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Caught Off-guard

Mosaic Boston

Religion & Spirituality

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This media has been made available by Mosaic Boston Church. If you'd like to check out more resources, learn about Mosaic Boston and our neighborhood churches, or donate to this ministry, please visit mosaicboston.com.

Good morning. Welcome to Mosaic Church. My name is Jan, one of the pastors here at Mosaic, along with Pastor Shane and Pastor Andy. If you're new or visiting, we're so glad you're here. We'd love to connect with you. We do that through the connection card in the worship guide or the one you can get virtually online on our website or in our app. If you submit that, we'll get in touch with you over the course of the week. Would you please pray with me over the preaching of God's holy word?

Heavenly Father, we thank you that you are a good father, that you take people who are rebels, reprobate, and you regenerate us and make us children. You adopt us into your family by grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus, we thank you that you lived a perfect life. You offered that perfect life as a sacrifice on our behalf. You absorbed the wrath of God, judgment that we deserve for our sin. You did that to intercede for us, to be an advocate for us, to reconcile us with God the Father.

We pray, Holy Spirit, for those of us who are regenerated, that you today show us areas in our life where our faith needs to grow, where it needs to be strengthened. Continue to expose self-deception where perhaps we say we believe, and we do not. I pray for those who are not yet Christians. I pray today, make the seriousness of the judgment, the looming judgment... Make it a reality today. The gravity... Make it a reality today, and draw them to yourself. Give them the gift of repentance. Bless our time in the holy scriptures. Lord, we love you. We pray this in Jesus name. Amen.

We're going through a sermon series that we are calling Jesus in Genesis, where we're looking at Genesis through the lens of the gospel because that's the way you're supposed to interpret all of scripture. You interpret all of scripture with the revelation of Jesus Christ. The title of the sermon today is Caught Off Guard.

You are who you are. The true you is when you are caught off guard, when something happens that you are not expecting, when you are cut off on the highway on Route 90, or you're cut off. You're coming from 93 on Storrow. You're in the left lane. Because you are a good human being, you're going to merge into Storrow, and you're going to wait your place in line. You're going to wait.

At the very last moment, someone, just out of nowhere, comes in, cuts you off. You got to hit the brakes. Then they're driving slowly in front of you the whole time. They got New York plates. That's the worst.
How do you react? How do you react when someone steps on your foot? How do you react when you step on your kid's Lego? How do you react when you need your iPad to preach your sermon, and you wake up, and your iPad that you plugged in at night, it's unplugged because your kid unplugged it? You're at 12%, and you got to preach two services. What are you going to do then?

You're caught off guard. What's going to happen? The iPad turns off, and Pastor Jan has to go off the notes. Oh, that's dangerous. What's going to happen then? When people are caught on a hot mike or on a hidden camera, that's who they really are. That's what they really think.

I had a professor in college. I took a business course my first semester. The day of our final exam, we finished the final exam. We passed it in. He got up, and he says, "That was not your final exam. Your final exam, you will take when you have graduated, and you have to make decisions of consequence. That's the real exam."

Someone once said, "Your reputation is what you do when everyone is looking, and your character is what you do when no one sees." That's what we see in chapter 18 of Genesis. What we see is the God who has called Abram to Himself has then since changed his name. He's converted this pagan, this Gentile, and He made him one of His own, made him a child, gave him the gift of faith, and promised him, "I'm going to give you a son."

Abraham believes. He believes. Decades go by. He believes. There were times when he wavered in his faith, but God continues to strengthen his faith. God continues to come, and God continues to bless him.

In our text today, we see that God catches Abraham off guard. In the text last week, He gave him the sign of the covenant, which was circumcision, but that was just an outward sign to show that God demands an inward reality of the circumcision of our heart. God today comes in order to test Abraham. Is your heart circumcised? Do you truly love God? Do you truly love people? That love is really exposed when you least expect it.

In our text today, God comes and catches Abraham off guard, catches Sarah off guard. Then we see Abraham is involved in the intercession between judgment and mercy with Sodom and Gomorrah. I'm going to do what we did last week. We're going to just walk through the text. It's a lengthy text.

