EPIC: Our Legendary, Colossal, Ancient, Ongoing Story of Faith
The Prayer of the Promise
June 11, 2017 | Genesis 18Topic:
I’ve got my Bible open to Genesis chapter 18. How many of you brought a Bible to church this morning? For those of you that don’t know, it’s highly recommended that you bring a Bible to Harvest BIBLE Chapel. And we study it every week. Last week we started this brand-new series called Epic. We’re going to march through the epic, legendary, colossal, ancient ongoing story of our faith—specifically targeting some of the most well-known stories in the Old Testament.
And last week, we began learning about this very key figure in the Bible. What was his name? Hmmm! We have to start over! What was his name? Abraham! In Genesis chapter 12, God kind of interrupted his life and said, “You’re gonna go somewhere; I’ll show you later. Just go! And, uh, you’re going to become a great nation.”
And he said, “How’s that gonna to happen?” [God]: “I’ll show you later; just trust Me!” And so, Abraham believed God—believed the promise that was made—and it was counted to him as righteousness. Abraham was not righteous, but he was treated as he—as if he was righteous because he believed the promise. And so, that starts this whole epic story.
And what we learned last week, just by way of review, is this: that the Bible only has one epic story. You understand that? It is a meta-narrative; it’s only one story. And what is it? It’s the gospel! And then we also learned that every epic story in the Bible is telling the story of who? Jesus! Every place we look in the Bible, on every page of the Bible, we find the story of Jesus. And so, we’re not just reading the story of Abraham. We’re reading the story—the unfolding revelation of God—through His Son Jesus Christ—who was the Promised One who came through the bloodline of Abraham.
So, with all of that as background, we’ve got our Bibles opened to Genesis chapter 18. Today we’re going to see four key characters in this story as it unfolds before us. We’re going to see: A Just Judge, we’re going to see Citizens of Sodom, we’re going to see A Pleading Priest, and then one more, that will surprise you at the end.
And so, we’re going to begin reading here in Genesis 18, beginning in verse 1 [ESV]. It says this: “And the Lord appeared to him…” appeared to Abraham. By the way, there are twelve different appearances of God to Abraham, as God continues to confirm the promise. He unfolds a little bit more detail every time He appears to him.
And so, 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. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. [And] he saw them, [and] he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth and said, ‘O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass [me by].’”
A couple of things that we need to understand about this. This was a gracious revelation of God to a man named Abraham. And every time God humbles Himself even to have a conversation with one of His creations, it is an act of His grace. It reveals how much He wants relationship with those that He’s created. And, by the way, He still does that! Now, maybe He’s not going to appear to you at the door of your tent, but He is still in the process of revealing Himself through His Word, through the Spirit—and I have prayed that He would even do that for you and me today. That the Lord would appear, that the Lord would speak—He would call. And, listen, if He does, you have to respond!
Abraham had a choice when these three men appeared. He could either run from them or he could run to them. Some people, when they hear the call of God, you know what they do? They run away, because they don’t want to be confronted with this God who is not like them—is going to make some demands on their life. Abraham ran to them.
Now it says there were three men. We’re going to find out something later Abraham didn’t know at this point, but these were not just ordinary men. These were—these were spiritual beings. One of them we learn, is actually the Lord Himself. This is what theologians call a Christophany – Jesus Christ Himself in the Old Testament, appearing, having a conversation with Abraham. So, it’s Jesus, and two angels with Him, and they are on a mission.
Now, let me just kind of tell you. I’m going to summarize the first half of this chapter, here. They’re going to reconfirm the promise that was made to Abraham. Do you remember the promise? He said, “You’re going to be a great nation. You’re going to be blessed…” That was news, because up until that point he had been cursed. God’s going to reverse the curse and bless Abraham, even though he’s not worthy of the blessing, and then He’s going to bless others through Abraham’s offspring. Which we’re going to find out later great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great and on and on and on—son, Jesus, is going to come through the bloodline of Abraham. And that’s how all of us get blessed through Abraham. Well, Abraham doesn’t know all of that at this point. We know it, because we’ve got the rest of the book, right? But we’re only, like, eighteen chapters into the book.
