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Genesis 18





 

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In Genesis chapter 18 it starts off right away with “The Lord appeared again to Abraham.” This happens as Abraham is sitting at the opening of his tent and he looks out and sees three men standing near by. Verse 2 says when he saw them he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground. There are several theories to who these 3 visitors are and we won’t get into all of that. But the most widely accepted thought is that two of them are angels and one is thought to be God himself veiled in human form from how the text reads. 

In verse 10 we see God promising, once again, a son to Abraham and Sarah. As we’ve been reading through Genesis, since about chapter 12, we’ve been hearing this promise from God come in many different forms. So it got me curious to see just how many times has God mentioned to Abraham and/or Sarah that they were going to have a child. 

After diving in, I’ve found that God promises a child to them not just a few times, but between chapters 12 and 21, He promises them in various ways THIRTY TIMES! Specifically, God told Abraham he would have a SON (2x), have an HEIR (1x), have OFFSPRING (2x), have many DESCENDANTS (9x), GENERATIONS would come from him (3x), that he would be the FATHER of MANY NATIONS (3x), that KINGS would come from him (1x), that God would INCREASE HIS NUMBERS (1x) and that he would be VERY FRUITFUL (1x). God also told Abraham that Sarah would have a SON (5x), that Sarah would be the MOTHER OF NATIONS (1x), and that KINGS would come from her (1x). This totals at least THIRTY TIMES that God told Abraham directly or indirectly that he would have a son through whom Abraham would father many generations. All these reassurances to Abraham were spread out over ten chapters so I never put it together just how many times God told Abraham that he would indeed have a son. 

In chapter 18, we see God finally give some kind of timeline for His promise! If it was me, I would’ve been like, “finally! Thank you Lord for your promises and your faithfulness!” And it would’ve been a done deal for me, because in all my years of relationship with God and all the things he has promised and fulfilled in my life, He has never once told me a specific timeline. But let’s see what transpires here…

Verse 10, “Then one of them said, “I will return to you this time next year, and your wife, Sarah will have a son.”Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”

It seems at this point Sarah had kind of just given up on what the Lord had promised to her and Abraham. We obviously saw in previous chapters that she had doubted God and even tried to take things into her own hands by having Hagar sleep with Abraham to bare him a child and that didn’t go as she’d hoped either. She had probably reconciled in her heart that it would be okay if she never had a child of her own. I mean, I only battled infertility for two years and I pretty much reached that point, so I can’t really cast blame her. But let’s look at what happens next. Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.” And here’s my favorite line…But the Lord said, “No, you did laugh.”

OUCH. That was like one of those mic drop moments. God just straight up called her out for lying right there. No, you did laugh. Why did Sarah just straight up lie to God? She was AFRAID. Fear is the most common motivator for lying. We are afraid that our inner thoughts and emotions will be exposed or our wrongdoing discovered. Fear can make you do dumb things. This got me thinking…how many times have we tried to hide stuff from the Lord, like He won’t notice. Like He doesn’t already know everything! He knows what we are hiding so we might as well own up to it and take it straight to Him. That mic drop moment is where that portion of chapter 18 abruptly ends. 

Now let’s move on to verse 16. We see God contemplate whether or not He should tell Abraham of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, but ultimately decides that He will. Verse 20 says, “So the Lord told Abraham, “I have heard a great outcry from Sodom and Gomorrah, because their sin is so flagrant. I am going down to see if their actions are as wicked as I have heard. If not, I want to know.” Now it’s at this point that 2 of the men, or angels, leave and head down towards Sodom and God says with Abraham. In verse 23 Abraham asks God, “Will you sweep away both the righteous and the wicked?”

This is where Abraham starts interceding for Sodom. He starts by asking, “Suppose you find fifty righteous people living there in the city—will you still sweep it away and not spare it for their sakes? Surely you wouldn’t do such a thing, destroying the righteous along with the wicked. Why, you would be treating the righteous and the wicked exactly the same! Surely you wouldn’t do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?” These are some BOLD words Abraham has with the Lord, but God agrees that if He finds fifty righteous people He will not destroy the city. Next Abraham says, “since I’ve already begun," and here he schmoozes just a little bit and continues, “let me speak further to my Lord, even though I am but dust and ashes.” And then asks what if there are only 45 righteous people, will you still spare the city? God replies, “I will not destroy it if I find 45 righteous people there.” And then Abraham drops the compliments and just plainly asks, “what about 40 people?” And God agrees again. And Abraham continues this from 40 to 30 to 20 down to just 10 righteous people and each time God agrees. 

Now I don’t know about you but as a parent, if one of my kids came to me after I had told them my plan and what we were going to do and they proceeded, not once, not twice, but SIX times to try and change my mind, I don’t think I’d be as calm or merciful as God is here with Abraham. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I would snap back at them and bring correction to what I would probably feel was disrespect and an argumentative behavior. And we’d probably be doing nothing that they wanted that day as a consequence of their actions. But that’s because I am an imperfect human and God is not. 

Here we don’t see Abraham being disrespectful or trying to undermine God’s authority. He knows that God has to punish sin, but what he also knows is that God is merciful to sinners. It seems to me that he is questioning the Lord to see just how merciful He can be. You see at the end, Abraham leaves this conversation with God convinced that God is both kind and fair. Abraham didn’t change God’s mind. God knew there wasn’t 50, 45, 40, 30, 20 or even 10 righteous people in this city, but He was merciful enough to allow Abraham to intercede. And He was merciful enough to allow Lot and is family to get out of the city before it was destroyed. 

There’s a lot more I can get into with this chapter and it’s really hard not to, but I want to wrap up with one last thought. With this conversation of intersession between God and Abraham, God showed Abraham and us, that asking for anything is allowed. BUT it must come with the understanding that God’s answers come from God’s perspective. They don’t always match up with our expectations, because only God knows the whole story and sees the master plan. It challenges me with this…am I missing God’s better answer to prayer because I am only considering the answer that I want or expect? Are you missing God’s better answer because you are only considering the answer that you want or expect? That’s a hard question and a bit of an ouch thought. If you can right now or sometime later today, I want to encourage you to take some time and reflect on that challenge. 



 

 


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