Genesis 18:16-33 ‘When the men got up to leave, they looked down towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” The men turned away and went towards Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.’
The fellowship meal with the Lord was over, and one part of God’s mission in leaving heaven and coming to Mamre to the patriarch and his wife had been completed. The Lord had assured Sarah that she was going to give birth to a son within a year. So the men got up to leave Abraham, but there was still more for them to do. Significantly they turned away from Abraham and looked down towards the town of Sodom. Mamre is 3,000 feet above sea level in the Judean mountains south of Jerusalem, while Sodom was on the plain of the Dead Sea, 700 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth, and so the three visitors looked down on the city literally and morally. We are told that aged Abraham, knowing the identity of his visitors, continued to be unfailingly courteous in his manner, accompanying his visitors on the first stretch of their journey. Two thousand years later as recorded in the book of Acts we may read of Christians accompanying gospel preachers as they left the town where they’d been teaching the word of God. Today it is like taking someone to the railway station. Twice in my enthusiasm to settle preachers on the train the automatic doors have closed locking me in and I’ve had to travel with them to the next station in Borth. Once it was with Thom Smith and once with Joel Beeke, and from there it was necessary to phone for Iola to come to pick me up and bring me home. In Nairobi a group of the leading men from Trinity Baptist Church will always go the airport with you. Those tender farewells remind me of Luke describing how he, Paul and some others came to the end of their preaching mission in Ephesus. Luke writes, “When our time was up, we left and continued on our way. All the disciples and their wives and children accompanied us out of the city, and there on the beach we knelt to pray. After saying good-bye to each other, we went aboard the ship, and they returned home” (Acts 21:5&6). The little details are considered important enough to God the Holy Spirit to include in Luke’s narrative. So the scene here is of Abraham bidding a tender farewell to the visitors from heaven, but they have not finished with him.
1. THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE LORD WERE MADE KNOWN.
“Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?’” (v.17). We are not told that God thought these words, but that the Lord Christ in this temporary bodily form said them to Almighty God in Abraham’s hearing. You even find the Lord Jesus in his praying saying certain things for the benefit of those overhearing him. “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (Jn. 11:41&42). The words are spoken, the hint of divine indecision, and the four men walk on in silence and Abraham won’t take the initiative in breaking the silence. What on earth is the Lord going to do? What are these plans that he might keep a secret from Abraham? There are of course counsels that God hides from men, especially concerning imminent providences. What will happen to our country, or to western civilization in the century to come? God has not told us. What will happen to us in our old age? It is a secret matter. God has not revealed it. God has immediate plans for the total destruction of Sodom but any hint of this has been hidden from Abraham. The two angels with him probably knew God’s thoughts, but they were also silent. So the four men walked on quietly. The issue facing God was not whether it would be appropriate to tell Abraham what he planned to do but rather was the Lord obligated to inform Abraham of this plan? He had told Abraham much of the future, of the birth of Isaac, of the destiny of Ishmael and his family, of the future of this land, of the extraordinary growth of Abraham’s line. God hid none of those future details from Abraham. Why should God be silent about a much less significant and localised judgment, the destruction of wicked Sodom? “Shall I reveal this fact to him or not?” God says. Why the dilemma, and what brings God down on the side of revealing these things to Abraham? It is surely that this underlines the importance of what God is going to do, and he informs Abraham for the following reasons:
i] Abraham will become a great and mighty nation (v.18), and God is honouring that fact by telling Abraham what he intends to do. Yes, it is God alone who has made Abraham great. What does Abraham have that he has not received from the Lord? Of course God himself is the one who has conferred these credentials on Abraham, but that guarantees that they are glorious and genuine graces – real wisdom, real seriousness about who God is and what God will do. God doesn’t dismiss these virtues as only existing because he had bestowed them muttering, “Abraham owes everything to me for what he is!” That may have been true but God honours the gifts and Abraham’s stewardship of them. A man may have a certain I.Q., and he has been blessed as coming from a certain happy home, and he been trained under fine role models, and much of what he is can be traced back to such influences as those, but the man has not dismissed or belittled those gifts of God. He has honoured those gifts by all he has done with them. He has taken them as a sacred trust from God to be developed. What God has worked in Abraham’s life makes him worthy of respect and honour. Similarly we honour Calvin and Luther and Bunyan and Whitefield and Spurgeon and Lloyd-Jones because God made them a great and mighty ‘nation.’ So God himself – the one who one day will welcome him with, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ – the only blessed God and Potentate, King of kings and Lord of lords, shows his regard of Abraham by sharing his intentions for the future of Sodom. Another reason:
