humility in worship comes from two things. Number one, recognizing who God is and number two, recognizing who we are in the presence of God. Once you get those two things straight, the inevitable result will be humility--guaranteed. Remember Isaiah chapter six? The year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and lifted up, the train of His robe filled the temple and he heard the angels singing and Isaiah said what? Yeah, he didn't say, 'Wow is me! I'm Isaiah the prophet.' He said, 'Woe is me! I am undone. I am a man of unclean lips.' Whatever great gift he thought he possessed, if he did up to that point, it was lost because, in recognizing that he was in God's presence, and recognizing who God was, Isaiah recognized who he was and it brought that sense of humility. So that's second. If you're going to be a friend of God, it's going to take a level of humility where you realize God is in my audience, He's watching everything I do, and we would bow down before Him.
So when he saw these three men, he bowed himself to the ground. And notice he said, verse three, 'My Lord.' Adonai is the Hebrew word. Now Abraham will refer to Him in this passage as your servant and call God my Lord, Adonai. The Mighty One. The Almighty. The Strong One. The Lord. I think it was Max Lucado who wrote something quite clever. He said, 'You don't boast about your paper airplane when you're dealing with NASA. You don't brag about your crayon sketches in the presence of Picasso. You don't claim equality with Albert Einstein because you can write H20. And you don't talk about your own goodness in the presence of the Perfect One.' That's sort of the idea here. He recognizes who he's with and he bows down and he calls Him, 'The Lord.' Let's go on. Verse three: "And he said, 'My Lord, if I now have found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet and rest yourselves under the tree and I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by inasmuch as you have come to your servant. And they said, 'Do as you have said.' So Abraham hurried.' Ok, he's how old? Can you picture a guy 99 hurrying? I don't know what that looked like, but it's in the text. 'He hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, 'Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.' And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate. Then they said to him, 'Where is Sarah your wife?' So he said, 'Here, in the tent.'
Here's the third part of being God's friend. If the first one is spontaneity and the second one is humility, the third one is ministry--serving. If you're going to be God's friend, there's going to be a requirement to serve the Lord, to get involved in kingdom work. Now typically if you're a Christian, you don't have to twist your arm. You want to do it--it's a response. 'I love God, I love being His friend, I want to serve the Lord. I get excited doing that.' Abraham serves the Lord here. And he does it three ways. He does it personally. Now he's 99 years old, it's a hot day, he had 318 servants. He could've just clapped to any one of them and watched them get really busy around him. But he personally is serving. If you're going to serve the Lord, and by the way, if you're a Christian I would say, a Christian without a ministry is a contradiction. If He is your Lord, it means He's the Master. The word 'Lord' connotes that you are a servant, that you're doing some form of service, some form of ministry, some volunteer, some way to get involved. And even if you're serving people, keep this in mind: you're first serving the Lord. See this is where people get burned out in their service to the Lord. They forget they're serving the Lord. They serve people and you know what? It's not easy serving people because sometimes sheep bite back. And so the only way to make it through victoriously is to remember, 'Though I'm serving God's people, I'm first and foremost serving the Lord.' And as part of that, it involves working with people, as imperfect as we all are.
I love the fact that the priests of Israel, though they served God's people, they ministered to God's people, they took animals and killed them and sacrificed on behalf of the people, it said they ministered to the Lord. That's the phrase the Old Testament uses: "The priests ministered to the Lord.' And that involved serving people. So Abraham serves personally. Number two, Abraham served immediately. We notice that language. He hurried, he said to his wife, 'Quickly!' He ran to the flock and said, 'Hasten,' or 'Quick! Prepare supper!' There was an immediacy to his service. Why is that noteworthy? Here's why. If you are waiting for the right feeling before you get involved you might never get involved. If Abraham was waiting for the right feeling when those visitors suddenly appeared at the tent, think of the excuses he could have had. 'It's hot. I don't work during the heat of the day. Nobody does. Number two, I'm old. Old people don't work well in the heat of the day. Number three, I have a staff for this.' He probably, if he waited for the right feeling, would never have gotten involved.
