Genesis 18:16-33 (Proclaiming Righteousness)

Genesis 18:16-33
Proclaiming Righteousness

Introduction: Sodom and Gomorrah are the Bible’s prime example of ungodliness and of God’s judgment on sin. Today we’ll look at events prior to the judgment on those cities. These events center on Abraham and his visit from the Lord and we will see how our action or lack of action as individuals can affect the society in which we live, even to the point that the judgment of God is necessary.

Every one of us who is a saved believer in Jesus Christ has responsibilities to others around us. Abraham exercises his responsibility by petitioning the Lord on behalf of His people. And we’ll look into what Lot may or may not have done to fulfill his responsibility as a member of the society in which he lives. Only in the weeks to come will we see if he fulfilled his duties or not.

Text Verse: Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; Let the sea roar, and all its fullness; 12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord. 13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth. Psalm 96:11-13

The Lord is the Judge of all the earth and when He judges it is in absolute righteousness. The Bible proclaims that despite being a loving Creator, which He is, He is also holy and will not look favorably upon the sins of the people. Let us understand this and remember to view sin for what it is – a violation against His perfect nature, and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. An Outcry against Sin

Before we look at today’s verses, we should consider what leads up to them. Let’s review when Sodom and Gomorrah are first brought into focus and how Lot ended up there.

Lot also, who went with Abram, had flocks and herds and tents. 6 Now the land was not able to support them, that they might dwell together, for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together. 7 And there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock. The Canaanites and the Perizzites then dwelt in the land. 8 So Abram said to Lot, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren. 9 Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me. If you take the left, then I will go to the right; or, if you go to the right, then I will go to the left.” /// Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord. Genesis 13:5-9 & 12&13

In chapter 14, the 4 kings from the east engaged the 5 kings around Sodom in battle and took Lot captive. Abraham followed after them and defeated them and rescued Lot. After that time, Sodom isn’t mentioned again until today’s verses. Everything else has dealt with Abraham in one way or another.

In the first verses of chapter 18, which we looked at last week, the Lord appeared with two others and ate at Abraham’s tent and then confirmed what he had already been told, that Sarah would have a son and he would be born within the next year. Now that this meeting has ended, we come to today’s verses.

16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom,…

The meal is done and the promise of a son in the coming year is behind them. Sarah laughed about it in a mocking way and after that, she was caught in a lie. All of this was to show us that nothing is outside of the power of God and nothing is hidden from Him.

This is important to understand because of what lies ahead. By coming to Abraham before going to Sodom, the account is placed in the Bible chronologically and it allows us to understand more clearly the somewhat confusing things which lie ahead.

As they rise it says they looked toward Sodom. This is stated to show Abraham, and us, that judgment is coming. The very last words spoken about Sodom in chapter 13 were, “But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the Lord.”

Because of their wickedness and the fact that they weren’t wiped out by the invading armies in Chapter 14, the Lord will now have to act personally. What isn’t accomplished by the hands of man will now be tended to by the Lord.

This is an indictment on all sin in all societies and at all times. Man has been given the authority to judge the affairs of each nation. When those affairs are handled properly, the nation purges its sin and remains free from the Lord’s destructive judgment.

However, when a nation fails to prosecute and sentence wickedness, the Lord will step in. This was true with Israel, it’s true with nations today, and it will be the case with the one-world government which is coming. If we don’t judge sin, God will.

America has tasted judgment in several ways in the recent years – financially, through terrorism, and in famine, plague, and natural disaster, but we’ve failed to humble our hearts and prosecute the sins of the people. Paying attention to what lies ahead for Sodom will allow us to see what the result of what the same sins in America will be.

16 (con’t) and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.

This is kind of an unwritten rule of humanity which is found in people around the world, Abraham went along with the three as they headed off. We do this for a number of reasons. 1) We want to make sure people are heading on the right road.

2) We may want to extend the visit as long as possible like in the Ephesians did with Paul in Acts 20 – “And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 Then they all wept freely, and fell on Paul’s neck and kissed him, 38 sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

3) We may have things we want to show along the way, such as “These are my flocks.” “This is where my servant fell and broke his leg.” “There’s a beautiful spring of water right on the other side of that hill… is that where you spoke to Hagar?

