THE LORD VISITS ABRAHAM
Key verse: 18:18,19
“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.”
In chapter 17 God changed Abram’s name to Abraham. God gave him this new name so he could have God’s vision and hope for him to be the father of many nations and to be a blessing to the whole world. God also commanded that Abraham circumcise himself and all males in his household. Abraham obeyed this command as a sign of the covenant between himself and God. When Abraham did this, he was circumcising his heart to God and cutting away any unbelief he had in regards to God’s promise. He was putting on a new self to believe the great promises of God by faith.
Now in chapter 18, God visits Abraham like a friend would. God visits Abraham to reveal some important news for him. Through this visit, we can see how God treats his people who make a decision to obey him and follow him by faith. They become God’s friend. In fact, in the Scripture, Abraham is called God’s friend (2 Chron.20:7; Is.41:8; James 2:23) In this passage, we can also see the contrast of the lives of two men: Lot and Abraham. We will see how their decisions earlier affected their lives and their outcome. A person’s life and the outcome of their lives will depend upon the choices they make. Do I depend on God and earnestly seek him to make my choices and decisions or are my choices and decisions based on my physical desires? Through this message, may God help you to value to walk with God and to be a friend of God like Abraham.
Part 1. Three Visitors (18:1-15)
Look at verse 1, “The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.” When Abraham saw these men he acted quickly to serve them even though it was the heat of the day. Who were these men? These men were the Lord, and two angels. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not to forget to entertain strangers, for by doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
Abraham was eager to serve these guests and his actions and the actions of his wife and his servant showed his eagerness and the willingness to serve. Remember, Abraham is more than 99 years old now. Usually in the heat of the day, during the afternoon hours, old men are falling asleep taking a long nap. But Abraham, even though he was old and it was hot, made no complaints and was ready and spiritually alert. In verses 3-8 we can see such action verbs as “hurried, quick and ran.” We can also see that Abraham’s family prepared a delicious meal for the guests that was not cheap but hearty.
Abraham and his family spared nothing in order to be gracious and hospital servants for the guests. God had blessed Abraham abundantly with enough materials and Abraham’s heart was overflowing with thankfulness to God as he eagerly served. Abraham also became a good influence as his wife Sarah and the servant gave themselves fully to make sure these guests were comfortable, refreshed and well fed.
Abraham was like a waiter as he ran with the order to Sarah, then ran to get a choice and tender calf and give it to the servant to prepare. As the men ate in verse 8, Abraham stood near them, ready to fill their glass of water as soon as it became empty. We can see the richness of this family. This richness was not because they had plenty of food to give, but because God had revealed himself to Abraham and poured out his mercy and grace on him. God gave him joy when Abraham accepted God’s hope for him, and out of that joy Abraham influenced his wife and his servants lives. This family became one of loving and giving and serving. This life of loving, giving and serving shows that a rich life does not come from what one has but what one does for others without any expectations and strings attached.
This life is like Jesus’ life who came from heaven to bless our lives and make our lives rich by showing us that this life of serving and giving is the blessed life. Jesus became a servant of all by giving his life for us. What was the Lord’s intention to come to visit Abraham on this day? Look at verses 9-10, “Where is your wife Sarah, they asked him. ‘There in the tent’, he said. Then the Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son….’” The Lord’s purpose was to encourage and strengthen the faith of Sarah. When God came to Abraham in Chapter 17, God also mentioned Sarah. He changed her name from Sarai to Sarah., which means the mother of nations. But he did not talk with Sarah but only Abraham. Now, his mind was on Sarah to help her hear the promise and the hope he had for her.
His words in verse 10 show his specific promise to her. In about one more year he would return and Sarah would have a son. Sarah had been a barren woman her whole life. Like any married woman, she wanted children of her own, but she could not have any. In chapter 16, when she tried to help Abraham have a child through Hagar and when it was successful, she became jealous and hurt and angry when Hagar began showing off her son and verbally abusing Sarah. Sarah then felt even more barren and inferior, hopeless and sorrowful. But God knew and did not abandon her and forget her.
