Through the Old Testament in a Year

Today's Reading – Genesis 18:1-5, 16-33 – Abraham pleads for Sodom

Abraham's pleading with God in prayer should encourage us to humble yet bold and persistent prayer for our world.

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The opening verses of today's passage tell us that the Lord appeared to Abraham. Abraham did not at first know that it was the Lord who had come to meet with him. As far as he was concerned it was three men who approached his tent. Abraham invited them to stay for a meal. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews may have this incident in mind when he says, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

But back to these three "men": Who were they? Two of them were angels as it made plain by the opening verse of Genesis 19. The third was the Lord himself appearing to Abraham in human form, talking with him and promising that Sarah will bear a son to Abraham in about a year's time.

As the three "men" rose to leave, Abraham walked with them. The two angels went on to the city of Sodom but the Lord remained with Abraham to tell him of his plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness.

Abraham pleads with God that Sodom might not be destroyed by God's judgment. No doubt he was concerned for Lot, his nephew, and for Lot's family but he seemed also to have a more general concern for the city and its many inhabitants. Abraham is aware that the one he is addressing is the righteous judge of all the earth (v.25), and that he is as unworthy of the Lord's attention as dust and ashes (v.27), nevertheless he is bold in his prayer and persistently pleads God's mercy. Nor should we think that Abraham is twisting the arm of God. God is the one who revealed his plans of judgment to Abraham just as he had revealed his plans to bless him and many others through him. God is pleased to listen to Abraham's prayer and does respond to him in Anger. Abraham desires that the blessing he has received from God may extend to the rebellious world that surrounds him.

Note the contrast in these verses: The wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah cry out to God for judgment (v.20), but Abraham cries out to God for mercy and will not easily take no for an answer.

God has revealed his plans to us through the Lord Jesus Christ. He has not merely revealed his purpose to bless us; he has blessed us "with every spiritual blessing in Christ." But God has also made plain to us that he will not for ever turn a blind eye to the wickedness that spoils his creation. The day will come when Christ the Saviour shall return to judge the world in righteousness.

How do we respond to God's revealed purposes? Are we content to rejoice in the blessings that God has promised to us his people while letting the rest of the world suffer judgment? Surely we need to be as bold as Abraham in pleading for the salvation of our rebellious world. We need, as it were, to give God no rest but to plead that the blessings he has poured out on us might flood the entire world. And then we need to give legs to our prayers by telling others about our wonderful Saviour and the blessings to be found in him. That's what the apostle Paul did. In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 he writes, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people… This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people."

Lord God, judge of all the earth, we are so thankful that you have provided a Saviour for us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank you so much for the blessings you have poured out upon us in him. May we never forget that Jesus is the Saviour of the world. May our prayers for this world and our presence in it bring many others to know the Saviour. Make us like Abraham and like Paul, bold both in prayer and in our witness to Christ.

Peter Misselbrook