Here's a third thing about his service: he gave generously. I want you to notice a few things in that text. He says in verse six, 'Quickly make ready three measures of fine meal.' The best. Verse seven, 'Abraham ran to the herd and took a tender and good calf and gave it to the young man and he hastened to prepare it.' He gave generously. He gave the best. And I think that we should give the Lord the very best of who we are, the best of our talents, the best of our time, the best our energy, because too many people give God leftovers. I'm not using this anymore, this old, broken, beat up, crummy piano that has lost half of its strings and is out of tune. It doesn't work and it doesn't serve me very well, I'll donate it to the church. Here, God. And basically they just want, you know, a free pick-up to haul their trash out. When David was looking for a place to build the temple and he came to the threshing floor of Arana, it became the place where the temple was built and if you come with us to Jerusalem, you'll see and walk on the threshing floor of Arana that David bought for the temple to be built. When he saw the threshing floor, he offered to pay a price for it. And the guy who owned it said, 'Listen, you're David and you're doing this for God. It's yours for free. You don't have to pay me anything.' David said, 'Nope. I insist.' Can you imagine arguing about that? Usually people argue in the opposite direction. David finally put his foot down and said, 'I will never sacrifice to the Lord from that which costs me nothing.' Now there's a principle that David had and lived by. That if I'm going to give something to the Lord, I've got to feel it. It's got to cost me. I'm going to give Him the best so I'm going to pay for it and I'm going to build a temple on this spot.
Abraham, I think, had that same concept. I'm going to give God generously because God has been so generous to me and His promises. And to reciprocate that, that's part of the friendship. Verse nine: 'Then they said to him, 'Where is Sarah your wife?' So he said, 'Here, in the tent.' I don't know but three strangers. You identify one eventually as the Lord. Probably at first he didn't quite get it, but when three men knock on your door and say, 'Where's your wife?' I wonder what was going through his mind. It's a good thing he knew it was the Lord and was spontaneously, fervently, personally serving Him. And by this time, he said, 'It's ok.' But she was in the tent. Now in the past, it was Sarah, do you remember, who came up with the idea that you use Hagar instead of me because it can't happen through me, I'm too old. You're probably still with it Abraham enough to birth a child through a younger woman, but certainly not me. So now God's going to zero in on her specifically.
'And He said, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.' (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)' So they're in one part of the tent, there's a flap; she's on the other side making preparations. Now just in case the reader would forget the condition of this couple: 'Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.' The author wants you to know that it was impossible, in human terms, for Sarah to have a baby. 'Therefore [because she's old, can't have a child] Sarah laughed within herself, saying, 'After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?' And the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?' Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.' But Sarah denied it, saying, 'I did not laugh,' for she was afraid. And He said, 'No, but you did laugh!'
Sarah laughed. God busted her. She probably did it to herself. She didn't laugh out loud like, 'Ha-ha!' The Lord said, 'Why did Sarah laugh' and then she was busted so she yelled out across the flap, 'I didn't laugh,' and the Lord said, 'Yeah you did.' I got that. I heard that. It's interesting in the previous chapter when God made the promise to Abraham, he laughed. God didn't say anything about it. And that is because Abraham believed. He believed. There was no disbelief in him. That's what the Bible says, 'Abraham believed God,' when God made those promises, 'and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.' But there are different ways to laugh, are there not? When a person laughs, it can be laugh of light-hearted laughter. Then there's a scornful laugh. Then there's a laugh of arrogance. Then there's a laugh of unbelief. You see, just because it says laughter, you have to then suppose what kind of laughter. When Abraham laughed, it was a laughter of joy because the Bible says, 'Abraham believed God.' Her laughter was a laughter of unbelief. She realized, 'Ain't gonna happen. I'm an old lady. He's an old guy.' And she laughed and she even said, 'Shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?'
So here's now the fourth and final mark of a friendship with God: conformity to His will. Conformity to His will. Abraham believed God and was willing, even though he floundered and failed and went along with Sarah's scheme a couple chapters back, he believed God and he's willing to walk in obedience to that belief. Sarah showed an unbelief and an unwillingness. Except for the fact that she's going to end up pregnant and she's going to have to have that baby and go along with it. Part of being the friend of the Lord is conformity to His will. Conformity to His promise and willingness to obey what He says. In John 15, Jesus said this: 'You are My friends if you do what I command you.' You want to be Jesus' friend? Do what He says. Obey Him. Find the areas in your life where the Bible speaks to that condition of your life and decide, I'm going to put that into practice and I'm going to put it into practice in all of my life. He's going to be the Lord of my church life, the Lord of my relational life, the Lord of my pleasure and leisure life, the Lord of all of it. I'm willing for that to happen. That's conformity. And Abraham demonstrated that.
