Chapter Ten

To Whom Much Is Given

Following the sealing of the covenant, after a very short time had passed, perhaps a few weeks or several, the Lord again appeared to Abraham for two distinct purposes. First he would confirm his promise in regard to the covenant child; then he would make known what was about to occur in Sodom.

Read Genesis 18:1-15.

1. And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2. And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3. And said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5. And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? 13. And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14. Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.

The Lord who hears our inner thoughts said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (vss 13-14a) All of us should pause, wonder and rejoice at this upbraiding question: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Sarah did laugh, as Abraham had (Gen 17:17-19), and Isaac was named laughter — to denote joy, not disbelief.

Next we read that Sarah was afraid, so she lied and denied laughing. We humans are hopeless!

Abraham’s thoughts or words at this time are not recorded. Perhaps this prophecy about the birth of Isaac was more for Sarah’s benefit than for his since he had already recently been made aware of God’s plan for them to become the parents of the covenant child.

In the interim, perhaps Abraham had pondered what would become of his relationship with Ishmael. The child of the promise would be his second child, not his first. He may have asked himself, “Could this be right?”

As he stood there, the host and yet the servant of the supernatural visitors, perhaps he was not so filled with elation over the news of the imminent birth of his second son as he was in awe of the faithfulness and love of his righteous Lord. Despite being sure of God’s divine watch over Sarah from the incident in Egypt, he had agreed to her rash suggestion that he lie with Hagar to build their family. But the surrogate was not the wife, and the child of that union was outside the plan of God to give Abraham an heir. Nevertheless, the Lord had not rejected Sarah and Abraham for their folly, and had even promised to bless Ishmael.

Had there been a delay to the fulfillment of God’s plan so that Ishmael could receive his father’s undivided attention and guidance throughout his formative years? Or, was God’s plan always to give Isaac to Sarah and Abraham when they were 90 and 100, respectively? Can we humans affect God’s timetable?


God’s love and mercy, though deep and wide, do not always overflow the banks of his judgment. The rivers of life are rushing waters, freely flowing to refresh those who will drink deep, but while eternal, they are not boundless, even though they seem so to the repentant. And this would be something for Abraham to consider, for the second purpose of the royal visitation by the trinity of men was about to be made known.

16. And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way. 17. And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; 18. Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19. For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him. 20. And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; 21. I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

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The Lord had come to Abraham that day not just to confirm the great news that a special child would be born to Sarah, but to let him know of Lot’s peril. It was a day for rejoicing and happy anticipation of good things to come, but it was also a day of warning and of grieving over a potential judgment that would destroy Lot. Abraham could not focus only on the happy news and be content in his personal good fortune. No, God’s chosen servant would look beyond his bright expectation to the impending doom of Lot.

There is never a day when God’s people may be content in their blessings and neglect to pray for those whose lives cry out for our intercession. God wants us to look beyond ourselves to the desperate needs of others. He has warned us of their peril; he invites us to intercede for them.

Now we arrive at the ground for our Bible Study: the Bible’s first instance of intercessory prayer. In Chapter 7 we listed steps to becoming an intercessor. They were: 1. separation from the world, 2. contemplating and trusting in God’s promises, 3. obedience to God’s commands, 4. repentance for sins, 5. proper worship, 6. continual worship, 7. love for family and friends, 8. leaning on God for strength, 9. giving God the glory for his works, 10. standing against evil, 11. having an honest relationship with the Lord, and 12. having faith.

Since then, several steps have been added:
13. Be assured of your inheritance — “In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land...” (Gen 15:18) Assurance of salvation is a cornerstone of Protestant belief.
14. Own your sins; respect God’s right to determine how your misdeeds will affect your life — “And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.” (Gen 16:15)
15. Walk with God; let all who are baptized demonstrate by the power of the Holy Spirit that they belong to God — “And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.” (Gen 17:9) Included in this final step is the expectation for Christian parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Eph 6:4)

Have you taken all these steps? Then be an intercessor!

Our deep love and concern for the spiritual condition of future generations is of great consequence. This is underscored in verses 17-19: “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do; Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.”

When parents train their children in God’s ways, families, cities and societies are just. Their courts are upright and serve to uphold life and truth. Thus does Scripture explain why Sodom’s punishment had to take place, and parents are alerted to the need for strong discipline to avoid disastrous consequences.

