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Will the Lord Do Right?

Date: May. 27, 2018

Author: Bob Henkins

Genesis 18:16-33

Key Verse: Genesis 18:25

Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

How many of you remember this, on June 17th, the 1994 NBA Finals were interrupted to bring you live coverage of the LA police engaged in a low speed chase involving a 1993 white Ford Bronco? This event was seen by an estimated audience of 95 million people. The pursuit, arrest, and trial of O.J. Simpson were among the most widely publicized events in American history. Then on October 3, 1995, O.J. Simpson was announced “Not Guilty” of the murder of Nicole Simpson & Ron Goldman. This verdict caused a huge stir as many people debated the validity of verdict given all the evidence presented. Public opinion on this case has been widely split, some thought justice had been served while others think it was a travesty. At the time of the trial, 22% of African Americans thought Simpson was guilty compared to 63% of white Americans. However, twenty years later those numbers have risen to 57% and 83% respectively.

You are probably wondering why I this brought up. [you might think it’s because this trial gave national exposure to defense attorney Robert Kardashian which eventually would unleash the Kardashian family on American society, which I think is an unfortunate outcome, but that’s not it.] The reason I brought this up is because as I was preparing this message, I was drawn to the idea of justice, and doing right or wrong. And it gave rise to the question of “Does God judge, or do right?” If God is all powerful, and he is the only judge (and it is said that power corrupts, and ultimate power corrupts absolutely), does God do right?

Have you ever questioned if what God does is right? Many times, in the comment section of articles, I’ve come across people who say something like, “How could you follow a God that let’s evil exist in the world?” or “How can you believe in a God that would allow something bad to happen to good people?” (Especially with all the shootings and things we’ve seen in the news) Have you ever thought about a question similar to one of those? In our passage this morning Abraham finds himself in a similar situation. If you remember from the passage last week, Abraham was relaxing in front of his tent when suddenly he noticed three men standing nearby. He jumped up and began to wait on them hand and foot serving them with fresh baked bread and a juicy grilled Porterhouse steak. [just like going to Outback Steakhouse] Well in our passage this morning, Abraham is finishing up taking care of his guests when he finds out some very bad news that might have him questioning if what God does is right. So, let’s do a little trial of our own and see if we can determine if what God does is right. [let’s pray]

Our passage starts out this morning in verses 16-19, let’s take a look at them. “16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”” As the men finished their meal they got up and were going to head out to take care of the task they came for. As they shrugged off the food coma after a good meal, they looked down toward Sodom. Abraham’s tent was located in the hills of Mamre which overlooked the Dead Sea valley, where Sodom was located. Sodom was their destination and they could see it in the distance in all it’s worldly glory, maybe resembling Las Vegas a little bit. And Abraham being the good host was seeing them on their way.

As they were walking along, there seems to be a discussion that pops up revealing the identity of the men. Two of them were angels and one was the Lord. And the Lord begins to speak almost as if he is thinking out loud, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” The Lord’s visit wasn’t just for fellowship after all. He has something much more serious in mind. I find it interesting that God was pondering that question. And who was God actually talking too? And since Abraham is right there walking along with him, I wonder if he could hear what’s being said? This is the first incident that we can see God doing what is right by the way he deals with Abraham. I think this whole passage is recorded here for our purpose so that we can be blessed by it. We can see God’s thought process because it is written down for us.

God had chosen Abraham to be the one to instruct his children and household in how to do what is right and just but he had to be taught how to do it first before he could teach others. And that’s what God is doing here, he’s teaching Abraham about right and wrong, justice and mercy. Abraham first had to understand the judgments of God in the world, in order to understand God’s redemption. For the judgment cannot be understood without the redemption, nor the redemption without the judgment. They have to go together. If you remember 3 chapters earlier God had told Abraham that "the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure" (15:16), so God wasn't ready to punish the Amorites at this time. But now, the sins of Sodom have indeed reached the point where a righteous God must punish them. Throughout the ages God has shown mercy to peoples that have sinned (Exodus 34:6-7; Lamentations 3:22; Jonah 4:2; Romans 2:4; 3:25; 9:22; 1 Timothy 1:16). If God destroyed us at the moment we sinned, who would remain? (Psalm 130:3-4). But God is merciful, giving us a chance to repent. Nevertheless, God revealed to Abraham that Sodom's days were numbered. The Bible says that there is a time for everything and the time had come for God’s judgment to fall.

Why was God’s judgment falling, it was because there was an out cry against Sodom. Let’s take a look at verses 20-21. “20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”” In this we see more evidence that God does what is right in the way that he handles Sodom. God said that he heard the outcry, which means someone cried out to God for help. God hears the cries of his people. God heard when his people cried out while they were slaves in Egypt (ex 3) God heard his people’s cry when they were trapped at the Red Sea (Neh 9:9) so he went to see what was going on. God does what is right because he does not act on the outcry alone or on basis of mere complaints, rather gathers the evidence. When God said “I will go down and see” (v. 21) it is reminiscent of when he went to see about the Tower of Babel. In each case their wicked actions prompted divine investigation. Also, we should understand that it wasn’t as if God didn’t know what was going on, he knew exactly what was going on, but again I think this is recorded for us so that we could see how God works and evaluates each situation.