I do have three points. Point number one is God tests Abraham's love. Point two is God tests Sarah's faith. Point three is God tests Abraham's love again. The first test of love is a test of sacrifice toward people. The second test of love is a test of love for the souls of the people around him. Do you love people physically? Do you love people spiritually?

Point number one is God tests Abraham's love. Verse 1, chapter 18, "And the LORD," all caps. That's Yahweh. "The Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day." We know it's the Lord. We know Abraham is by the oaks of Mamre. This is the place near Hebron where, ultimately, Sarah and Abraham are eventually buried.

We see that in the heat of the day, he's sitting at the door of his tent. This is a siesta. If you're from another culture, you understand what a siesta is. A siesta is when you work, and then it's really hot out. Then you have lunch with some winesky. Then you take a nap. You take a napsky. Winesky, napsky in the middle of daysky.

I think we should appropriate that in the United States. I think that would be wonderful. That's what's going on. They would wake up at sunrise, work until it gets really hot, stop working. Then he's just resting by the tent. He's enjoying his nap, noonday nap.

Genesis 18:2, "He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him." People, physical. Just said that the Lord appeared to him, and now it says three people. Keep that in mind. We're not sure he recognizes that these men are supernatural in any way.

He just sees them as men, as regular people. Most likely, assumed that they were poor because there's no word of a caravan. There's no word of camels. He sees these three people coming out of the desert in a place where the heat of the day could be 120, 125 just in the shade.

He sees three travelers. They're weary. They're thirsty. They're hungry coming off the desert. They're coming in at the most inopportune time when he's taking a nap. The whole week, over the whole week, when is the best time to take a nap? When is the best nap? Sunday afternoon. That's my vote.

Sunday afternoon, Sunday afternoon. There's just something about it, especially if golf is on. You turn on the golf game after lunch, Sunday afternoon. You're taking a nap. Then the doorbell rings. There's three strangers that you have never seen. What is your reaction? That's what's going on.

What we see is that this is clearly a test, whether Abraham has grown in his faith to not just think about himself, to not just think about his own needs. Every single parent, what you want to do is you want to train up your child to get to the point where the child realizes that they are not the point of the universe, that the parents don't exist for the child, and that the child needs to think about other people, et cetera, et cetera. That's what's happening here.

God has blessed Abraham, has blessed him spiritually, has blessed him monetarily. Now He sends him a pop quiz. Are you going to sacrifice for others even at the most inopportune time? Who are these three men? We learn in chapter 19, verse 1, that two of them were angels.

Genesis 19:1, "The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting at the gate of Sodom." You've got these men who are actually angels. They look like regular people. Scripture teaches us, sometimes you meet a person, and it's a real human being, and sometimes it's an angel.

Two of them, we know, are angels. One of them, we know, we've been told is the Lord. If two of them are angels, then one of them has to be the Lord because it says the Lord appeared to them in 18:1. The Lord here is Yahweh. It's the Lord that comes in physical form.

This is yet another theophany. It's the appearance of God in the text. It could be argued that it's a Christophany. It could be argued that this is Christ in anticipation of the incarnation. It's Jesus that appears before Abraham, flanked with two angels.

They're standing there. They're just standing, and they're waiting. In that Near Eastern culture, to stand before someone's tent means that you're knocking on the door. You want to see if the people are going to welcome you in and show you hospitality.

Look at 18:2 thorough 6. "When he saw them, he ran from the tent door." By the way, he's 99. He's running. Later on in the text, he's kneeling. He's cooking. 99 years old, I think he's on a Tom Brady pliability diet. Avocado ice cream, that's what's going on. What's going on in the text?

He has responded to the test. He's running to them. In that culture, men don't run. You only run when there's a lion chasing you. That's what the Proverb says. You don't go off for a jog. He's running. He's kneeling. To meet them, he bows down to the earth and said, "O Lord." Calls him Lord, Adon. It's not Yahweh. Yahweh is in caps. This is just Adon. It's a term of respect and honor.

"'If I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that, you may pass on, since you have come to your servant.' They said, 'Do as you have said.' Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, 'Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it and make cakes.'"

We see what Abraham... He welcomes them, arms wide open. "Quick. Come in. Please rest, refresh. I'm going to give you a morsel of bread." By morsel of bread, he goes to his wife, Sarah. He promised them a meal, and he can't really bake, so he goes to Sarah. He says, "Please help. Please help."