Abraham began to intercede for Lot:

22. And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD. 23. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? 24. Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? 25. That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? 26. And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

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Abraham had a very different view of the Lord than we have. He did not believe that God would destroy the righteous along with the wicked. From our vantage point, we know that he does, such as when entire cities are destroyed in war, or when an industrial accident results in a complete death toll. It is at times within God's righteous purposes to destroy the good along with the evil, or to permit the deaths of young people and good people.

The Lord’s response to Abraham shows the tender heart of Christ. He did not upbraid him or point out that “There is none righteous; no, not one.” (Rom 3:10) He understood what Abraham meant by “righteous.” It was his way of saying that Lot was not a scoundrel in league with Bera. However, to the Lord, Lot was righteous simply because he belonged to him, though to the world that was not always apparent.

God had only one purpose in pausing before the judgment against Sodom was carried out— to give Abraham the opportunity to plead for Lot’s life. Lot had been a loyal companion, a brother; yet despite his good points, Abraham pleaded for him on the basis of who God is, which is the one, true basis for any intercession. He knew the Lord to be a just God who could see the hearts of men and distinguish between those deserving of death and those in need of deliverance. The Judge of all the earth could see!

Abraham did not specifically mention Lot, so the Lord did not clearly answer him, “I will spare Lot but no one else.” Instead, he let it be known that he would not sweep away the righteous with the wicked.

27. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes: 28. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30. And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32. And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. 33. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

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Abraham was trying to discover whether God might spare Lot and his family. He was pleading for their lives, interceding in a respectful manner, not telling God what to do, but asking if his mercy might extend to his relatives.

To his limited understanding, the entire city would need to be spared in order to save Lot and his family, but God is skillful. He could both destroy the city and save whomever he would. Likewise, when the world as we know it comes to an end, the Lord will come down from heaven with a loud command and the dead in Christ will rise first. “After that we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them…to meet the Lord in the air.” (I Thess 4:16, 17) Yes, God can deliver those he intends to spare without saving their city and home— even without saving the entire earth from complete destruction!

The intercession of Abraham for Lot and his family was not as the intercessory prayers of today’s saints who boldly though humbly come to God on the basis of Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death. It was hesitating and awkward, yet exemplary by its reliance on God’s character, lack of presumption, and persistence.

Christ had not yet come, but as the preexistent one who was with God in the beginning, he was there with Abraham, hearing his intercession and encouraging it. He did not grow impatient with his questions, and understood what was in his heart. He would answer this prayer.


There are different types of destruction. One sort opens a door to a better world, but there is that which is a final and terrifying Judgment. The purpose of the account of Sodom and Gomorrah is to illustrate this second type. By completely destroying them with fire, God made them an example of what is going to happen to the unrepentant. He furnished a special event to warn all peoples that a day is coming when his wrath will fall on the wicked. Jude confirms this in his New Testament Letter: “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)

The Lord is patient “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (II Pet 3:9) But for those who refuse to, an inferno awaits.

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A New Life

Spring vanished and summer was passing without our seeing any change in Jack’s lifestyle— despite his car being hit by lightning in early summer, blowing out all the tires. A neighbor said to him then, “Jack, I believe the Lord is trying to get your attention,” but he waved it off.

It was during this period that my prayers may have been the greatest help, since Mandy had become quite numb and unable to pray much. She went through the paces of the day’s routines, but a feeling of hopelessness had settled in her heart. We kept in close touch by phone.

I continued to pray and also to fast at a regular time, recalling that Jesus said in respect to a persistent demon, “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Mat 17:21) I felt Jack might be laboring under a demonic oppression that blinded him to Truth, preventing him from accepting it. Even though we had prayed the prayer of abandonment, I continued to pray for Jack. In my heart, that prayer did not feel like an end to the work of prayer for Jack.

I called frequently and would always ask, “Any news? Any change?”

“No,” was always the answer.

Then I would say, “Don’t despair, an answer is coming.”

Usually, I felt sure God was going to answer our prayers, but there were times when I did wonder what the outcome of this terrible trial would be. The worst-case scenario was that Jack would not come to know Christ, they would divorce, and all our hopes and prayers would have been in vain. There were times when I asked the Spirit to groan in the sighs that are too deep for words, since I did not know any more words to say.