And so, Abraham is learning this, and it comes down to-uh-whether or not they believed the promise. Now, Abraham had a wife. What was her name, remember? Sarah. And how old were these people? Old people, right! Old, old – yeah! You say that cause they’re older than you! If they’re younger than you, it’s like, “Awww, they’re younger—they’re eighty-five; I’m eighty-six! You’re young!” You know? So, anyway, these people are getting old, and we know that Sarah is past her prime. How in the world is God going to get a baby to the world through Sarah? Well, God promises.
Sarah’s listening to this conversation, and in verse 12 she hears that she’s going to have a baby? In about a year? And look at what she does in verse 12: “So Sarah laughed to herself…” Have you ever laughed at God? God does something and you’re like, “Hah, hah…yah, hah…no, ho, ho!” [God:] U-huh! “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’”
Then look at verse 14; the Lord speaks and says, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Now, I don’t know what you went through this week; I don’t know what you brought in here. It is very possible that that is the word you needed to hear today. Maybe you have some barrenness in your own life. Maybe there is a barrenness of health, or a barrenness of financial resources, or a barrenness in your relationship with your spouse, and you are empty and depleted. And it looks like not even God could turn this around.
Here’s what you need to hear today: “Is there anything too hard for the Lord?” And, by the way, if you didn’t know the answer to that question already, let me just supply it: “No! Nothing that you are facing is too hard for the Lord!” Things you call impossible, God calls easy. He doesn’t even break a sweat.
Yesterday, I had this incredible experience to go about three hours north to Camp Harvest where, as you’ve heard, our men have been leading up to this Act Like Men Palooza, okay? So, fourteen-hundred men descended on this spot! And I’m telling you, there was testosterone leaking out everywhere! It was actually incredible! Friday, Saturday they’re there. Forty of our men are there today, along with fourteen-hundred men from our Harvest Bible Chapels collectively. And it was a great time of worship, and in the Word, and fellowship.
But there’s a lot of competition that goes on as well. And so, yesterday was kind of this day of competition, and it was interesting. There were two men that stood out among the fourteen-hundred men. Number one was Steve Shunkwiler, from our church. Steve Shunkwiler was the MVP of Act Like Men. If you don’t know Steve – Steve is from the woods! And you put a man from the woods in the woods—and he is in his environment. And he dominated!
There was a particular competition where there were six tribes, with about two-hundred-and fifty men, and they’re all competing against each other. And so, Steve, as a part of our tribe—the Wolves—he got up there. And so they put watermelon—six watermelons—out in front of these guys, and put a javelin in their hand. And the goal was to hit the watermelon. Six javelins went out; one hit its target: Steve! Steve jumps off the platform, raises his hand in victory, picks up the watermelon, throws it up in the air, grabs his machete, and slices it in midair! Who knew he was a fruit Ninja? I’ve only done that on Nintendo Wii, you know? But, man, it was like…and these fourteen-hundred men…rah! Incredible!
Now, I mentioned there was two men. There was one other man there that got everybody’s attention. He was a slight man; a-hundred-and-fifty, hundred-and-sixty pounds, thin build. But he was dominating everything! And it was almost like he had this supernatural power. It was like, “How is so much power coming out of this little guy?” And what was amazing was that he looked like Jesus!
I mean, I don’t know what Jesus. We don’t have Polaroids of Jesus. But he had like long hair and this awesome beard and he…So, they had this water mountain thing, and they put that out there, and it was like King of the Mountain competition. And so, you know, “Jesus” swims out there, climbs on top of the mountain—people are trying to knock “Jesus” off the mountain. He’s king of the mountain! He’s throwing guys into the water and everything. It’s like, “Man, who is this guy?”
