Abraham, My Friend
The Making of a Praying Man_44
God loved Sodom
We know this passage so well, perhaps too well. It is an amazing record of Abrahams relationship with the God who referred to him as Abraham, My Friend. I want to challenge some assumptions about these verses. There are some who see these verses as a blueprint for answered prayer and the role of intercessor. There is much we can learn about both prayer and pray-er in these verses but they ought not to be regarded as a methodology. The passage tells us not about technique but about relationship.
Some see in this passage the eastern bazaar and its traders. In this view Abraham is haggling with God, trying to get God down to his price. Some supporters of this view have even condemned Abraham for breaking off his bartering too quickly when a little more persistence might have saved Sodom; if he had got God down to five they say Sodom might have been saved. This view conveniently omits the fact that it was God who ended this particular conversation and not Abraham; [b] And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake. And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.[/b] (Gen 18:32-33 KJV) The notion that God can be cajoled or brow-beaten tells us much more about contemporary Christianity than it does about Abraham.
That was a happy choice of word by the translators when they tell us that God [b] Yahweh went his way, as soon as he had [u]finished communing[/u] with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. [/b](Gen 18:33 WEB) This is an account of God communing with Abraham, not Abraham bartering with God. The word translated finished here is significant too; it has the sense of something accomplished. The purpose of Gods communing with Abraham was accomplished; Gods purposes were achieved. Abrahams prayer was no failure; the will of God was achieved. This, surely, is the purpose of all prayer.
Lets remove the concept of haggling even more thoroughly. Abraham is in the presence of God. Before God Abraham lies prostrate or stands in readiness to serve. This is no bustling merchant set on getting a bargain. And this Abraham is the Friend of God. We dont [i]bargain[/i] with our God or our Friends. The story of Abraham has led up to this point. I wont rehearse the previous 43 devotionals but they are very relevant. This is not the man who was born in Ur. Oswald Chambers often quoted snippets of a Tennyson poem;
[i] Life is not as idle ore,
But iron dug from central gloom,
And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
And batter'd with the shocks of doom,
To shape and use..[/i]
It is the figure of the blacksmith; Battering said Chambers, conveys the idea of a blacksmith putting good metal into right useful shape. The batterings of God come in commonplace days and commonplace ways, God is using the anvil to bring us into the shape of the vision. Abrahams life had been on the anvil for more than a quarter of a century when we arrive at Chapter 18. This is not a man to bargain with God. We have traced Abraham through many of his shocks of doom but now we are coming to shape and use. We have seen his devotion and sacrifice, his faith and abandonment, now God will begin to use him. What a privilege to be used by God. Dont despise the batterings; they are all part of His preparations. This is the man that God knows may be safely taken into His confidence; Gods Privy Counsellor.
God is omniscient; having all knowledge. Why then would He say; [b]
Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous; I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know. [/b]
(Gen 18:20-21 KJV)? We know so little about angels and their work but there is a consistent theme in the scriptures that they are recorders of events. It seems they have a limited authority of judgment and action. Here are a couple of examples of individuals who came under angelic judgments;
1. [b] This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. [/b](Dan 4:17 KJV)
2. [b] And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them. And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost. [/b](Act 12:21-23 KJV)
Both Nebuchadnezzar and Herod received a summary judgment and the angels were judge, jury and executioners. Sometimes, however, it seems their evidence is presented to God Himself. God does not visit Sodom and Gomorrah because He is in need of information but as due process of law. Why would God do such a thing? To whom is He accountable that justice should not only be done but be seen to be done? Only to Himself, but Gods rule is not arbitrary or capricious. [b]Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?[/b] asked Abraham, right on cue.
God is constantly in court as the accused. It is part of Pauls purpose in Romans to bring a verdict of not guilty for God Himself. [b] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: [u]that he might be just[/u], and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [/b](Rom 3:26 KJV) Paul is aware that what he is saying may lay God open to a charge of being unjust and he is as anxious to justify God as he is to show how God justifies the ungodly. Gods honour was of essential importance to what Paul called my gospel.
In the final Assize it will be seen that all Gods dealing with His universe have been utterly righteous. Every cry of unfair will be silenced. Gods charge against His creation will be utterly proven; [b] Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. [/b](Rom 3:19 KJV) In that day God will have no more accusers, every mouth will be stopped. Not, I think, out of fear but because Gods case will be carried and mankind will acknowledge that it never had excuse or defense.
At that day we shall give our own account; [b So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. [/b](Rom 14:12 KJV) Is that the day when we shall judge angels? God rules in righteousness, always has and always will. [b] But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. [/b](Heb 1:8-9 KJV) As the psalmist said; [/b]
for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity. [/b](Psa 98:9 KJV) God Himself then must do all that He does righteously; He cannot behave inconsistently with His character.
So He sends his two witnesses to Sodom and Gomorrah now; this is the due process for Gods policing of His universe. The cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great. There are mysterious things here that we can only grasp faintly. The very first thing that we are told about blood in the scriptures is that is cries; [b] And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand; [/b](Gen 4:10-11 KJV) The stain is indelible and the cry cannot be silenced. The cry of the blood must result in Gods righteous judgment sooner or later. We were placed as guardians of our planet and our deeds are written into its fabric.
[b]their sin is very grevious[/b] (Gen 18:20 KJV) says the Lord. grevious is heavy. One day He would carry them all in his body on the tree but all sin is heavy on the Lords heart. Some relish the thought of God on the rampage; giving Sodom and Gomorrah what they deserve. This is mans view of sin, not Gods. Listen to the note that Ezekiel heard in Gods voice; [b] Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel? [/b] (Eze 33:11 KJV) There is a story told of Horatio Bonar talking to his friend Robert Murray MCheyne. What text did you preach on? said MCheyne. The wicked shall be turned into hell
(Psa 9:17a KJV) replied Bonar. and did you preach it with tears? asked MCheyne. Dr R W Dale once told Campbell Morgan that he had known one man who, he felt, had perfect right to talk about Hell, and that man was D L Moody. He stated that the reason he so felt was that he never heard Moody refer to Hell without tears in his voice. Isaiah spoke of Gods impending judgments and called them Gods strange work; [b] For the LORD shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. [/b] (Isa 28:21 KJV) God does not rush to judgment; neither do his Friends.
Listen to the tears in Gods voice; [b] And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. [/b](Gen 6:6 KJV) The word grieved means to pierce or carve. [b] it cut Him to the heart[/b] If we cannot feel like this about the sinner and his sin we cannot speak for God. If we cannot grieve for Sodom and Gomorrah we cannot pray as Abraham prayed. Lets leave our devotion at this point. God grieving, the witnesses on their way to Sodom and Gomorrah,.and Abraham, the Friend of God, still standing before his Lord.