My love for my sister and my knowledge of her painful circumstances drove me to pray. I knew she had not shared her situation with others in our family, not wanting to worry them, so the burden of support was on me. I felt privileged to be her confidante. Also, I wanted God to win. I didn’t want to see a defeat. I suppose I felt jealous for his honor. Undoubtedly my praying was imperfect, but it was all I had to help my sister. And it was enough.

One day in mid-September, the call came. It was in the middle of the day before the long distance rates went down, and this was unusual. (These were the days before cell phones!) I had a home-based business, and was there to receive the call. “Jack has become a Christian,” my sister said in a hushed tone. “He says he’s born again.” I was overwhelmed with emotion, mostly, joy. Jack then got on the phone and said he definitely had turned his life over to Christ. I enthusiastically congratulated him and told him many times how thrilled I was. From his tone, he seemed inwardly changed and at peace, a new man.

Then Mandy picked up the phone and Jack left the area. She said that she and the girls had their doubts whether he was really sincere. I told her to believe it and rejoice— Our prayers had been answered! Of course, it was much easier for me to believe and rejoice. I had not been living in the midst of neglect and despair.

After we hung up I began jumping up and down and loudly praising God. Anyone within earshot, neighbors or passersby, would have considered me dangerous, but I am sure that if I had not expressed my joy, the bricks and stones on the building would have done it instead, for there is no way to repress the praise that rightfully belongs to God. It shakes the very foundation of the universe, like the explosion of an immense geyser shooting forth in glistening streaks, up to the heavens— Praise the Lord!

God had answered our prayers of at least 15 years! He had done the impossible: He changed the heart of a hard-hearted man! I felt it was the happiest day of my life up to that point and knew I would always remember it.

Jack later told us that over the summer months he had felt God tugging at his heart with such urgency that resisting nearly became too tiring. Especially during the early dawn hours he had been troubled and knew God was reaching out to him. He could not sleep. He finally gave in, and later wondered why he had resisted so long and so hard. When we did not see and were about to give up, imperceptibly, God was drawing him, answering our prayers, proving his faithfulness.

I soon commemorated what God had done by providing the flower arrangement which usually adorned the base of the pulpit at my church. When I went to the florist to order it, I wasn’t sure what to spend, but the Spirit impressed me that it should be a sacrificial amount. It was quite a large, dried arrangement designed especially for a hunter, with a woodland theme that featured tall feathers and interesting muted colors. Its purpose was noted in the church bulletin, and I later gave it to Mandy and Jack.

It has often been said that the happiest days are when babies are born, and I have experienced this. Even though I have never had children of my own, I was part of a glorious new birth. The labor was quite intense, but after he was delivered, I forgot all the pains and rejoiced in the new life.

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“He who understands the way of God should carefully instruct his household in that way; and he who is the father of a family should pray to God to teach him, that he may teach his household. His ignorance of God and salvation can be no excuse for his neglecting his family: it is his indispensable duty to teach them; and God will teach him, if he earnestly seek it, that he may be able to discharge this duty to his family. Reader, if thy children or servants perish through thy neglect, God will judge thee for it in the great day."

- Adam Clarke, (1760 or 1762–1832) British Methodist theologian and Biblical scholar,

Comment on the Westminster Confession

Walking, arriving.

Westminster Confession Chapter 18
Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation
1. Although hypocrites, and other unregenerate men, may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions: of being in the favor of God and estate of salvation; which hope of theirs shall perish: yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may in this life be certainly assured that they are in a state of grace, and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God: which hope shall never make them ashamed.

For further study and contemplation, go here.





Heavenly Visitors
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Heavenly Visitors

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KEY VERSE: Genesis 19:29 "So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived."

Introduction

About

Chapter One

What About Lot?
Further Study

Chapter Two

A Type of Christian
Further Study

Chapter Three

Westward Ho!
Further Study

Chapter Four

Time for Worship
Further Study

Chapter Five

Severing Ties
Further Study

Chapter Six

The Rescue
Further Study

Chapter Seven

The Promise Sealed
Further Study

Chapter Eight

Nearer to God
Further Study

Chapter Nine

The Covenant
Further Study

Chapter Ten

To Whom Much Is Given
Further Study

Chapter Eleven

God Remembered Abraham
Further Study

Chapter Twelve

A Good Ending
Further Study

Afterword

He Draws the Unwilling