Six seahs of flour... You're talking about, two gallons of flour is one seah. You got six gallons. That's a lot of bread. Here, Abraham is presented as the consummate host. He is willing to be inconvenienced. The morsel of bread turns into a sumptuous banquet.

Verse 7, "Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. Then he took curds, and milk, and the calf that he had prepared and set it before them. He stood by them under the tree while they ate."

The phrase, hurried, is used three times in verses 6 and 7. He just wants the absolute best for them. This is a lavish meal. Have you ever had fresh meat? I'm not talking about Whole Foods or Star Market. Definitely not talking about Stop & Shop, definitely not. One time in my life, I had fresh, fresh. It's completely different. It's completely different.

I had a conversation recently with someone. This is an ice-breaker. He said, "What's the best meal you have ever had in your life?" Do you have that one meal in your mind? What's the absolute best meal that you have ever had? My answer immediately was my wedding, my wedding.

My wife's from Ukraine. She grew up Ukrainian Baptist. My family is from Estonia and was Russian speaking. I grew up Russian Baptist at a Russian Baptist church. There are two things at Russian Baptist weddings that you do not do. You do not drink, and you do not dance.

Why are Russian Baptists against sex? Because it might lead to dancing. No, no. At my wedding, there's no dancing, and there's no alcohol. What's the only thing left? It's food. That's the only vice that's allowed, sin of gluttony.

At my wedding, it was in a Russian restaurant in Philadelphia. It was a seven-course meal. Bring the first course, like salads, and salmon, and mushroom with cheese over caviar on pancakes. Oh my. Second course, third course... By the third course, my American friends were tapping out. My Russian friends knew. They knew. They had fasted days before. They dieted before this just to make sure there's extra room.

The fifth, the sixth, the seven course... It's all meat. It's all incredible. That's my favorite. This is what Abraham does. He brings out the best. No expense spared, full stop. He just gives them everything he has, lavish meal. These three people, strangers... Treats them as if they were God Himself.

That's really the lesson here for us. Abraham, will you treat these people like the image-bearers of God? Will you show them hospitality as if they were me? Will you do this? This is a tremendous lesson for each one of us, that we are to grow in hospitality. That's part of growing the Christian life, is to grow in hospitality.

This text is applied later in Hebrews 13, where it says, "Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." He's alluding to the text in Genesis 18. Abraham had no idea. Unawares, he wasn't aware that he was entertaining angels as he was caring for people, feeding people, giving people refreshment.

We are to not neglect hospitality to whom? To our friends? To fellow believers? No. Hospitality is to strangers. Fellowship is with believers. When you invite Christians over to your house, that's fellowship. When you invite non-Christians over, strangers over to your house, that is hospitality. We are to show hospitality, not neglect it.

We see this example of godly hospitality and the reward that comes with it, which is a divine word from God. This is an important lesson for each one of us. Where we live in a city, especially transient city, where this is just... A lot of people are strangers. Especially after this past year and a half, now there's a temptation to look at people not just as strangers but as threats to your health.

Here, for Abraham, God is saying, "You treated people as if they were God Himself." That's what God is calling us to. God loves to reward the hospitable. He will come Himself into the home with a blessing. Revelation 3:20 talks about Jesus standing outside of a church. He says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him and he with me."

Is this even a category in your mind? I should be thinking about inviting strangers over to my home and give them delicious food, really, really good food. It takes sacrifice. It takes financial sacrifice. It takes time sacrifice. It takes emotional energy sacrifice. This is one of the things that we are called to do.

This is part of how we fulfill the mission of God here in the city. We invite people into our homes, open up our lives, and bless them. This also is one of the ways, the demarcators of a Christian, when it comes to the judgment. Matthew 25:35, Jesus says, "I was hungry. You gave me food. I was thirsty, and you gave me drink. I was a stranger, and you welcomed me."

That's what he says to the Christian. The Christian says, "When did we ever do that?" He said, "You did that to the stranger. You did that to the hungry. You did that to those in need. It was as if you did that for me." 1 Peter 4:9, "Show hospitality to one another without grumbling."