And then–so he’s dominating–and then, finally, one of the last competitions was the power lift, okay? So, think of bar—this huge bar. Five-hundred-and-fifty pounds of barbells on each side. And so these big meat-head guys, you know—aarrgghh!—they have no neck, you know, and they’re walking up there and they’re like, “arrgh, mmmeeh, eeeh, pphhf!”—and they drop it. And we look in the line, and guess who’s in line? “Jesus” is in line! We’re all looking at it, like, “No-o-o, that’s not gonna happen!”
And so, sure enough, he walks up to this thing and he looks at it. Everybody’s watching this guy, and there’s this silence that goes over the crowd of these fourteen-hundred men. And from the back of the crowd you hear this: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Whiff. Swoosh. Picks the thing up. throws it down! Not knowing that that was going to be in my text this morning! Listen! I don’t know what you’re going through, but there is nothing too hard for the Lord!
And so, the story turns. Finally we get to verse 16 and we meet:
- The Just Judge
And so, I want you to notice here, it says: “Then [these] men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom.”
Now, the topography very much explains that. Again, I was there just a couple of months ago, and Sodom sits in the southern part of the Dead Sea—one of the lowest places on earth. And so, everywhere you would look, you would have to look down toward Sodom. “And Abraham went with them. . .[and] set them on their way.” So these three men are going down to Sodom.
Verse 17: “The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…’” And so, it’s almost like He’s having a conversation with Himself. “Should I disclose what’s going to happen to Sodom…” And, by the way, just fast-forward a little bit (spoiler alert, spoiler alert!) if you don’t know the story, if you read into verse 19, you find out very quickly that the people in Sodom are very far from God, and they are very far from godly. And so, God is about to send judgment and rain down fire and brimstone on these wicked people in Sodom.
And so the story continues in verse 18. “…Seeing…Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him.” Remember, that’s part of the promise. Verse 19: “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…”
Now, remember, not only was Sarah unable to do children, Abraham was unable to do righteousness and justice. There was barrenness of children, but there was also barrenness of righteousness. That’s why God had to do for him and in him something he couldn’t do for himself—namely, righteousness and justice. And He goes on. It says, “…so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” He’s going to fulfill the promise!
Then, verse 20: “Then the Lord said, “Because [of] the outcry…” Underline that word. “…Because [of] 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.” A couple of principles here: First of all, God knows what’s going on in every life and in every community. You may think you can hide from God the things that you’re not proud of, and maybe you want to get away with some things. Listen, He knows, and He tells us that. And He’s going to come down to our lives, just like He went down to Sodom, to examine what’s really going on.
And the other thing that we need to understand here is: There is an outcry against outrageous wickedness! Now, the question is this: What did God hear in the outcry? Whose voice was crying out in Sodom? If the whole place was wicked, who is in there who’s giving the outcry that’s reaching the ear of God? We’re not exactly sure. It could be just be a general outcry that there was injustice and oppression going on; people were being victimized there; people were being taken advantage of. We know that, again, because of what we read later about Sodom. But I believe there is one particular voice that God heard—and it was the man, Lot.
Do you remember Lot? Lot, in this story, is the nephew of Abraham. How many of you have a nephew? Okay. And Lot’s father had died. It was almost as if Abraham had brought him into the family and he was treated as a son. We’re told in the book of Genesis there was a point at which Abraham and Lot divided, and Lot went toward Sodom. His kind of weekend in Las Vegas, if you know what I mean. He’s like, “Hey there’s action there, there’s fun there, there’s partying!” And so, he had an appetite for those things and he parked himself in the middle of all this wickedness. . .even though, the New Testament tells us—unbelievably!—Lot was a righteous man. Somehow he was in favor with God. But at this point, he was backslidden very far from God. He had a “relative righteousness,” we might say.
And we read over in the New Testament, in 2 Peter chapter 2[:7-8] this statement, “…Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard…” So maybe it was Lot whose soul was being tormented by what he was seeing around him, and the outcry was going up to God, and God heard the outcry, and God was going to examine the situation and God was going to act in justice and in judgment toward sin.
