First Mennonite Church
February 22, 2021
Abraham a Model Intercessor
Text: Genesis 18:16-33
This passage picks up from where we left last Sunday. Once again, we see Abraham’s good host qualities, as he sends off his guest on their way. Abraham walks along his heavenly guest, of whom, one was the Lord.
In verse 17, we are made privy of a dialogue between the Lord and his two heavenly companions, regarding what was next. The dialogue was whether Abraham should be informed of what the Lord’s inquiry into Sodom and Gomorrah was about.
In this passage, the Lord God is portrayed doing an inquiry before he carried out a major intervention of judgement. Although in a less direct fashion that is what the Lord did when he came that afternoon calling for Adam and Eve after they had eaten the forbidden fruit. And more directly, that is what he did in Genesis 11, verses five and seven. The Lord came down to check on the people Babel before he scattered them all over the world. Again in Exodus, chapter 3, the Lord came down to save the Israelites and to bring judge upon Pharaoh and his people.
Here in chapter 18, the Lord sent his companions ahead, as he stood before Abraham to make known his intentions of destroying the twin cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. The city of Sodom became synonymous to sexual immorality, drawing particularly from chapter 19, verse 5. The NIV makes it more explicit.
In Ezekiel 16, the prophet describes Jerusalem and Samaria like Sodom and Gomorrah for their idolatry, arrogance and which despite having abundance, neglected to assist the poor and the needy. In the Jude, in the New Testament, the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are directly related to sexual immorality (v.7).
I would like to call your attention to the Lord’s inner dialogue. “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” As we can see, the Lord chose to disclose to Abraham his intentions.
When the prophet Amos was announcing God’s judgment coming upon Israel, the prophet affirmed this:
Surely the Lord God does nothing,
without revealing his secret
to his servants the prophets.
God will not do anything without announcing it in advance to his prophets or the people he uses to give his warning. In other words, God’s people are given the secrets of God’s plans for the world. Therefore, Yahweh informed Abraham what his plans were regarding his visitation to Sodom and Gomorrah. We can assume Abraham knew of terrible things done in Sodom and Gomorrah. His nephew Lot and his household lived there. Abraham most likely had heard of the corruption, idolatry, injustices, and immorality that were rampant in these twin cities. But as we will see, Abraham proved to be more than a good host; he was a great intercessor.
At a first glance, the way Abraham pleaded with God to withhold his judgement might seem selfish or at least partisan. That is, that his plea was only to spare those 50, 45, 30, 20, or 10 righteous. However, Abraham plea was to save the wicked for the sake of those few righteous, even if there were only ten of them. Abraham based his supplication to God on his character, of being a God who is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Abraham’s interaction with God highlights the nature of God’s willingness to spare even the wicked. In Ezekiel, the Lord declares, ‘As certainly as I’m alive and living,’ declares the Lord God, ‘I receive no pleasure in the death of the wicked. Instead, my pleasure is that the wicked repent from their behavior and live’ (Ezekiel 33:11b). That is why God did not show the slightest resistance to Abraham’s insistent request, even when the number for those he pleaded with God dwindled dramatically. God simply accepted the request, conceding to Abraham his request.
Equally, this story nullifies the idea that God is eager to condemn and that his mercy can only be secured if we plead with God with sweat and blood. This story affirms that the God of Abraham is a God of compassion and mercy towards everyone created in his image, including the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
God only brought judgement upon these two cities after not finding 10 righteous people and only after Lot and his few relatives had been led out to safety.
The story of Abraham as an intercessor has a great lesson for us, who now are children of Abraham, through Christ. God has declared to us what his plans are for the world, through his Word. We, too, have been made privy of God’s plan for salvation and judgement. God was clear as to why he would inform Abraham. God had chosen Abraham to be a blessing to all the families of the earth. We too, have been chosen to be a blessing to the world. The first evidence in which Abraham became a blessing to the world was through his intercession for the wicked cities. Abraham became God’s agent of his grace and mercy toward those who were sunk in the worst of sin. But, for the sake of the righteous, Abraham pleaded with God to spare the wicked.
The God of Abraham is also our God. He is a God full of mercy and who does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked, but he delights when the wicked turn away from their evil ways.
Today, God is calling his people to follow on the steps of Abraham, their spiritual forefather. God is calling us to plead on behalf of the world. The people who lament and often complain about the moral decadence of our society are Christians. However, sometimes, it seems, the urgency to intercede on behalf of the world, is not at par with the accusing finger, ready to condemn both the sin and sinner. As the children of Abraham, we are called to be agents of blessing to all of the nations of the world. As a people of prayer, anointed by the Spirit of Pentecost, we are commissioned to petition the divine council on behalf of the nations, their rulers and their citizens.
Abraham was quite the opposite of the prophet Jonah. Jonah wanted God to punish the wicked Ninevites, but God reminded Jonah that he is the God who relents in bring judgement and take pleasure in showing compassion.
God has called us to be a blessing to our world and everyone included in it. So, when you see the effects of sin, when you see the embodiment of sin around you, when you witness or hear of human actions and behaviors that are abhorrent to God, instead of calling God’s judgement, call on his mercy and light to reach those hardened hearts. Plead with God as Abraham did. We, Christians, are those who should seek to preserve the world from condemnation. We are those God has called so that through prayers and intercessions we would tenaciously refuse to abandon the world to its destruction. In prayer, call for justice, in pursuit of righteousness, and in bearing of witness we stay judgment and bring blessing and divine mercy to the world. Abraham stood between God and Sodom and Gomorrah. And today, we should stand between God’s judgement and our world, through our righteous and life-giving presence within it.
May the Lord hear our prayers on behalf of our world. Amen!