Oh, that's interesting. Why does he use the word, grumbling, in the context of hospitality? Because it takes work, especially when people show up unannounced. I don't know. It doesn't really happen in the United States, but in other countries, people do that all the time. They show up to your house, ringing the doorbell. What do you got to eat? I'm not saying, do that.

I'm saying if someone does that, welcome them in, just not in my house. Just kidding. Just kidding. This should be part and parcel of our walk with the Lord. The second application of this text where then the Lord reveals that it's Yahweh, it's Jesus, with two angels, and He gives Abraham a promise, it shows that God did come this time around to strengthen Abraham's faith and also, Sarah's.

This is a text I'll read before point two. Romans 4:18 through 22. "In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, 'So shall your offspring be.' He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.”

Part of why God keeps coming to Abraham and keeps coming to Sarah, to strengthen his faith. Part of why God delayed and kept delaying is to strengthen his faith. God wants his children to grow in both maturity and health. He does that through tests.

Point two is God tests Sarah's faith. Here, we see that God is concerned not just with Abraham's faith but also, with Sarah's. Before Isaac comes, the promised child, He wants to make sure that both Sarah and Abraham believe and God does everything that's needed to expose disbelief, to expose self-deception. He does that in this text where God brings in Sarah.

Verse 9, "They said to him, 'Where is Sarah, your wife?'" This is fascinating because first of all, this was against protocol of Near Eastern cultures because a visitor would not ask for the host's wife unless the host first brought her up. He says, "Where is Sarah?"

What's interesting here about this text is, how did these strangers know her name and not just her birth name, Sarai, but her new birth name, her name that was given to her by God, Sarah? That's what happened last chapter. This is really fascinating.

Here, what's happening is Jesus is tipping his hand. He's showing, revealing to both Abraham and Sarah who these people are, that this isn't just a stranger. Where is Sarah, your wife? He, Abraham, said, "She is in the tent."

The Lord said, again, Yahweh, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” Now there's absolutely no doubt about who this is and whose presence they are that they realized, "This is the word of God." This is God Himself speaking truth to them.

There were disciples on the road to Emmaus after the resurrection. They're walking. They're walking. They're really sad. Jesus comes in, and He hasn't revealed Himself to them. The resurrection of Christ is with them. He's like, "What are you guys so sad about?"

Then for two hours, they have a Bible study, which He tells them from the holy scriptures that he was to die, he was to be buried, as prophesied, and he was to be raised to new life. It wasn't until he goes into the house. It says that He took bread, and He broke it. It wasn't until that moment where they finally realized who this was.

Here, because he did something that was familiar to them, and that awakened and opened up their eyes. Here, the same thing is happening. This is exactly what Jesus is doing in the text to Abraham and Sarah. He's revealing to them that this is the same God that's revealed Himself over, and over, and over to Abraham, that next time this year, there's a due date. In a year, Sarah, you're going to have a baby. Abraham, at this time, is 99. We see that Sarah is in her '80s.

"Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him." She's eavesdropping. "Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, 'After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?' The Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?" Is something too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.' But Sarah denied it, saying, 'I did not laugh,' for she was afraid. He said, 'But you did laugh.'"

That's how the text ends. Whenever a text ends like that, that abruptly, God has the last word, you guys say, "What is going on? There's something that's going on." What's going on is that Abraham, number one, did not lead his wife in growing faith, or he tried to and she would not be led. One of those is going on.

She laughs at the promise of God. Basically, she's laughing at the word of God. She doesn't do it publicly like Abraham did in the previous chapter. Previous chapter, Abraham is just... He's overwhelmed with the absurdity of all. You're going to give me a kid at 99, and you're asking a 99-year-old to circumcise himself, and 318 other grown men, and my son. He's just laughing. This is absurd.

He does it out loud because what he's saying is Abraham laughing is, "God, I don't get it. I don't get what you're doing. I don't get your plan. Help me understand." God does. God deals with him gently. Abraham stands under the word of God. God, help me understand the word of God.

Here, Sarah does not because she laughs cynically to herself. She presents herself as a believer in the word of God. Deep inside, she has doubts. God goes to Abraham, and He says, "Abraham, why did your wife, Sarah... Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Shall I indeed bear a child now that I'm old?'" God holds Abraham responsible for Sarah's laughter and not believing.