Make no mistake, folks. Despite what you have heard, God is still serious about sin! And God still judges sin, and God still knows about the sin in our lives. Do you know that this truth is something that keeps people from receiving the grace and the love of God? They cannot imagine, and you, if you’re a thinking person, have had to think through this situation: How can a gracious loving God exercise judgment on people and annihilate them in His judgment? How can a gracious and good God send people to eternal, conscious torment in hell? You’ve got to ask that question!
But, here’s even a better question: How can a just God show grace and love and mercy on people who are only worthy of His judgment? Those are questions that we have trouble answering. If you understand this story, God is about to commit genocide on these people. And what we have to understand is this truth: We must, as His people…the creation cannot stand in judgment toward the Creator. He is the Judge and we have to accept His judgment. And so, we have to accept His verdict. What we want to do is, we want to play the role of judge. We want to be judge. We will not allow God to be judge—and that is a wrestling in our human nature. We want to set our self up as God; we even want to judge God.
Earlier this week, there was a conversation that took place in the United States Senate. There was a man named Russell Vought who had been nominated as a potential deputy White House budget director. And so, you have to go through Senate confirmation hearings, and you’re kind of brought before some people that ask you some tough questions. Well, this man, Russell Vought, is a believer in Jesus Christ. He’s an unapologetic, bold Christian.
He graduated from Wheaton University. He had written some articles, some theological articles, actually defending a statement of faith that Wheaton has about the centrality of Christ and the nature of salvation. And so, he had published these articles. Well, now, here he is before the Senate confirmation hearings, and those articles come back up before, none other than, Senator Bernie Sanders.
How do you think that conversation went? Watch this:
[Video clip plays; Senator Bernie Sanders speaks:] “In the piece that I refer to, that you wrote for a publication called Resurgent, you wrote, Muslim…quote, ‘Muslims do not simply have a deficient theology. They do not know God because they have rejected Jesus Christ His Son, and they stand condemned.’ End of quote. Do you believe—do you believe that that statement is islamophobic?”
[Russell Vaught:] “Absolutely not, Senator! I’m a Christian, and I believe in a Christian set of principles based on my faith. That post, as I stated in the questionnaire to this committee, was to defend my alma mater, Wheaton College, a Christian school that has a statement of faith that includes the centrality of Jesus Christ for salvation and…” [Senator Sanders:] “Again, I apologize—I do; forgive me—I, we just don’t have a lot of time. Do you believe that people in the Muslim religion stand condemned? Is that your view?”
[Russell Vaught]: “Again, Senator, I’m a Christian and I wrote that piece…”
[Senator Sanders]: “Well, what does that say…”
[Russell Vaught:] “…statement of faith of Wheaton College…”
[Senator Sanders:] “I understand that! I don’t know how many Muslims there are in America—I really don’t know—probably a couple of million. Are you suggesting that all of those people stand condemned? What about Jews? Do they stand condemned, too?” [Russell Vaught]: “Senator, I’m a Christian, I…”
[Senator Sanders:] “I understand you are a Christian! But this country is made up of people who are not just like…I understand that Christianity is the majority religion. But there are other people of different religions in this country and around the world. In your judgment, do you think that people who are not Christians are going to be condemned?”
[Russell Vaught:] “Thank you for probing on that question. As a Christian, I believe that all individuals are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and respect, regardless of their religious beliefs. I believe that, that, as a Christian, that’s how I should treat all individuals…”
[Senator Sanders:] “And do you think your statement that you put into that publication: ‘They do not know God because they’ve rejected Jesus Christ the Son, and they stand condemned.’ Do you think that’s respectful of other religions?” [Russell Vaught:] “Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly with regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ and salvation.”
[Senator Sanders:] “I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who is what this country is supposed…” [End of video clip.]
Now, I don’t show that for any political purpose. I show it to show you how much trouble people have wrapping their mind around the concept of how a gracious, loving God could act in justice and righteousness toward sinful people like you and I.
Now, listen. The grace and the mercy of God has no meaning apart from the justice and the righteousness of God. And what Senator Sanders, apparently, is unaware of–two things: Number one, the Constitution of the United States, which doesn’t allow you to apply a religious test to someone seeking public office (he needs to be informed about that).