God now came to help her to believe this great promise personally into her heart. We can see how much God cared for her and that he does not consider anyone unimportant. Abraham was such a big name. We think those who lead churches or who have an important position are the ones God cares about most, but this is not true. Everyone is important to God no matter what your position is or role is within God’s church. What was her reaction to the Lord’s word? Look at verses 10b-12, “…Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?’” Sarah’s laugh was one of doubt. It was a laugh that made her think this is ridiculous, silly and outrageous what God just said. She looked at her old and worn out body in the mirror. She looked like a grandmother. Then she looked at her old, very old husband Abraham and all she could see was wrinkles and gray hair and a big bushy beard covering his whole face.
But what did God say? Let’s read verses 13-14, “Then the Lord 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? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.’” God rebuked Sarah for her doubt. He said, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” What God is telling her is that he will certainly do what he says. He is telling her that he can do anything because he is the Lord, the Lord God who created the heavens and the earth. Because God created the heavens and the earth nothing is too hard for him to do.
We should not limit what God can do because of our human circumstances. When things look humanly impossible it does not mean that they are impossible to God. If God has a will and purpose to use us, then he will use us no matter what kind of circumstance we are in and no matter what our human condition is. When we view the world, we can see that there are so many people who need to have faith in Jesus and who need salvation such as in China, in North Korea and the Muslim nations. These parts of the world look like Sarah’s barren condition. It looks too dangerous and too risky and impossible for the gospel to be spread and for people to come to faith in Jesus because of the control the government has on its people and the strict religion of these countries. But as God asked Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” so we should also hear this word from God speaking to us today, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” How will we answer this question? We can only say, “Nothing is too hard for the Lord.”
God can work in ways that we know nothing about and he can do greater things than we can imagine. In June there will be a Bible conference in China. We can see that God is hearing our prayers for China. God is sending many willing people to China because he loves the Chinese people. Let us not laugh in unbelief like Sarah and then say we did not laugh, like Sarah said verse 15. Let us change our unbelief to faith in God the Creator of the heavens and the earth who can do everything and anything he says and who can use us in greater ways than we can think or imagine.
Part 2. Abraham pleads for Sodom (18:16-33)
After the delicious meal that Abraham and his family cooked and served. God began to reveal to Abraham another purpose why he came to visit him that day. Look at verses 17, “Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” First, God said that he would not hide from Abraham what he was about to do.
What does this mean? It means that God and Abraham were friends. What a great standing Abraham had before God! How could it be? It was because of God’s love and calling for Abraham and because of Abraham’s response to God’s words of promise. In the Bible, Abraham is called God’s friend. James 2:23 says, “And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited it to him as righteousness’, and he was called God’s friend.”
Now God was sharing his deep secrets with Abraham, just as a friend would. True friends share secrets with each other. They share their thoughts and dreams and aspirations and plans. Jesus said in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Look at verses 18 and 19 now as to what God revealed to Abraham, his friend. Let’s read verses 18-19, “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.”
First, God encouraged Abraham that he would make him into a great nation and now a powerful nation. He reaffirmed that he would be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. God used the word “surely.” This means no doubt about it, it will happen; absolutely. Because God kept repeating this promise and giving it in more detail means that he meant it and he wanted Abraham to accept this continual promise of God.
Secondly, let’s look again at verse 19. For Abraham to be a blessing to all the nations on the earth he must actively lead his children to keep God’s word in their hearts by learning it and doing it. He must teach who God is and his purpose for their life. God can only bless people when they keep his way and obey his way. God’s desire is to raise a nation of faith that knows his love and who live by his love and who spread his love in action. When parents make a personal effort to keep the way of the Lord in their day to day lives, by living lives of love and forgiveness according to the Bible, then their children can see it and can model after it. When the parents are eager to study the Bible and to pray and to share God’s word with them, then the children will also learn this and learn by example and want to copy their parents.
There is always a great spiritual battle to teach what is right and just to our children based on God’s word when our society has become so relative that trying to follow the Bible invites criticism and rejections. But we must believe that God will honor those who honor him and his word and that our love and labor to help our children to keep God’s way will bear good and lasting fruit.