So answer the question that God asked. Answer it in your own life. Is there anything too hard for the Lord? What's the answer? Of course not! Jeremiah will say later on, 'Lord, You made everything, the heaven, the earth, everything. There's nothing too hard for You.' And again, we're in the book of Genesis, if you can believe the first verse of Genesis one, the first verse in the Bible, 'God created the heavens and the earth,' it sort of makes the rest pretty easy, doesn't it? The Lord created the heavens and the earth, but I don't know if He's going to be able to take care of me. Lord, it's $3500, Lord. I know, I know, I know. You created the heavens and the earth, but I don't know if You can take care of this debt. So it's always good when you pray to recognize who you're praying to. Acts chapter four, they were threatened for their faith. They come together and this is how they began their prayer, 'Lord, You're God. You're the Maker of the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them. Who by the mouth of the prophets said,' and they quote Psalm 2, 'Therefore look upon our afflictions.' So before they got to their need, they recognized to whom they were addressing and once you recognize you're talking to God, who has no limitations, it's very difficult recognizing that, bringing a limitation over onto Him. It's best to say, You can do anything. So I have this little $3500 bill. It's nothing to You, Lord. Show me what to do. I have a house going into foreclosure, Lord. It is difficult for my family. I trust You. I trust Your promises. Show me what to do, Lord. And then approach it in faith rather than in unbelief. Abraham's learning that.
Now look at verse sixteen: "Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way." So Abraham is showing God out, showing God the way as if He needed to know the way. Now beginning in verse sixteen, we have the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot will be in Sodom in chapter nineteen verse one. So we're going to get that contrast between Abraham and Lot more so next week. Six times the Old Testament refers to Sodom. Four times the New Testament refers to Sodom. It has become so famous; it has become so infamous, that the term Sodom has become a byword for sexual perversion. And we'll see just what kind next week. But this begins the whole God moving and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah here.
'And the Lord said, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?' Well now we wonder, who is the Lord talking to? Is He talking to Himself? Is He talking to those two angels that were with Him? Was it inter-trinitarian communication? There's debate and there's a lot of stuff written on that. It doesn't matter to me--the Lord just said it. And He said it for the benefit of us who are reading it. Look at verse nineteen; it clears it up. 'For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.' Now this to me is insightful; it's revolutionary.
Here's Abraham and God says, 'Here's the guy that's gonna bless the whole world.' It's a reference to Christ, ultimately, to the seed of Abraham Christ will be born and He will bless the world with the hope and offer of salvation. But in verse nineteen, it shows me that God not only sees that Abraham will influence the world but God will see that Abraham will influence his own family who will influence the world. Now mark this, mighty man Abraham verse nineteen, 'that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord.' If your children go to school and most children do go to school, 16% of their time is spent at school. That's not very much. You say that's a lot of time at school. 16% if you just go by hours. If your kids go to school and go to Sunday school, add 1%. Sunday school is about 1% of your child's time. 83% of the time they're at home with you--parents. So you can see the fallacy of a parent saying, I send my kids to Christian school and to Sunday school and I expect them to teach them what they need to know. Well both of those systems only have your kids 17% of the time. 83% of the time they're in your house. So by pure mathematics, you exert a greater influence on your child than school and Sunday school.
Abraham is learning that. God is revealing that. I've called you, Abraham. Not just to bless the world--which is a pretty big order--but your family. Trickle down righteousness. Trickle down evangelism. Watch how I live, son, watch how I live, daughter. In the tent, in the household. The percentage of the time that I have you, watch my life so that in watching my life, you can learn what it is to follow the Lord. And so he's to lead his family and he's to influence his family. So I just throw that out there so that as parents we just sort of come face-to-face with that once again. I need to impact and input my child. Now some of you have teenagers. Your child turned thirteen or they're fourteen and you're dealing with the rebel force. And you recognize there's a relationship, but it's changed now. They're individuating; they're becoming more adult. They want more of their space; more of their time. And it's difficult, for some, to work through those years. Mark Twain gave his advice. He said, 'Everything runs smoothly until your kid reaches age thirteen. That's the time to put him in a barrel, snugly hammer the lid down, and feed him through the knothole. Then when he turns sixteen, close up the knothole.' That was his advice in classic Mark Twain way of writing. You can't do that. I mean, first of all it would be highly illegal to put your kid in a barrel and hammer it shut. But that aside, we can't afford to disengage. We can't afford it to give it to somebody else to influence them. We have those years; we have that time. And we have that influence--that power. Engage them as much as you can, as much as the Lord will give you insight, and ask the Lord for insight to do that.