What's going on here? Either Abraham tried to lead his wife, and she wouldn't be led in believing the word of God, or he didn't even try, and God holds him responsible here. Then God still does work with Sarah. God says, "Why did she laugh?" reiterates His promise. She says, "I did not laugh," but He responds to her, "Oh, you did. You did laugh."

What God here is doing is He's exposing not just her cynical questioning of the word of God, but He's also exposing her self-deception. This is the difference between Sarah and Abraham. Abraham stood under the word of God. Sarah is standing over the word of God.

"Oh, Jesus, that's what you're saying? Yes, I don't believe you because 80-something-year-old women do not have children." She doesn't believe in the promise. She questions. She laughs at the word of God and stands over. I have my own opinion, God. Thanks so much.

Now this is really relevant for each one of us. Where there are places in the holy scriptures where you are not standing under the word of God, you're standing over it in judgment, or you're saying, "I know that's in the Bible, but that's Paul. That's not Jesus. I know that's in the Bible, but I just don't believe that section. I believe all that stuff about grace, and forgiveness, and God is love."

"I don't believe any of the judgment stuff, or the moral teaching, or that God expects me to live a life of righteousness, or order in the family, or no sex before marriage, or that marriage is between one man, and one woman, and one covenant, one lifetime, or that in marriage, that there are roles that the husband is the head servant, that he is to lead his wife, and love her as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her, and wives is to submit in everything to their husbands as to the Lord."

You look at those texts. Deep inside, you're like, "Yes, I know that's what God said. I got my own opinions. I got my own theories. I don't think that's what God meant, et cetera, et cetera." That's what's going on here. The cynical laughter... It's the same thing that Eve struggled with in the garden, where Satan comes to her and said, "Did God really say?"

All of a sudden, Eve is standing over the word of God instead of standing under the word of God and being transformed by it. Still, even this interaction where God comes and He exposes sin in Sarah's heart of cynicism, she's been mocking God and His word in deception. What He's doing is grace. I want to deepen your faith, and I'm going to do that by removing sin from your heart. We see that it worked.

Hebrews 11:11 through 12, "By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive." God needed her to believe. He comes, and he deals with her, deals with her doubts, removes her sin, gives her the gift of faith. "By faith, Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore, from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of the heaven, as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore."

We see here, again, a God who is strengthening the faith of his children: Abraham, Sarah. He strengthens their faith by putting them in difficult situations. You got to ask. It's been over two decades since the initial promise of God to Abraham, "I'm going to give you and Sarah a child."

Why did God wait this long? Why does He wait until they're in their almost 100 and in their 90s? Why does He do that? Number one, to get all the glory because if it wasn't for God, then none of this would have happened. God gets all the glory. He loves doing that.

Number two is to make them stronger. To make their faith stronger, He puts them in difficult situations. I'm a dad of four daughters. Bless my heart, as they say in the South. I'm a dad of four daughters. My job is not to keep my girls happy 100% of the time. I could easily do that. We'll just eat sugar all day, sugar, ice cream, Twinkies. I would buy an ice cream truck. That would be our vehicle. We'll just drive around with clown music. It would be tremendous. That's what we would do.

That would be extremely disservice to their whole life. Just jack up their health and make them people who all they want is sugar and good times, et cetera, et cetera. My job as a dad is to make their life as hard as possible. That's my job. I'm a Russian dad. That's what we do. I got my girls deadlifting and squatting already, aged 12 and 9.

We're going to do long division for fun, just for fun. We're going to do math. Come home from school. We're going to make it fun. We're going to make it fun. That's my job. You are going to know two languages. Why? Because pliability of the mind. You go back and forth. You understand different people, different cultures, et cetera.

You're going to play instruments. You're going to do hard things. You're going to play sports. You're going to study theology. We're going to do hard things. Why? Because I want to make you stronger. You need to be strong to succeed in this world. I want them to be great ministers of the kingdom of God. That's why.

This is what's happening here. God is a good father. He puts Abraham and Sarah in these situations where they get stronger. He tests Sarah's faith. Sarah, by God's grace... Her faith is strengthened. Abraham's love has been tested, his service to physical needs to people.