But, secondly, about the gospel of Jesus Christ—in understanding that what every Christian believes (if they believe the Bible) is this statement found, not illustrated here in Genesis 18, but found explicitly over in Romans chapter 5: “…one trespass led to condemnation for all men…”—black men, white men, women, rich men, poor men, old men, young men–men that put the label of “Muslim” on themselves. Men that put the label of “Christian” on them. We all stand before the just judge, condemned! That is the foundation of the gospel. The question is, is there anything that can be done to divert the judgment and the condemnation of God? And that is the question that Abraham is about to wrestle with.
We’ve met the Just Judge; let me introduce you to:
- The Citizens of Sodom
Look here in verse 20. It says: “The Lord said, ‘Because [of] the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah…[it’s very] great and their sin is very grave…” Now, if you know anything about Sodom…if I asked you, “What was the sin of Sodom? What was that sin that brought the judgment of God?” What sin are you thinking of right now? You’re probably thinking of the sin of sexual deviance. Unbridled sexuality is the sin of…We have laws in America that are named after the sin of Sodom. “Sodomy” – heard of that? It all came right out of here [probably he gestures to his Bible], and that’s what you would think of.
But, do you know what the Bible says the sin of Sodom is? It may be different than what you think. As a matter of fact, we need to understand in Ezekiel chapter 16: “This was the guilt of your sister Sodom…” Listen! [She has] “…and her daughters [she] had pride, excess of food…prosperous ease…[and] did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me.” Now listen, the abomination of sexual sin was the last in a string of sins that started with the sin of:
Pride is declaring your independence from God: ‘I don’t need You! I’m better than that; I’m doing just fine.” It’s thinking more highly of yourself than God knows you to be. That’s the first sin that invites the judgment of God.
The second is listed as:
- Excess of food
an abundance of food, so that you don’t sense your hunger. You don’t sense your physical hunger; you don’t sense your spiritual hunger—because you’ve got more than you need.
The third sin is something called:
- Prosperous ease
I like the way the King James translates that; it’s called “the abundance of idleness.” They were lazy! They didn’t get out of bed; they didn’t pursue anything; they didn’t have any ambition. They had a sense of entitlement, because they were so saturated with stuff!
And they didn’t even have compassion on the poor and the needy!
- Did not aid the poor and needy
They were overfed, underworked and unconcerned.
Now, let me ask you a question: Does that sound like any nation you know anything about? Do you understand…You and I are citizens of Sodom, and we deserve nothing less than the judgment that fell of Sodom? Do you feel the weight of living in a land that is overfed, underworked, unconcerned—and uninterested in the judgment that God is about to send? We need to feel that weight! We need to turn from that sin!
And, listen, if you’re unconcerned—even in hearing that warning—that’s the problem! We’re:
Haughtiness is layers and layers and layers of pride, so that our hearts are calloused when God does send the conviction. We need to understand; we’ve got to turn or we’re gonna face the same judgment of God!
Here’s the third character in the story:
- A Pleading Priest
A pleading priest. Now, when I say the word “priest,” some of you may get in your mind a Roman Catholic priest. That’s not the image that we’re looking for here. A priest is a man, or is a mediator, between a just Judge and a sinful man. A priest is a bridge between the two.
A priest is someone who is on good terms with both sides and is willing to try to negotiate reconciliation through the pleading of the case—like someone would in a courtroom. A defense attorney, trying to reconcile two parties together. And that’s the image we get of Abraham as we read the rest of the story.
Notice, beginning in verse 22: “So the men turned from there [these three men; they turned from Abraham] and [they] went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.” So, two of the men depart and Abraham is left alone with God. God intentionally chooses to stay behind. It’s almost like He’s inviting a conversation, almost as if He’s saying, “Abraham, now that you know what’s about to happen to Sodom, do you care? Do you want to get involved? Do you have anything to say? Would like to offer any recommendations?”
And he had a choice. Abraham could either adopt the position of judge and say, “You know God, I was kind of waiting when they would kind of get wiped out. They’re kinda my enemies—I’m a little afraid; they could attack me at any moment. I am so glad. I’ll stand back and applaud, ‘Go, God!’” Or, he could adopt the position of a priest. And that’s what he does.