ii] Abraham will be a blessing to all the nations on earth (v. 18). The dilemma was this, that God was about to destroy a nation from off the face of the earth. Sodom will be annihilated. Won’t the Lord first of all tell Abraham and see his response? Will Abraham simply hear of lost nations going to hell and shrug? Won’t that show that Abraham hasn’t understood the compassion of God and the wrath of God? Then Abraham will show that he doesn’t know who God is. Won’t God give Abraham the opportunity of pleading for a nation? Isn’t blessing all the nations of the earth the privileged destiny of Abraham? Let him show he has grasped this now as he is confronted with a sample of what will happen to all rebellious and sinful nations? Does Abraham have the spirit of Christ? All nations are blessed only by Christ bringing them his truth, pouring out his Spirit upon them and ever living to intercede for them. Shouldn’t Abraham do the same, imitating his coming Messiah, the Son of Abraham? This chapter shows that he did.
iii] Abraham has been chosen by God for a pedagogic purpose, that is, for the patriarch to instruct his children (v.19), and that purpose will be served by God disclosing to the patriarch the judgment of Sodom. “I have chosen him to further my purposes through speaking about me, to be my friend, and to serve my cause. I’ve loved Abraham and pledged myself to be his God. I can’t act independently of him.” We are told one of the purposes that God had in mind when he loved Abraham, “that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just” (v.19). The destruction of Sodom is not going to be like other perplexing tragedies we read of, for example, one soccer player of the thousands playing on a Saturday afternoon is struck down by lightning and killed. Why him in particular? Was he more wicked than the others? No. The reason for that fearful providence happening to that particular individual is a secret thing belonging to God alone – why this man suddenly died. The destruction of Sodom is not mysterious like that event. It is an interpreted judgment. It is a foretaste or prophecy of the great day of judgment. It is a sign that we live in a moral universe. It says, “What you sow that also you will reap.” Abraham wouldn’t be telling his children about some curious and horrible act that once took place in Sodom when the community was wiped out but that he had no idea why it had happened. No. It was not simply some volcanic explosion, part of a groaning creation. Abraham did not talk to Isaac about a strange event he once remembered when he saw smoke rising in the distance over Sodom. No. This was different.
Abraham certainly didn’t believe that when the pagan king Chedorlaomer led the other kings to Sodom and overran it that they were the instruments of God’s wrath on the place. No, we are not told that at all. Rather, Abraham saw himself – when he destroyed the armies of Chedorlaomer as the instrument of God’s wrath on that king. So it was that Abraham also knew that the destruction of Sodom would be God’s holy vengeance because God had made that utterly clear to him. We don’t know that the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York was God’s judgment on the people who worked in those skyscrapers, or that the tip slide on the school in Aberfan killing those particular 144 people was the judgment of God on them. We don’t believe that – only in the most general of ways that there is a connection between every death and our fall in Adam. We have no divine revelation to help us make judgments like that, but we do about Sodom, and the Flood and death on Golgotha’s cross of the Son of God. All those events are interpreted judgments.
So the end of Sodom would be a very cautionary tale. God reserves his right to condemn a monstrously wicked place. That is part of who God is, not an indifferent God who shrugs and looks the other way. Thus the name of Sodom will live on and will be told for all time as I begin to tell it today and also in these next weeks. Abraham sitting around the fire on a cold evening after a meal with his family and servants would tell Isaac and all the men who worked for him of this event, and what his part in it was, and how he pleaded with God about it. The Israelites would tell it to their children. Later Moses would warn the children of Israel of the fruit of disobedience and he would use Sodom as his example. So would the prophets Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and Amos, and Zephaniah. Sodom was on their lips as the great example of God’s condemning the wicked. They all preached this event in order to turn the ungodly to the fear of the Lord, and also to remind the faithful of the wrath to come in order to encourage them to battle on with indwelling sin and the world.