Then God tests Abraham's love to the spiritual needs of people. Abraham cared for people's physical needs, the first section. Now does he care for their souls? Cared for their bodies. Now does he care for their souls?

God has a conversation here with Abraham. This is a fourth conversation God has, extended conversation with Abraham. On the three previous occasions, it had to do with Abraham individually. You, your family, your child, your promise, the blessing, et cetera.

Here, this is a different conversation. It's a conversation about total strangers to Abraham. In this lengthy conversation, Abraham reveals himself as the true, righteous man of God that he was. Verse 16, "Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, Yahweh, 'Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?'"

Clearly, He's not hiding it because He's saying it out loud in the presence of Abraham. "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 have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him."

God says, "I've chosen him. I've chosen to pour my love out on him. I've chosen him as a friend. I've chosen him, by God's grace, to walk in a way of righteousness, keep the way of Lord." That's the Hebrew word, derekh. It's a path worn by constant walking.

I've chosen him by grace. He is to walk a path of righteousness to do righteousness that's conformity to God's will and to do justice that's conformity to God's character. You just see this incredible grace, that God invites Abraham into this conversation. God says, "I'm about to make a decision. Am I going to pour out my judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah right now? What do you think, Abraham?" Welcomes him as a friend into the conversation. Abraham was a friend of God.

2 Chronicles 20, verse 5 through 7 is the prayer of Jehoshaphat who, "stood in the assembly of Judah and in Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, and said, 'O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?'"

James 2:23. "And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness,' and he was called a friend of God." Isaiah 41:8, "But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend." God chooses this guy, saves him, and makes him a friend, and has a conversation with him about the destiny of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In Genesis 18:20 through 21, "Then the Lord said, 'Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.'” He's saying, "I've heard the outcry," cry of distress because of the sin of the wickedness of the city. Their sin is very grave.

All sin, any and every sin, separates us from God and deserves spiritual and physical death, any and every sin, but not any and every sin has the same degree. Not every sin is the same in terms of gravity. God waits, and he waits, and he waits for a people, for people and for cities, for groups of people. He waits for them to repent.

There comes a time because of the gravity of sin just grow and grows, and it gets worse, and more heinous, and more wicked, that it just gets to the point where these people are not going to repent. God's judgment comes. We see this idea in Genesis 15:16, where God says the people of Israel... They're going to be held in captivity for 400 years in Egypt. Then I'm going to bring them out, and I'm going to give them a land of the Canaanites and the Amorites, but not yet, because Genesis 15:16, "They shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”

God is patient, and He's forbearing. He wants to forgive. He's loving. He's gracious, and He gives time. He gives time, and he gives time. There comes point of no return, a point of punishment, as has come with Sodom here. God hears the outcry from a land, from a people against the sin.

When we see the sin and evil, even in our nation, what kind of cry must be going up from the United States today is a result of flood of immorality, a flood of greed, unbridled lust, passion for obscenity, lurid, salacious attitudes that permeate public, private lives. God hears it all. He's still waiting. He's waiting. He's waiting. He's waiting for people to repent, but judgment is looming.

God here has a conversation with Abraham. What are we going to do? Verse 22, "The men turned from there and went toward Sodom." They're going to scope out what's going on, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. What happens with these angels? That's chapter 19. We'll read that next week.

What happens is they go down to Lot's house. Lot sees them, welcomes them into his house. Then all the men of that town surrounded Lot's house. He said, "Bring the angels out so that we can know them." He's going to rape these angels. That's how grave their sin has become. That's how perverse this culture has become.

The angels are going down. Still, Abraham stood before the Lord. Here, what we see is God standing. Abraham is standing before him in the same way that Jesus stood before Abraham before he went into his fellowship. It's as if they were knocking here. Abraham is... As if he's knocking, he said, "God, let's have a conversation about what's happening."

God here initiates this. He gives him an opportunity to intercede for this city. Abraham does. He knows God to be a gracious, loving, merciful God, a God that doesn't take pleasure in the death of a wicked person. Yet He's a God of perfect holiness and perfect justice. What is to happen to the city?