Let’s look at verses 20-21 to see another reason for God to visit Abraham. “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.”
God revealed here his concern for what was happening in Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. According to 13:13, the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord. As we know, God never treats sin lightly. God will judge sinners who refuse to repent of their sins. In these verses, we see that God actually hears the wounded cries of those who have been hurt by sin as well as he hears the foolishness of those who keep sinning against the Lord, thinking that they can keep on sinning against God without any accountability.
We remember that Lot went to live near Sodom, but now as we shall see in chapter 19, that he was actually living in Sodom. Though the Lord did not mention Lot’s name, Abraham knew that Lot was there in was in great danger.
In this time, how did Abraham react? He began to plead with God in prayer. His prayer and God’s reaction reveals that this is an intercessary prayer that reveals his close walk with God and his friendship with God. Abraham was earnestly praying for others who were in danger of God’s judgment. He had God’s heart for those who were suffering in their sins. Through Abraham’s prayer to God we can learn about prayer First we can learn that we need to know who God is when we approach him. Look at the following verses 23-25. In these verses he approaches God knowing that God is righteous. He knows that God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked. He believes that Lot is righteous even though he does not mention Lot by name.
His also believes that God is the Judge of all the earth. He prays, “Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Abraham knows who God is when he prays, the Judge who can do no wrong and who is absolutely right. Secondly, we learn to have a humble heart to approach God. Verse 27, Abraham prays, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes.” Abraham’s approach to God was with a humble heart.
Finally, in verses 28-33, we see that we need to be persistent in prayer. Abraham was persistent in praying to God for the one prayer topic to save the righteous in the city. Notice how he keeps on asking God, “What if only…. Are found there…” and God’s response, “For the sake of ….I will not destroy it.” Abraham went from 50 all the way to 10. You would think God might become tired of this or annoyed. But God didn’t. God honored his prayers and answered them.
We see here that we should not become discouraged when people go astray like Lot. Perhaps Abraham had not heard from Lot for a long time though he sent him emails and a birthday card every year. Lot seemed to ignore his Uncle Abraham, but Abraham kept him in his heart. Likewise, let us keep those who we are concerned about in our hearts always in prayer. Let us have confidence that God hears our prayers through our faith in Jesus and that God is not willing to let any soul perish.
Part 3. Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed (19:1-38)
Now we will see the life of Lot as compared with the life of Abraham more clearly in this chapter. When we read chapter 18 we see Abraham’s beautiful life of faith and how he was a blessing by serving and praying and how God was blessing him. But now chapter 19 looks like the opposite. Here we see Lot’s life and how he lived. The decision of Lot back in chapter 13 to choose for himself the land instead of following the leading of God and praying to God, will show us something. First of all, we see a difference with his treatment of the angels as compared with Abraham’s.
Look at verses 1-2, “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. My lords, he said, please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and go on your way early in the morning.”
Lot was not at his house and Mrs. Lot and their children were either not there or did not care about the guests as we see in verses 3. Lot wanted the guests not to stay in the town square but to come to his house. At his house he cooked a quick meal in the microwave and gave it to them. Though Lot had plenty of money, he was cheap in his service because his heart was half in the world and half in the Lord. In verses 4-11 we see the wicked ness of the people of Sodom and why God was going to destroy the city. The people of Sodom had no shame in their sin but were sinning boldly against the Lord. Their lifestyle was perverse and corrupted. But what about Lot? He knew what they were doing was wicked, according to verse 7 and yet he also tried to do something wicked by suggesting he give his own daughters to these perverse people!
Lot seemed no better then them! Lot had come to live near Sodom. He thought it was a good idea. He thought he could have a good business and live comfortably in the land. But now, because he did not make his decision to honor God, he became a most miserable man! We see from their reaction to him in verse 9 that Lot never did anything to reveal his faith. They called him “alien” and said he was trying to be a “judge.” In Sodom, Lot did not make any impression. He only tried to mind his own business and grow his own business. He did not try to win souls over for salvation.