Jesus preached of Sodom didn’t he? Didn’t he tell the people of his day that if the mighty works he had done in their midst had been done in Sodom there would not be a blasted ruin near the Dead Sea in their day. Sodom would have repented in sackcloth and ashes and avoided the judgment, but the people to whom Jesus preached in Korazin and Bethsaida had had far more privileges than Sodom. They had had the Sermon on the Mount and resurrections from the dead, yet they refused to turn from their sins. “It will be better for the people of Sodom in the great day of judgment that it will be for you,” he said. Peter, the apostle of Jesus Christ, also takes up the destruction of Sodom and he preaches it to the early church: “God made them an example of what is coming to the ungodly,” he told New Testament Christians (2 Pet. 2:6).
Unless the Lord had told Abraham how and why he was going to destroy Sodom then how could Abraham speak with authority on this theme? So the pause as they walked along to Sodom finally was ended and God drew the patriarch into his plans; “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” (vv. 20&21). God had once come down to the Tower of Babel to investigate the desires of men to erect a building that would reach heaven itself. Then no one in the world could protest saying that the judgment wasn’t fair, that it was biased, that it was done out of ignorance. God knows personally through his own witnesses and their observation that the sin of Sodom was great and grievous. Perhaps it did not merit the shock that travelers claimed they experienced when they arrived in the town, when they were stunned at the flagrant iniquity, the cruelty, the debauchery in every street and tavern. Yes it did. God confirmed that it merited his holy wrath. Were even the angels talking about it in shocked tones? Maybe they were, or perhaps the travelers and the angels were all prudish and over-righteous people. Really it was just ‘harmless fun which occasionally went a bit too far.’ God came near to see for himself, because all sin involves God because it takes place in God’s creation, and every sinner lives and moves and has his being in God.
All sin is ultimately against God. Your sin is against God. Joseph cried, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” We’ve already been told back in Genesis chapter thirteen and verse thirteen, “Now the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.” Then why hadn’t God judged them? Because the sin of the Sodomites “had not yet reached its full measure” (Gen. 15:16). But now that time was approaching, as the cries of the abused children and the weeping of the battered women, and the screams of the tortured victims were filling up the measure of their sins, and God, who alone would set the machinery of condemnation up, was coming very publicly to see for himself. He is setting out on this investigative mission.
This is an anthropomorphism, of course, but it is very vivid, and that helps us as simple people to bring our minds and emotions to this truth. Its great lesson is that God will be scrupulously fair in any decision he reaches. He will know all the facts, and we are being drawn into this event by this picture of God scrutinizing these people, as God scrutinizes us. We are going to accompany the two angels as they enter the city and discover what it is like. We are going to experience it for ourselves in the next chapters as all mankind has been told of this evil place during the last 4,000 years. God had no need to go down to investigate. God is omniscient. There is nothing he does not know about one single sub-atomic particle, but he is giving Abraham and all of us an easily graspable scenario saying, ‘My judgment is fair and straight; my judgment is based on knowledge.’ The widespread reputation of Sodom’s wickedness has reached heaven itself. Sodom is an intolerable cesspit on the landscape of creation, but before removing it God wants Abraham and all of us to know that he has seen that the sins of the people of Sodom have been filled to the brim, because not until then will his judgments fall. This is what Abraham hears on that walk he took with the Lord and his two angels on that never-to-be-forgotten day.
So how will Abraham respond to the words from God? How are you responding to the fact of your coming judgment? We must all appear before the judgment seat of God.