Verse twenty: 'And the Lord said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know. Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.' Here's a question: if God says, 'There's been an outcry against Sodom. I'm gonna go check out,' who's doing the outcrying? Maybe it's Abraham. I'm going to throw in a thought. Maybe it's Lot. You say, 'Oh no, Lot's too far gone. He's the bad guy that you're contrasting Abraham with.' That's true. However, did you know that the New Testament refers to Lot as righteous? In the epistle of Peter, he says, 'And righteous Lot, his soul was vexed day in and day out by what he heard and what he saw.' And he's called righteous. Now that doesn't mean he is as righteous as Abraham was and he believed God's promises and was walking with God. But in comparison to Sodom and Gomorrah? In comparison to that standard? He was certainly more righteous and, in that standard, he would be considered righteous. It could be that he was there, he was sucked in by it, but he's complaining against it. 'It's horrible here.' Of course, he didn't do anything to mitigate against that. In fact, he's one of the elders in the city as we'll see tonight, hopefully, as we close.
Here's something else that's interesting about those verses that I just read. God is not reactive. He's heard the outcry and of course, God knows all, but before He judges, He's going to just send out a little party to investigate personally, get firsthand knowledge. That's written for our benefit. So that we could never accuse God of being unrighteous when it comes to judgment. He knows fully the situation; He's not reactive. He's confirming it. And it would seem that God has allowed the outcry and watched the sin and allowed more outcry and watched the sin and the sin got worse and worse and worse. Until finally it reaches a point where the iniquity of a city or a nation is full--is complete. And do you remember that text back in chapter fifteen around verse sixteen where God tells Abraham that his descendants are going to be slaves in a foreign land, Egypt, for 400 years and then come back? And then God says, 'Because the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full,' or complete. It's an interesting phrase. I don't know if we covered it or not; I actually forget. But it tells me that God has a limit. The Spirit of God will not always strive with men, Genesis 6:3. So God is patient, God is gracious, God is merciful. But He waits until a nation reaches a level at which point God must act in judgment in order to be just. And Sodom has reached that point. 'I'm going to destroy them. I'm going to confirm it first. I'm going to make sure I have all the facts right and then I'm going to move ahead and I'm going to destroy them.'
You don't have to turn to it, but I'm going to read you a little insightful passage I found in Ezekiel that'll give you some insight. Now listen to this. God is speaking to Jerusalem and He says, 'I'm about to come against you Jerusalem.' And He says this: 'As I live, says the Lord God, neither your sister Sodom nor her daughters have done as you have and your daughters have done. Look this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom. She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, abundance of food, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy and they were haughty and committed abomination before Me. Therefore, I took them away as I saw fit.' They lived in abundance, they didn't care about others in the world who were poor, they just sort of became very narrow-minded, very self-focused, very prideful and that led, it says, to the abomination that they committed. God finally had enough and God judged them. Well there could be more said, but for time we better move on.
Verse twenty-three: "And Abraham came near and said, 'Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?' Now as we make our way through this and we'll just read through it, it might sound to you like God and Abraham are having an argument and Abraham backs God into a corner. First of all, God never needs to be reminded that He's righteous. It's like a man, 'Now God, have You forgotten that You're God? And have You forgotten that You're supposed to be just and righteous?' 'Uh, no. Get a clue, Abraham. I've known that before you got a clue.' So what is happening here? Well, let's work our way through it and then we'll make a couple of comments.
Verse twenty-five: "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?' So the Lord said, 'If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.' Then Abraham answered and said, 'Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?' So He said, 'If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.' And he spoke to Him yet again and said, 'Suppose there should be forty found there?' So He said, 'I will not do it for the sake of forty.' Then he said, 'Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?' So He said, 'I will not do it if I find thirty there.' And he said, 'Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?' So He said, 'I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.' Then he said, 'Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?' And He said, 'I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.' So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.'
