Todays reading begins with a seemingly impossible promise and ends with a fantastic fulfillment. Sandwiched in between, is one of the ugliest chapters in the Bible.
God, on an exceptional occasion, appears to Abraham who has been chosen as a channel of blessing. He is called to be a vehicle, where Israel and all the nations that God loves, will be directed to walk in the way of Yahweh. God informs him that in twelve months he and his wife Sarah will have a son. I can hardly blame post menopausal Sarah for laughing to herself, after overhearing the promise. Then the Lord says to Abraham, "...Is anything too hard for the Lord?" God then proceeds to let him in on His plan to check out first hand the many complaints about the grievous sins (unnamed) from Sodom and Gomorrah, where his nephew Lot lives with his family.
(Here is another picture of Israel in the Dead Sea vicinity from my trip)
Grieved at the prospect of destruction, Abraham begins to intercede in prayer for the welfare of others. He suggests to God that there would perhaps be at least 50 righteous people, in which case God would not destroy the good with the wicked. In Abraham's mind, knowing God as he did, for God to do anything but be the Just Judge of all the earth would be inconsistent with His character. God does not act capriciously. In going down to see for Himself, He proves to Abraham that He is not only loving, but He is also just. In this first instance of intercessory prayer, I think Abraham's humility and courageousness is something to take note of. From 50 to 45 to 40 to 30 to 20 to 10, Abraham remained resolved in his understanding of God's justice.
Later that evening, while Lot (a leader in the community) was sitting at the city gate, two angels came to him. To his credit, Lot offers them hospitality in his home, and knowing how unsafe it can be, he insists that they spend the night with him. Then the city, that Abraham had hoped had other righteous people, reveals its true character. All the males of Sodom surrounded Lot's house. Their intention for homosexual rape is clear. And to his discredit, Lot proposes a heinous solution to a wicked problem. He offers his two virgin daughters to the lust depraved crowd.
Lot and his family are rescued before the city is destroyed, but Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back after being instructed not to. God could have changed her instantly, or she could have lingered too long, as the ash and falling sulfur engulfed the area. Visiting the Dead Sea region, one can easily imagine being encapsulated in salt. (This is not one of my pictures)
The apostle Peter wrote in 2 Peter 2:7-8 that Lot was a righteous man. Whatever his failings were, he was a true worshipper of Yahweh. Perhaps, not because of him, but in spite of him, God answered Abraham's prayer for justice. Lot was distressed by the ungodliness that surrounded him, but sadly, his witness and example did nothing to influence those in his community. God could not find 10 righteous people. The culture at the time was such, that to not have any heirs meant scorn and disgrace, and the environment Lot's family resided in was saturated with all kinds of wickedness and sexual immorality. No doubt, some of the undesirable characteristics of the culture rubbed off on them. This led his daughters to do the unthinkable. They got their father drunk to have sex with him, in hopes of conceiving and preserving the family line. From the descendants of Lot's two daughters came the Moabites and the Ammonites, who prove to be troublesome to the Israelites for generations to come.
In another embarrassing episode, where an old fear momentarily squelches his faith, Abraham lies about Sarah being his wife. The wonderful message, is that God remained faithful to him! He preserved the sanctity of his marriage and Isaac was born. "The Lord kept His word and did for Sarah exactly as he has promised." Abraham is 100 years old.
Faith, in the Bible, is not described as believing in something that is impossible, just because it is too difficult to imagine. Faith is believing in what God has said, and sometimes what He says seems impossible. Taking God at His Word can often times be a difficult process for some. We live in an imperfect, flawed world, but God promises to be with us in the good times and in the tears. And it is often in the tears and in the fears, that He surprises us, as Sarah was, with joy!
Be Blessed...and Stay Tuned!