2. THE LORD WAITS FOR A RESPONSE.
Two of the men then moved away from Abraham and purposefully walked toward Sodom to inspect the place, but the Lord was rooted to the spot, and Abraham also remained there standing before the Lord. At other places when God has finished the message he went away, and Abraham was left to take on board what he had heard and to think about the consequences. That was not what happened here. Do you see the significance of the development of the relationship between God and man in the next twelve verses? Do you see questioning, perplexity, longing, dialogue? Do you see sovereign grace answering? Do you see patience, kindness and pity? Do you see why God thought aloud in the presence of Abraham? Do you see what happened when Abraham knew of the terrors of law and of God? Abraham is drawn in to the mind of the Lord. Abraham addresses it. There, down in the valley, is a community and Abraham knows many of the people who live there. He had rescued many of them when they fell into the hands of the king, and now they are going to fall into the hands of the only wise Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and that is a fearful thing. So Abraham did’t respond, “Ah, well, God is sovereign, and I believe in the sovereignty of God. Whatever will be will be if he decrees it,” and then old ‘honest Ab.’ went back to talking to his men about shearing the sheep and the milk yield. No, it was not at all like that. Abraham had been given a seat on the councils of eternity. One day Abraham is going to judge the angels. God was saying to Abraham, “Now this is what seems wise and righteous to me, to deal in total fairness and justice with this evil population and to judge them, but . . . what do you think Abraham?” He puts the dilemma of the divine wrath firmly before Abraham, as he puts it before us. The two angels he has brought with him from heaven go off to Sodom, but the Lord stays there with Abraham. Just the two of them, and God is silent and waiting. It is the quietest of quiet times. He is waiting for a response from Abraham. Would he respond or would it what was found at the time of Ezekiel? “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” (Ez. 22:30)
This chapter is about prayer. It is one of the most famous chapters in all Scripture about personal prayer. It has all been set up by God. All that Abraham has said so far has been focused on the subject of hospitality for three wayfaring men. The last words Abraham had said to God were these; “In the tent” (v.9). Now Abraham has learned about the strange work of God, his hatred of sinning and the inevitable judgment it brings, and God is waiting for his response. “I am here, Abraham, and I am not saying any more. You have to speak to me about the coming judgment.”
What we have here – do you see? – it is God wanting someone to mediate. God wants a man to intercede for sinners under imminent judgment. God has set all this up in order for his friend, Abraham, to talk to him about what’s he heard, the destruction of the men and women of Sodom. God wants someone who also partakes of the same flesh and blood as the people of Sodom, tempted like them, but without their sins, to inquire and plead with him, “Is there another cup that you can give Sodom to drink instead of that?” This is how God is, God on high and God low amongst men. He wants someone who has been touched with the feeling of human infirmity to speak up on behalf of others. He wants someone to approach him who sympathizes with the worst of sinners because he himself has met cruel relentless temptation too. God’s decision to involve Abraham in his plans of judgment was a set-up testing his spiritual discernment, but Abraham didn’t know this at the time. The Lord has appointed Abraham to be a paraclete, particularly an advocate for any righteous who might be living in Sodom, for example, Lot, his nephew as well as being his own half brother, the one Abraham has dealt with so lovingly in years gone by. God is locking Abraham into being defence attorney for Sodom. Those sinners won’t suddenly be wiped off the face of the planet without there having been years of divine long-suffering and restraint, but more than that, without someone also crying for them, “O Sodom, Sodom, who had the witness of righteous Lot, and a divine conscience which reproved them when they did ill, and the things of God’s law were written in their hearts . . . O Sodom, Sodom divine mercy has given you decades to repent. The Holy One would have stretched his wings over you and protected you, but you would not . . .”
You see Jesus Christ in this scene don’t you? God made his Son a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God. The work of redemption is unfinished until Christ has completed his intercession for the last and least of all those whom God has given to him. He resurrects his Son, and he exalts his Son, and he sets him at his right hand in glory, and there he ever lives to pray to God for sinners, even the chief. God does not tolerate his Son constantly interceding for this mass of sinners. Jesus praying for sinners is not some distraction to God, something which turns God away from far more important things happening on the edges of the cosmos millions of light years away. No! The intercession of Christ is what God desires, and loves. There is nothing more important to God than the praying of his dear Son Jesus. All his attention, and all his fascination, and all his delight is focused on the themes of his Son’s praying. He never grows weary of it, and similarly in our text God waited in anticipation to hear how Abraham would respond to the knowledge of this terrible judgment about to fall. These are the most important words anyone in the world was speaking at that time. And with us too! God waits to hear us praying for mercy to be shown to the people we know all around us in our town. God waits to be abounding in grace to the chief of sinners. If there is any lesson to learn about praying from the life of our Lord it is that we should always pray and not faint. If there is any lesson we can learn about intercession from the letters and life of the apostle Paul it is that he prayed for the churches, and for the great and effectual door he had for evangelism and that he asked others to pray for him. God is waiting for us to intercede for the many Aberystwyth sinners who have found the broad road that leads to destruction. “O Lord, make them turn, constrain them to turn. Why should they die? O Lord in wrath, remember mercy.” Are we praying when we say that we believe in the place Jesus spoke of often? If we refuse to believe in it then of course we won’t pray for it, but if we truly believe in the judgment to come then we’ll become intercessors.