The apostle Peter writing through the Holy Spirit wrote in his letter of 2 Peter about Lot’s life in Sodom and how distressed he was by their filthy lives and how tormented his soul was by the lawless deeds he saw and heard. If he made a decision to be an influence and to challenge the corrupt culture by faith, then this would not have happened. We see here that God cannot bless us if we live a compromised life.
Now God had to rescue Lot. Look at verses 12-13, “The two men said to Lot, ‘Do you have anyone else here---sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.’”
God warned Lot of the impending doom of Sodom. Lot appeared to take this to heart in verse 14 and told his son-in-law about it. However, his sons-in-law thought he was joking. This attitude also reflects Lot’s life of faith. He didn’t consider God’s word and the seriousness of it. He did not value what the Lord said and instead followed his own flesh desires. Now, even he, after he was warned of the coming judgment, did nothing!
In verse 15 he was warned by the angels to hurry up and leave or he would be swept away when the city would be punished. Lot was so slow. He seemed not to be able to decide between heaven and hell. How did Lot escape the destruction of Sodom? It was only by the mercy of God. Look at verse 16, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.”
But how did Lot respond to God’s mercy? He seemed so stubborn and stuck to cling to his desire and not flee to follow God’s leading, according to verses 18-20. Lot had no peace or joy. He appeared very nervous and agitated. By the time he reached Zoar, the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah---from the Lord out of the heavens (verse 24). We see here that God’s judgment is real. God’s judgment is powerful and complete. God is very patient and gives people a chance to repent and even time to repent, but when people reject God’s word and harden their hearts they invite his judgment.
Look what happened to Lot’s wife in verse 26. It says, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” This verse shows Mrs. Lot’s love for the world and not for God. She looked back, meaning that she might have regretted what she was leaving behind, her house with all her convenient appliances, her Jacuzzi and her gossip hours with all her friends in Sodom. She tried to save her life thinking that the life of materialism, pleasure and lust was the best.
In Luke chapter 17:32-33, Jesus warns about the coming of the Son of Man and the judgment to come on all people who ignore him and love themselves more than him. He uses Lot’s wife as an example. He said, “Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” We should not look back at the life of sin that Jesus saved us from and desire to have it again. Why go back to the smelly trash heap! It was trash and garbage, refuse! Like those things, we were perishing and spoiling. We should look ahead and look forward to greater things as we follow Jesus. We look forward to a more abundant life and the richness to know Jesus. And we look forward to the kingdom of God that he promised to us that does not perish spoil or fade.
Look at verse 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.” God honored the man of God’s prayer and used it to save Lot. God remembers our prayers and makes us a blessing to this world when we trust in him and live by faith like Abraham. James 5:16b says, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
What eventually became of Lot’s life? In the rest of this chapter, we see that Lot had corrupted his daughters because they had no standard. Instead of following God’s way, they followed the social consensus of the times. They got him drunk, slept with him and became pregnant by him. Obviously God could not honor them and bless them. According to the Bible, the descendants of their children became the enemies of God’s people.
Now we need to take a moment to think about the comparison of Lot’s life and Abraham’s life. Lot’s life of faith had started good because he followed along with Abraham. But chapter 13 was the turning point because he chose his way, not God’s. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but in the end it leads to death.” Lot could not be a blessing to anyone. Lot could not enjoy the friendship and relationship with God that God wanted to give him. Look at his life! Look how he ended up! This is not how we want to live and finish our life.
But what about Abraham? He heard God’s call and followed God’s leading. He repented when he failed and came back to God (Gen. Chapters 12,17) He learned to hold onto God’s word of promise and believe it with all his heart and he became a blessing to the world. He is like the man described in Psalm chapter 1 which says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers…”
Abraham became a blessing as we see in chapter 18 and eventually to the whole world, as God kept his promise and brought Jesus Christ through his offspring. Now we have to ask ourselves a question. What kind of life do you want to live? Abraham or Lot? I know that you all want Abraham’s life. However, you are going to have to keep his word in your heart like he did, believe and obey. May God help you to be a blessing and be a source of blessing like Abraham.