I think the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah presented here were just the tip of the iceberg, but they were however, a gage of what the society had become. This was almost like an overflow of sin, for it was one thing to run after what is natural, but they were running after that which was unnatural, thus revealing how depraved their society had become. Not only that, usually people will try to hide their deepest darkest sins, but they didn’t try to hide it. Rather, they did it in the open and aggressively which confirmed that the outcry was valid and substantial. Now some people might think that God is harsh and critical and likes to condemn but that is far from the case. The prophet Ezekiel had personal insight into the heart of God and he relayed a message from God, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, people of Israel?’” (Ezek 33:11 ) God would prefer it if no one was punished, as a parent, I too would prefer it if I didn’t have to punish my kids, but I can’t let them continue to do wrong that doesn’t help them.

Take a look at verse 22. “22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.” Through this verse we see how Abraham remained in front of God as an intercessor for the people of Sodom. Abraham was even so bold as to negotiate with God for the sake of the righteous people that lived within the city. Only Abraham is bold enough to do this as he is known as the friend of God. Take a look at verses 23-32. “23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?” “If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.” 29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?” He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?” He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” 31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?” He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.” A lot of people see this scene as Abraham and God negotiating, but I see it as Abraham learning from God and how God balances mercy and justice.  While it is true God is merciful, but his mercy has a limit.

Abraham rested his argument upon the twin pillars of divine justice and divine mercy. Abraham was at a moral impasse: if the cities are destroyed, the innocent suffer, in which case the justice of God becomes suspect; or if the cities are spared, the guilty escape their just punishment, again impugning the integrity of God. His prayer, therefore, was that the mercy of God would deliver the city, to which God agrees “for the sake” of the righteous (v. 26). But was there no end to the mercy of God? Was there a point at which unlimited mercy became a shallow sentimentalism, obviating the justice of God against the wicked? Yet the issue is not one of guilt or innocence before God but ethical behavior toward others, living in accord with the “way of the LORD” (v. 19). Since the Lord himself is “righteous”, both in his person (Ps 11:7) and in his ways (Ps 145:17; Dan 9:14), it is he who can evaluate human behavior as to whether the Sodomites acted properly.

Abraham's basis to spare Sodom is his firm conviction that God is a just God and He will not allow injustice to prevail in His kingdom. He has experienced the Lord's justice in many ways and so Abraham bargains with God boldly for the lives of his relatives, Lot and his family. The Lord will allow persecution, trials and tribulations in one's life so that the particular individual may increase in his personal faith and spiritual strength. That's the stepping stone for the Christian to leap forward in faith. God is a just God and He will take care of the righteous ones according to His promises in the Bible. That's why Abraham is so caught up with saving Sodom at least for a few righteous characters, if available. God's character is just and righteous. He never allows bad things to overshadow His children. Even if He does, its only for a positive purpose of increasing their faith. So, Abraham's argument or bargaining with God perfectly gels with God's inbuilt character.

As we have seen through this passage, God isn’t irrational nor does he act on a whim or in a vacuum or out of emotion. Rather, he is merciful, patient, compassionate, fair, logical, systematic, and cares deeply about doing what is right. Simply put “The Lord is righteous in all his ways and faithful in all he does.” (Ps 145:17) And that has been his character from the very beginning, that’s what the Bible is trying to teach us. The problem is that most people have lost track of right and wrong. (“Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.” Prvb 28:5) This is not a problem that has cropped just up in our time, but it’s been around forever, even in the time of Abraham because we’ll see in the next chapter how Lot’s thought process isn’t quite right as he does some questionable things. And we find this phenomenon occurring where people take that which is evil and call it good and they take that which is good and call it evil (Isa 5:20) and it messes up society.

If you really want to see someone’s true nature, all we have to do is look at their actions, because talk is cheap and people say many things but their action reveal who they really are. [often body language reveals true view – can you do me a favor, shake head no while saying yes] And so when we take a look at the Lord’s actions, what we find over and over are acts of love. For example, when God created the world, he made it for mankind, preparing every detail so that we would be fully blessed. And when he created us, he made mankind in his image and we see Abraham reflect that when he intercedes for the people of Sodom. This interceding is not an isolated incident, we see it being done by the people of God throughout history, in Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Amos because this is God’s nature, because it’s who he is and what he does.

Ultimately Jesus intercedes for all mankind. The prophet Isaiah prophetically said 700 years before Jesus came, “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa 53:12) And when Jesus finally did come, he did what was right all his life. When the time came, Jesus revealed his true intensions and St. Paul recorded it in the book of Romans, “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Rom 8:34) Jesus gave up his position in heaven with all its privileges and came to earth to intercede on our behalf in order to redeem mankind. And he lives forever sitting at the right hand of God interceding for us (Heb 7:22-25) because he doesn’t want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Pet 3:9) This is how we know that what God does is right because he put his life on the line for us. And the reason he is willing to do that is because of his love for us (Jn 3:16) and obedience to his father.

When we know God’s love personally, deep down in our hearts, we can start to see the events that happen around us in a different light. Not with doubt and speculation, as Satan temps us to think, but on the basis of God love for us knowing that in ALL THINGS God works for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28) even though we might not always, at the moment they occur, fully understand how, but know that he does because our trust has grown through past experiences. The Bible explains it this way, “… God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8)

 

And we are challenged to follow in Jesus’ footstep and pray for others. 1 Timothy 2:1 tells us, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” And if we know what we should do and don’t do it James 4:17 tells us, “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” So we should strive to do what pleases God in all that we do.

And to connect back to the Simpson trial, the reason so many people were outraged was because they saw what they perceived was a lack of justice, and that’s the same thing Abraham was getting at. When we see the violation of justice, as with the NFL protests were about last season, we are triggered internally to react because we have an inborn sense of justice for when God made us, he made us in his image. One thing we can rest assured on is, that God will do what is right, for he is just in all his ways.

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