It sounds like they're arguing; it sounds like Abraham is backing God into a corner. Until you get to verse thirty-three. And in verse thirty-three, it doesn't say, 'And when Abraham was finished and had done what he wanted.' It says, 'When God was finished,' when the Lord had finished. So what we understand here is that God all the while had in His perfect will to be merciful by separating the righteous, that would be Lot and family, away from them and then destroying the wicked. It was God's plan all along. But God wanted Abraham to be a part of the process. So God initiates the conversation, leads him through it, and when God is done with Abraham asking what God wanted him to ask, it was done. It was finished. The Lord is the one leading it; the Lord is the one who wanted to show mercy all along but wanted Abraham to be involved in prayer as part of the process. Therein lies the beauty of prayer. Prayer isn't getting my will done in heaven but God's will done on earth. And God has His perfect plan. And so in prayer God invites me to tap into His program, to become at one with Him. And to pray for things and then, when you see things happen according to the will of God, many of which have been included in your prayers and in my prayers, there's a great satisfaction of laboring together with the Lord.
I agree with Warren Wiersbe that Abraham, here, becomes one of the select group of people known as intercessors. People who pray for people; people who labor in prayer for people. Now I don't know if you're called to that ministry of intercessory prayer, but I believe all Christians are called at some point to intercede for others. In fact, one of the things that I have loved for years, and I just got my copy again this year, a beautiful prayer journal. And one of the reasons I've always loved [inaudible] prayer journal, is it gives me people groups every day of the year to pray for. And there's a write-up of their needs. Like the slave trade is sort of the focus this month in different parts of the world and praying for specific governments. Then the days of the week are broken up to pray for family and for media and for government and for business, etcetera. And I love having that little time in the morning; it's a regiment time, where I can intercede for other people and be a part of God's great plan. I encourage you to get some kind of plan of persevering for others in prayer. You could write one on your own if you wanted. But just to be involved. It was Paul who wrote to Timothy and said, 'I would that you first of all would intercede, pray, for kings and those in authority, intercede for them, that we might live a peaceful life before God.' And so Abraham is part of that. By the way, if you want to be like Jesus Christ, be an intercessor. That's what His work is right now. He's at the right hand of the Father interceding for you and for me. Praying for us--according to the will of God.
So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking. Question: why did Abraham stop at ten? He didn't want to push it. He's thinking of Lot and Lot had a wife and Lot had children and maybe husbands or wives or those promised and some commentators believe that if you were to count up Lot and his wife and children and add a partner, a wife or husband, you'd have exactly ten. So he brought God all the way up to this ten, which is what God wanted, and when the Lord was finished, it was done. And He went on from that. So a beautiful balance in Abraham's life. Let's close with verse one of chapter nineteen: "Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face toward the ground." Good outward show, but what is he doing? He's sitting at the gate. That means he was a leader; he was an elder in the city. So remember what it says in Psalm 1, blessed is the man who does not walk in the way of the ungodly, stand in the way of the sinner, or sit in the seat of the scornful? Lot started by walking the way of the ungodly and pitching his tent toward Sodom and now he's sitting as an elder in the gate of Sodom. That's where he is before God judges that place.
I want to close with this thought. The three that came to Abraham on that day and gave that promise and one was the Lord. They came to the tent, they stood outside, and the Lord waited until Abraham invited the Lord in. The Lord didn't come and say, 'I am Yahweh. I'm coming in! Open that tent flap--I'm coming in.' He waited for Abraham to show hospitality and Abraham invited Him in. That's how God works. The Lord works by invitation. He'll never force Himself on you. He waits for you to invite Him in. To the church of Laodicea, Jesus said, 'Behold, I stand at the door and I knock. If any man will hear My voice and open the door, I will come in and dine with him.' Have fellowship with him. Sup with him. And he with Me. Do you want the Lord in your life? You have to invite Him. If the Lord isn't in your life, why not invite Him? 'I don't know, my life's pretty messed up.' Better invite Him in. Is anything too hard for the Lord? 'My life is so messed up. You don't know what I've done.' Is anything too hard for the Lord? Let's see, He forgave Abraham. He forgave Moses. Moses was a murderer. He forgave David. David was an adulterer. He's in the kingdom. God's in the business of taking impossible cases and transforming them. So why not, tonight, if you haven't yet, invite Christ to come in and live inside you, your house, your temple, your tent, and take over?