Verse 23, "Then Abraham drew near to the Lord and said, 'Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are 50 righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the 50 righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be it from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

He says, "God, you're just. I know you are. I'm appealing to you as a God of justice. I know that some people deserve wickedness, but if there are 50 people who are righteous, would you not spare the city?" What's fascinating here is two things. He cares about the city. He cares about the unrighteous. The theology is mostly correct here. The theology is God will not punish the righteous for the sins of the wicked. That's his theology.

In the long term, that's true. In the long term, God will not punish the righteous for the sins of the unrighteous. In the supreme case of Jesus Christ, the only righteous person who has ever lived, he got the punishment that the unrighteous, that the wicked, deserved. God then corrects that later.

What's fascinating is Abraham knows who's in Sodom. Who is he here interceding for? It's not Sodom and Gomorrah. It's Sodom. Who lives in Sodom? His nephew, Lot. Lot, with his wife and their two daughters. What's fascinating here is Abraham doesn't say, "God, take the righteous people out of the city."

He's interceding for the unrighteous as well. God, give us some more time. God, perhaps these people will repent. This is the beauty of what's going on, that Abraham understood the grace that he received. He understood that he himself was chosen by grace, by the grace of God. He himself was from a family of idolaters and pagans. He himself was disobedient to God when God said, "Go from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan." He went halfway to Haran.

He himself sinned against God, against his wife, in order to save his own skin, prostitutes her out to Pharaoh, therefore, jeopardizing his marriage. He himself sinned when he committed adultery with Hagar in order to have a child. He knows he's a sinner. He knows he's wicked. Still, the God of the universe is welcoming him into a relationship with himself.

What Abraham is saying, "God, you gave me grace. Would you not give them grace?" You see him continuing to have this conversation with the Lord. You see his audacity, his chutzpah even, as he's continuing to intercede. In verse 26, he continues. God says, "If I find 50, I won't destroy the city."

Verse 26, "The Lord said, 'If I find at Sodom 50 righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.'" Then Abraham starts doing math. He's like, "50. Why did I start off with 50?" There's Abraham. There's his wife. There's two daughters. Now he's continuing the conversation.

"Abraham answered and said, 'Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose 5 of the 50 righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for the lack of five?' And he said, 'I will not destroy it if I find 45 there.' Again, he spoke to him and said, 'Suppose 40 are found there.' He answered, 'For the sake of 40, I will not do it.' Then he said, 'Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose 30 are found there.' He answered, 'I will not do it, if I find 30.'"

He started with 50. He was going down by five's. Then he's like, "This is going to take too long." Now he starts going down by 10s. It's like reverse haggling. If you ever been to market in a different country... I remember in Ukraine, I went to this market where whatever the price is, the sticker price, if it's 100 gryvna, whatever it is, you got to come up... Then your first bid is five. It's five gryvna. I'm going to give you five. The goal is to meet halfway.

This is like reverse haggling with God as he's interceding. He's 30, gets it down to 30. "He said, 'Oh, let the Lord not get be angry. I will speak. Suppose 30 are found there.' He answered, 'I will not do it, if I find 30.' 'Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose 20 are found there.' He answered, 'For the sake of 20, I will not destroy it.' Then he said, 'Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose 10 are found there.' He answered, 'For the sake of 10, I will not destroy it.' And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place."

God starts the conversation, and He ends the conversation. God had already decided what he's going to do. Abraham intercedes. He tries to intercede. Why do we stop at 10? As one theologian said, Abraham has reached the limit of the ability of righteous individual to outweigh the cumulative evil of the community. 10 persons constitute the minimum effective social entity.

Abraham's righteousness here is seen in that he, unlike Jonah, doesn't want the judgment of the city. Remember, Jonah preaches the gospel to Nineveh. He sits back and waits for God to pour out His wrath on the city. Here Abraham intercedes for the city. He has care for them. He wants mercy for them in the same way that he has received.

Did Sodom get mercy? They did not. They did not. Perhaps part of the reason that angels went down to the city is to give them one more chance, one more chance to repent. They did not. There came a point where there was no more opportunity for repentance.

The application here goes two ways. Number one, if you are not yet a Christian, judgment is looming over you. Either you pay the penalty for your sin in a place called hell for all of eternity, or you trust in Jesus. Repent of your sin. Repent of your pride, self-reliance, self-deception. Put your trust in Him. Then the penalty for your sin is poured out on Christ.