3. ABRAHAM INTERCEDES FOR SODOM.
The goodness of God is the most blessed of all his attributes. That this world and our lives are gripped by a God of love is the most lovely of all truth about God. It was as young John Duncan, racked by doubt, was standing on the bridge of the river Deen in Aberdeen that he became overwhelmed by this truth, and he danced for joy on the bridge. This world is not a dark meaningless journey into non-existence, but this world and my life is sustained by a God of love, a God who is fair and merciful and straight in all he does, even in his strange work of judgment. No sinner ever went to hell pleading for mercy in the name of Jesus Christ, pleading the Saviour’s precious blood. “If that should happen to you,” said Ernest Reisinger to one doubting Christian, “that you went to the pit pleading the work of Christ then I would go to hell with you.” God will never destroy the righteous alongside the wicked. Never.
Now Abraham doesn’t waste any time in pleading the innocence of the people of Sodom. The people of that town were as guilty as hell and Abraham knew it. Abraham would never dream of blustering and stamping his foot or trying to pull the wool over God’s eyes! Abraham has been called by the Lord to teach his sons and his servants the justice of God, so he and they must know what justice is. One element of this justice is discriminating between the righteous and the wicked in judgment.
So do you see what Abraham does? Abraham approached the Lord (v.23). They were together on this country lane, but now he came right up to the Lord, toe to toe and eyeball to eyeball. There is something intensely brave and almost foolhardy in his posture. Was he tempted to say nothing, to say to himself that this was a private fight between the Lord and Sodom, “I can trust the Lord, and so I will leave everything to him”? No, he didn’t. He came very, very close and he began to ask God a series of questions: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (vv.23-25). This translation, “Far be it from you!” is rather timid. Abraham is very bold. In fact he says, “That would be profane. That would be obscene. It is utterly unthinkable and unworthy of you, Lord, to do such a thing. Do you really intend to destroy the righteous in the city along with the wicked? What have they done to deserve that?” You cannot put moral men and women in the same category as depraved criminals. That would be like a teacher failing the whole class because two of the students cheated in the examinations. That’s utterly unfair.
Do you see how bold is Abraham’s argument? He seems to be striking at something fundamental to God’s dealing with mankind. God had plunged the whole of the line of Adam into guilt and misery because of the conduct of their father and federal head. Noah cursed the entire line of Canaan because of the sin of one man, Canaan’s father Shem. One sinner in a place of leadership and influence outweighs much good. When Achan hid the wedge of gold, and the silver bars and the Babylonian garments under his tent what God said was that, “The children of Israel have committed a trespass” and the children of Israel were defeated in battle because of one man’s sin. Is Abraham challenging the principle of federal headship by which God works with all of mankind – that we are all in Adam, or we are in Christ. “Is this fair Lord? Abraham is asking and challenging God. “Aren’t you punishing the children for the sins of their fathers? If you condemn the righteous of Sodom because the fellow citizens have sinned, then aren’t you guilty of this?”
