Title: A Righteous and Just Judge
Text: Genesis 18.16-33
Introduction: The covenant meal is over. Abraham has dined with the God of this Universe. Abraham has been reassured and the covenant promise has been reaffirmed. Is anything too hard for God? This is some foreshadowing to the climax to this messianic story, when Mary will be told that, she too, will have a son. How will this be, for I am still a virgin?
It has been an incredible journey for Abraham over the past 25 years. Called by God to leave his County and Kindred, he packs up and travels some 800 miles to a new land. God then makes a covenant with Abraham. It’s been an incredible journey indeed. From what used to be home, to Egypt and back. There were the struggles with his nephew Lott. There were some times he failed. He needed God’s grace. Here, he finds himself, a man who hasn’t been perfect, walking with God (Enoch) up the hill to see him off. A man that doesn’t deserve God’s mercy and grace, but nonetheless, has been given just that. That’s where we pick up the story.
Transition: We’re in Genesis 18.16-33. Today we’ll look at this passage in two parts:
a. Divine Disclosure of what he’s about to do
b. Divine Distinction between the person of Abraham and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Let’s begin with part 1:
I. Divine Disclosure: (18.16-21)
exp.: Here: Abraham is informed about Sodom and Gomorrah; rd v 16
- Departure: Abraham follows; He’s been the consummate host and now he journeys a short distance up the hill to where they can look out over the Dead Sea. Listen to Kent Hughes poetic description:
The covenant feast had extended late into the afternoon, so that the sun hung low in the west, radiating off the golden, leathered faces of Abraham and his heavenly guests. Below them sparkled the turquoise of the Dead Sea. Just to the south of the sea, the western facades of Sodom and Gomorrah could be seen in the slanting rays. The next time Abraham is recorded to have looked down from this vantage is at the end of the episode, when “he looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah and toward all the land of the valley, and he looked and, behold, the smoke of the land went up like the smoke of a furnace” Look at v 17; I call this:
- Discernment: Shall I hide from Abraham what I’m about to do? It’s apparent that God already knows what he’s going to do. This is a poetic way of stating: I’m going to tell Abraham what I’m about to do. Yahweh answers his own question by stating two reasons for why he should let Abraham in on what’s going to happen. Look at his declaration of Abraham; rd v 18;
- Declaration: The 1st reason: He will become a great and mighty nation & he will be a Blessing to all nations! This is the promise, the covenant restated. But there is more: As the main source from which this blessing would flow to all nations, Abraham should be in on God’s decision. But note the 2nd reason: Rd v 19;
- Discipleship: That He may command his children and his household to keep the way of the LORD. What is this way?
– Righteousness – This is seen in two ways:
a. Internal – Thoughts – the sum of who we are inside. This impacts and directly affects our outside behavior.
b. External – Behavior – what you do. It is the external expression of your internal commitment to God. Isn’t it funny though, that we can be externally behaving correctly and have impure internal thoughts? You can be one without the other, but not visa-versa.
– Justice – Discipline – the action you take against unrighteousness. When people hurt others.
ill.: the 10 commandments: really, if you start with #10, you’ll accomplish the other 5. Leviticus 19.18; Galatians 5.14;
app.: Abraham is to command and teach his household these things because: rd 19c: so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Think about this: Abraham will instruct his household by teaching them God’s commands for righteousness and Justice. Do you want to know what happens to those who live ungodly, immoral lives? I stood on mountain top, overlooking Sodom and Gomorrah and watched the smoke rise in the east. God destroyed them. That’s how he feels about that. Peter used the same idea when he said in 2 Peter 2.4-10 (6); The 4th section of Part 1 is what I’m entitling:
- Disclosure: rd v 20-21; so God lets him in on what’s happening. 1st he tells him about…
– The Condition of Sodom and Gomorrah: very grave; you have Abraham’s responsibility to be a blessing and teach his descendants to do the same through righteousness and justice. And, in juxtaposition, you have the very grave sinful condition of Sodom and Gomorrah; outcry; this word is used when there are people like widows and orphans who are being mistreated by us. Exodus 2.23; 22.22-23; Deut. 24.15; Gen. 4.10; John Hamilton quotes Nahum Sarna: The sin of Sodom, then, is heinous moral and social corruption, an arrogant disregard of basic human rights, a cynical insensitivity to the sufferings of others. Ezekiel expounds on this by telling us her sins: rd Ezekiel 16.49-50;
ill.: R. Kent Hughes: Sodom and Gomorrah were terrible little towns in which the inhabitants cared only for themselves while they brutalized and oppressed each other. Social violence was de jure. There were no human rights. The poor and needy and defenseless were especially brutalized. Tellingly, the great outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah came from the inhabitants of the cities themselves! 2nd he tells Abraham about
– The Investigation of Sodom and Gomorrah: rd v 21; this is crazy, right? I mean, God is omniscient. Right? So, why? Well, as we consider the genre and the way people thought and perceived 3,500 years ago, this is understandable to them. Moses is using anthropomorphic terms to describe God’s actions.
app.: Critical and Explanatory Commentary: language used [is] after the manner of men. These cities were to be made examples to all future ages of God’s severity; and therefore ample proof given that the judgment was neither rash nor excessive (Ez 18:23; Je 18:7).
Transition: So, part 1 is the Divine Disclosure, where God let’s Abraham in on what he’s about to do and why; part 2 is:
II. Divine Distinction: Abraham intercedes for Sodom and Gomorrah (18.22-33)
exp.: rd v 22; two depart and head down to the cities about to be destroyed; rd v 23; It looks like Abraham has had a few extra minutes with God. The two depart and Abraham steps up to intercede for the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah; then, he poses a question: rd v 24; Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? This is a deep question. Jesus gives us some insight into this question. Matt 5.45; For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. Abraham knows that God is perfect in his discernment of the righteous and unrighteous. He is perfect in his justice, for he is perfectly just. Rd v 25; Moses would learn this about His God. Just before he dies, he teaches the Hebrew children this song: rd Deut. 32.4: The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
app.: I think Abraham is doing a beautiful thing here; however, with that said, I think he’s out of order. He kind of gets it; rd 25c: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just? He sees and knows the character of God. God has been good to him.
Abraham intercedes and then, Abraham persists. It’s as if he wrestles with God. Look at the question he asks God 6x’s; 50, 45, 40, 30, 20, 10. Well, we get the idea from the rest of the story that there weren’t 10 people. Indeed, the only one who appears to have met that standard was Lot. And God, in his great mercy hears Abraham’s plea; rd 19.29; God saved him because he remembered Abraham. Rd 18.33; God descends from the heights toward the Dead Sea. Perhaps it was getting darker and God disappeared into the lengthening shadows cast by the descending sun. Abraham turned and made his way back down to his camp. Perhaps he saw the fires of his camp and used them as a guide back to where his family was.
Transition: So, what are some lessons we’ll take with us this evening?
Observations & Implications:
- God is righteous and just in all his ways. Hughes says: Righteousness is an attribute of God’s moral being, and because of that, all his actions are just. No matter what, we know that God will act righteously and justly in every matter. Period.
- God hears the cries of the mistreated. Think of the young girl who has been kidnapped and forced into the sex slave trade. Think of the lonely orphan and widow. Think of the believers who are persecuted, imprisoned and martyred for their faith. God hears their cries. Romans 8.26-39
- God’s character was perfectly displayed in his Son, making a way for Abraham to truly be a blessing to all nations.
What about you?