Look at verse 23: “[And] Abraham drew near…” Do you see those two words? Another translation said, “Abraham approached.” It was a very intentional act. Almost as a legal setting, as a defense attorney would say, “May I approach the bench?” And he’s welcomed into God’s presence.
“Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?…Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city.’” Interesting. It’s like, “Let’s just assume for a moment that we could find fifty righteous citizens of Sodom. Just, let’s let that be the presupposition—let’s assume that. I’m not sure it’s true, but let’s assume.” Then he says, “Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty 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…” Do you see the little word “as” in verse 25?—very important word; underline that word. “…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?” And he’s not asking that as a question as whether or not He will (because it’s assumed God is going to be a just Judge). He presents his case.
Now notice what he’s saying. He realizes (the wheels are turning in his head, and he realizes) if something doesn’t happen, the righteous are going to be treated as if they were wicked. They’re going to die, even though they’re not guilty, because they’ll be treated “as the wicked”—assuming there are righteous in the city.
Do you know what Abraham does? He begins to reverse the logic, and he begins to wonder, “I wonder if God would treat the wicked in that city as the righteous?” And he begins to haggle with God the way you haggle at a yard sale. He first of all offers the price of fifty men, and notice God’s response to that request (verse 26): “And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake[!]’” God responds with more than he asked. Abraham was simply asking for the fifty to get out of there so God could judge the wicked. But do you know what God says? “I’ll do more than that! If I find fifty righteous men, I’ll spare the whole place!” He promises to treat the wicked as if they were righteous—if He could only find fifty men!
This pleading priest has a prayer that we can learn from. There’s something going on here. Certainly we can learn to pray for the Sodomites around us and the Sodomite within us—that God would somehow have mercy on us. That’s a position that we can adopt because we now understand that God is a just Judge, but He’s a gracious Judge, and there’s a way that the wicked can be made right. We can adopt that.
But, here’s the best thing we can learn from this. Don’t miss the principle! This verse is the introduction of the most epic doctrine in the Bible! Theologians call it the “doctrine of imputation”—that God would credit righteousness to wicked men, and that God would credit the wickedness of men to One Righteous Man. It unfolds in the New Testament. It’s introduced here, and Abraham is beginning to discover something about the nature and the character of God. And so, he begins to haggle.
I want you to look at verse 27: “Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you [indeed] destroy the whole city for [the] lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five [righteous men] …’” He goes a little further. Verse 29: “Again he spoke to him and said, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’” Verse 30, “He said, ‘Oh let not the Lord be angry…I will speak. Suppose thirty are found…’ [And] He answered, ‘I will not…[destroy] it…[for the sake of thirty].’
He’s like, “I like the direction this is going! We’re on a roll!” So he goes further. Verse 31: “He said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ [And the Lord] answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’” Verse 32, “Then he said, ‘Oh let…the Lord [not] be angry…I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.’ [And] He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’”
Now, let me ask you a question: What do you think the next verse would say? Don’t you imagine this thing would go, “What about nine? Eight? Seven, six, five, four, three, two? One! God, what if we could find one righteous man? Would you treat the wicked as if they were as righteous as that one man?” But that’s not the way it goes. Verse 33 kind of changes the plot: “And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.” The bargaining’s ended. Why?
I believe it was because both the Lord and Abraham knew there wasn’t one righteous man. And that’s why the last point is:
- The Missing Man
But where is this one righteous man? When does he show up in the story? He doesn’t show up in Genesis 18, but He’s already been promised! He is going to be the one that is going to come through the line—the bloodline—of Abraham and Sarah!
Sarah laughed at the thought that there could be a man that would come through her, because she was barren. Sodom was barren of righteousness, and yet—is there anything too hard for the Lord? There’s going to be one righteous man, that’s going to show up later. And the great news for you and me is this: We see Him! We know His Name! And we can see Him in our place.