The people of Sodom known to Abraham are on his heart. He can’t dismiss them. He’ll be their advocate. He will be pleading for them. There are righteous men in the city and so he uses them as leverage to deliver the whole community. Abraham is taking God’s principle of the wicked polluting the whole city and he will turn it upside down. Surely it is the presence of the few righteous who act like salt and light in such a rotten dark place. They cannot be destroyed along with the wicked because of all the good they do. They are preventing the putrefaction getting worse. How many righteous are needed in a city to be a counterpoise to the wicked? In a city the size of Sodom, as many as fifty? Surely less. God accepts fifty righteous men as grounds for sparing the whole community. So Abraham holds his ground and lowers the number, down and down, right down finally to ten. He stops there. He has made his point. God has accepted it. God cannot destroy the righteous along with the wicked and remain a just and good God. If he finds only Lot and his family he won’t destroy them simply because they live in a bad neighbourhood. The righteousness of the eight will outweigh the sins of the many.
But what if there were only one righteous man? That is the issue. In fact there has been only one righteous Man, for apart from him there is none righteous, no not one, only the righteous Jesus of Nazareth, holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. And here again we begin to see the Messiah in this passage, not just in his intercession but in his readiness to do what Abraham could not do. Abraham could not go down to Sodom and live there. Abraham, we have seen, is not a blameless man, but if they could find one righteous man, a righteous representative then the city would be saved. Brothers and sisters we have all been sinners like Sodom sinners, without hope, until Christ, the son of Abraham came, and kept himself unspotted from the world of Sodom, tempted often but never falling, and giving his life for the worst of sinners. The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all sin and now he ever lives to make intercession for us. He came all the way from holy heaven into our Sodom, and he, the last Adam, faithful and blameless, was the one righteous man, and because of him mankind was not put into the crucible and destroyed. The world is saved, though some are lost.
Abraham stayed there on that lane looking down over the town of Sodom standing close to the holy sin-hating God and there he pleaded boldly with the Lord, braving the wrath of God. He felt his helplessness and worthlessness as he argued with the Almighty; “I am nothing but dust and ashes” (v.27) . . . “May the Lord not be angry” (v.30) . . . “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord” (v.31) . . . “May the Lord not be angry” (v.32). Abraham risked the anger of God by standing before him and humbly pleading for sinners. But we know of great Abraham’s greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who did not merely stand close to the Lord and plead for sinners but who took their sin and guilt and entered the very heart of the Holy God bearing all their unrighteousness, enduring the divine displeasure.
Sodom was destroyed because it lacked any righteous men in its midst, but the world today has no absence of righteous men and women, has it? It has you, and God for your sake withholds his wrath on this town because we walk amongst them day by day. “I do not pray that you will take my people out of the world,” cries Christ to his Father, “but that you will keep them from the wicked one when they live in the Sodoms of this world.” You must cling to this calling; “I am the light of the world” and never hide your light but let it shine before men. We will meet next Sunday (unless the Lord calls us to heaven) and he will not have destroyed the world by a flood next week. He will not have directed an enormous asteroid to crash into our world and reduce it to a dead icy rock. Life goes on; we even see our grandchildren marrying and given in marriage; we have enough food to eat; we live long lives. This is our incredible conviction, that it is because of the presence of the people of God in the world that God spares the world from a nuclear holocaust. That is the reason why the God-ignoring people of our town have not been engulfed by the wrath of God. It is because of the presence of righteous men and women, interceding men and women, which stays God’s hand. He is longsuffering and does not strike us down.
But God will not withhold his wrath for ever. A day came when the sin of Sodom did reach its full measure, and a day will come when the sins of our world will reach their full measure, and your sins will have reached their full measure and then the wrath of God will be revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. But even as he removed Lot and his family from Sodom before destroying it so God will deal with the world, removing the righteous and judging the rest. Today the two grow side by side, the wheat and the tares, but on that great day the great separation will take place and God will deal with the whole world in righteousness by the Man he has ordained. There will then be a great separation and in that day you will need a more powerful Mediator than old Abraham, you will need the seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ the Lord. Without his covering the wrath of God will fall upon you never to cease. Then Abraham cannot and will not help you. The Lord Jesus said that you too may cry to him from your torment; “‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’ But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us’” (Luke 17:25-27). Abraham is unable to deliver the condemned, but today Christ can. Cry mightily to him that he may save you from the wrath to come, and continue to cry until you know he has answered you.
26th July 2009 GEOFF THOMAS