The other lesson here for us as a church, as believers, is for whom are you interceding? Do you intercede for the city? Do you pray specifically for the Spirit of God to be poured out upon the city, upon this region in general, but then also, specifically, are there specific people for whom you are praying on a daily basis?

God, save my neighbor. God, save my colleagues. God, save my roommate. God, save this city. Draw many to yourself. Give me opportunities to share the gospel, to share the good news of Jesus Christ. I wonder if that's not more pressing on our heart. I wonder if the reason why that isn't more pressing on our heart is because we don't really believe in the reality of the judgment that it to come. I wonder if that's the reason. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pray effectively for lost souls if you're not convinced that lostness, apart from Jesus, will ultimately result in literal eternal punishment.

A few years ago, John Maclean, the journalist in Scotland, wrote an article on the subject of hell. It was published in the Glasgow Harold of all places. He ends the article in these words. He says, "I've never doubted in the reality of such a place, the hell of deep and lasting darkness, but I've never thought of it in popular terms, as a nasty boiler room run by little men in red tights."

"Hell is ultimately a negative, place of nothing but anguish. This is a place without God and without anything of God, without light, without warmth, without friendship, and without peace. No racks, no pintures, no claws, only the fires of an awakened conscience, the burning thirst of a frustrated ego. The wicked ones of history, they will be there. The killers and the exploiters... They will be there. Libertines and gossips, rapists, and drunkards... They will be there. Those whose gods were sex, or money, or ambition, or power... They will be there."

"Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians... If only their faith was religiosity who had nothing for eternity but denominational adherence, they will be there. In the darkest, thickest corner are all the nice ministers. The benevolent bishops who told people that it was heaven for all and that love was all that mattered, but there is only one way of escape. By flight to Christ in faith in His finished work, living in His service but never looking to such toils for my salvation, but there is the final paradox."

"To believe in this latter end of all things, and to live, and walk in a world that must one day melt in fervent heat, to walk among the living dead with my bright smile and polite talk, and never to challenge, never to warn when we have seen our God and His righteousness, when we have seen the wickedness of humanity. We know that the end must come, but the one who knows the heart of God has the heart of God. It's not the heart of God that the wicked should perish, that they would turn, and repent, and find salvation."

What Abraham does here is foreshadowing of the great intercessor, the great advocate, and that of Jesus Christ. When Yahweh comes incarnate again, and he comes in, takes on flesh, and lives a perfect life, which he then offers as a sacrifice for us, he bears the wrath of God on our behalf. He experiences hell upon our behalf so that we wouldn't have to. On the cross of Jesus Christ, the holiness of God and His love... They coincide.

We see the wrath of God being poured out for our lawbreaking. We see a God who's willing to absorb that same wrath on our behalf. This is the beauty of the gospel, that God remains just and the justifier at the same time. He's just because the law that was broken was punished. The punishment was met. There's forgiveness because He bore that in Himself.

Jesus is the great advocate. He's the great interceder. He's the one that does it for us. If you're not in Christ, repent of sin and turn to him. Judgment is looming. Either your sins will be punished in you or in Christ. Just repent and believe.

I'll send with these verses. Jesus is our great advocate. 1 John 2:1, "My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." 1 Timothy 2:5, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

John 8:34, "Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died, more than that, who was raised, who is at right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." Hebrews 8:25, "Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them."

Let's pray. Lord Jesus, what a wonderful text. We thank you for meeting Abraham. We thank you for calling him to yourself, but thank you for strengthening his faith. I pray you do that with each one of us. Give us the gift of faith, and give us robustness of faith where you continue to strengthen us. Make us a people who understand that you are holy, and that you are loving, and that there is evil in our hearts as there is evil in the world.

The only remedy for that is the cross of Jesus Christ. Make us a people who walk daily, basking in your glory, thankful for your grace. Then also, make us a people who care for those who are not yet believers, to care for their physical needs, yes, but more importantly, their spiritual needs, care for their souls.
I pray, Lord, pour out your spirit upon us to make us a force, to share the gospel with many, proclaim the gospel, warn that judgment is coming. There is a way of escape, and that's only found in Jesus Christ. Jesus, we love you. We pray this in your name. Amen.


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