We read about Him again over in Romans chapter 5. It says, “For if, because of one man’s trespass [that one man was Adam—Genesis chapters 1, 2, 3—he trespassed, he sinned against God, and he brought death] death reigned through that one man [Adam], much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of [what?] righteousness…” There was no righteousness in Sodom. But God gives a free gift of righteousness so that it can “…reign in life through the [what?] one [righteous] man Jesus Christ.”
And we referred to this verse earlier, where we were talking about Senator Sanders. “Therefore, as one [through one man’s] trespass led to condemnation for all men, [here’s the second half of the verse] so [that] one act of righteousness…” What was that? As Jesus crawled on that cross, God the Father treated Jesus as if He had committed the sin of Sodom: pride, arrogance, haughtiness, fullness of bread, abundance of idleness. God treated Jesus as if He had committed the sin of Sodom so that He could treat those of us who still live in Sodom as if we were as righteous as that one man!
So, “. . .one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men…”—all who will repent and believe, no matter whether they’re black, they’re white, they’re rich, they’re poor, they’re young, they’re old, they’re Muslim, they’re Baptist, they’re Harvest. It doesn’t matter! God provided one act of righteousness for the sin of all, and we’re introduced to it way back in the epic story of Genesis chapter 1.
Can I ask you a question? Have you been counted righteous in Christ because you believe it, or are you still trying to obtain your own righteousness? Are you still trying to work your way to Heaven? It’s impossible! We’re all under condemnation from a Just Judge. Our only hope is that He would provide a Mediator between a just God and a sinful man—and that we, in right relationship with this Mediator, this Pleading Priest, Jesus Christ—Who ever lives to make intercession for us – that we can now be made right—not because we are right, but He is right. Because God would treat the wicked as if they were righteous, because He treated the Righteous as if He was wicked. That’s the gospel! And that is the only hope for any of us, but it’s a sufficient hope!
Is the Lord calling you? Have you welcomed Him; have you received Him? Has He pointed out to you your sin and your independence—how far you are from God? What are you going to do with that? Have you turned from that sin? Are you willing to admit today that your righteousness is not sufficient to be made right with God?
For those of you that know that story and have heard that concept—that’s not a new concept—are you living as a pleading priest, to get that news to those who still live in Sodom? That’s the only purpose you are here! And are you applying that truth every day to your own life?
There may be some of you here today, that is a brand-new concept. And you thought, “Man, I thought to get to Heaven you just had to be good! I know that I’m not that good, but I’m better than most!” No. You’re not as good as you need to be and you never will be. There wasn’t a good man found in Sodom; there’s not a good man found here today. There’s only One who ever lived that life. His Name was Jesus. And if you’ll trust Him, God will count your trust as righteousness—His righteousness credited to your account; your sin credited to His account. That’s the gospel, and until you believe it, we all stand condemned before a Just Judge.
Let me ask you to bow your heads, close your eyes. And in this moment, is there a spark of faith? Is there a spark of belief? Have you heard the Lord calling? You’re not a Christian until you respond in faith, and that so changes and transforms your thinking that you want to get out of Sodom! You ready to get out of that? You ready to turn, repent?
You can do that today. Why don’t you open up your heart to Him and say, “Lord, I am not good enough! Thank You that You came and pleaded my case before the Judge! Thank You that, in spite of my sinfulness, You came and lived a life I could never live! God, would you make that a reality in me today?”
And so, if you’ve done that today, there’s pastors here at the end. There’s pastors here at the end of this service, and if you—at the end of this service—would like to come forward and share with one of them what God’s doing in your heart, it would be a great opportunity to take a step out of Sodom, lean into the Lord.
Father, I pray that today, with fresh eyes, we would see Your grace, Your forgiveness, Your offer of salvation in the light of knowing we deserve Your justice, Your judgment. And, God, would you have grace and mercy and favor upon us that so often have forgotten You, have ignored You? We’ve gotten enamored with other things—the abundance of so much. God, turn our hearts toward You again today, grant faith to those that would believe and repent of sin. We pray in Jesus’ Name, amen.