4) We may want to be a part of what’s coming and not be left out. This happened to Peter when he was asked to go to the house of Cornelius in Acts 10. Some of the people he stayed with came along as witnesses – “On the next day Peter went away with them, and some brethren from Joppa accompanied him.” (23)

5) We may do it as a sign of respect for a person – “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” 3 John -5-8

In this universal tradition of sending others off, Abraham went along with the men as they departed.

17 And the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, 18 since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

Although stated in the form of a question, “Shall I hide?” it is meant in the form of an affirmative statement, “I shall not hide.” This type of question is found throughout the Bible and is commonly spoken by us today. It is rhetorical and it is a way of getting us to think through the issue at hand. Amos, speaking the word of the Lord asks a beautiful set of such questions –

“Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? 4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing? 5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all? 6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?

The answer to each of these is obvious. After asking them, Amos follows up with another thought which completely and fully explains the Lord’s intent to tell Abraham –

7 Surely the Lord God does nothing,
Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.”

Abraham is identified as a prophet in Genesis 20 and so this is to be taken as a rhetorical question. He is a prophet of God and a part of the Lord’s plan for bringing in the Messiah. He will become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him. And so the Lord includes him in what’s coming.

But there are more reasons as well…

19 For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

The Lord personally chose Abraham to be the father of all the people of God – both physically and spiritually. By showing him what He is about to do, the Lord is instructing him in the severity of keeping the way of the Lord and in doing what is right and just.

He is going to use the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as an object lesson of what it means to turn away from these things. It will be a permanent memorial concerning the punishments which come from violating the righteousness of God.

It will also serve as an eternal reminder to God’s people about the fate of those who are ungodly. It has been 25 years since Abraham entered Canaan and the people of Sodom were already there and known for their wickedness at that time.

He was told earlier that he couldn’t possess the land of Canaan because the wickedness of the Amorites hadn’t yet reached its full measure and that it wouldn’t do so for 430 years. However, the destruction of Sodom was coming because it had. God’s patience with this particular group of people had ended.

Two things are happening at once. The first is the Lord revealing His intended actions to an upright person and at the same time showing him why He is taking the actions in the first place. This two edged sword is perfectly noted in Proverbs 3:32 –

For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord,
But His secret counsel is with the upright. Proverbs 3:32

And again, in the book of Hosea, at the time prior to the exile of Israel, the Lord reminds the people of these things in hope that they will remember, believe, and repent

Who is wise? Let him understand these things. Who is prudent? Let him know them. For the ways of the Lord are right; The righteous walk in them, But transgressors stumble in them. Hosea 14:9

20 And the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,

What is the sin of Sodom? Pretty much everyone but sodomites agrees on what it is, but the Bible is clear on it. We’ll look at it in detail when we get to the next chapter, but yes, it is centered mainly on homosexuality and sexual perversion which is a crime against the natural order which God intended for His creatures.

It also involves, according to Ezekiel, gluttony, laziness, and an unwillingness to help others in need. These are the grave sins for which the outcry is made. If you don’t see America written all over these sins, then you’re not looking. Day after day for years, porn has been the number 1 search on internet search engines.

Our president and approximately one half of our nation’s leaders, represented by the democrat party openly support the gay agenda and it has become one of the party issues in their 2012 platform. They have sent openly homosexual members to congress and they have flaunted their perversion in the daylight.

They’re demanding these rights for out military and in our schools. They are leading us to the sure and complete destruction which we rightly deserve for closing our eyes and electing these vulgar and perverse people with this twisted agenda.

We’ve become gluttonous and fat in this nation and our appetite has become unrestrained. Instead of moderation, we look to pills to take away pounds. Instead of work to keep healthy, we go to doctors for more pills, paying for them with welfare checks.

And not helping others in need…? We’ve killed unborn children to the number of 50 million… and we turn a blind eye. We’ve elected a president who once voted “in favor of legalizing infanticide,” by voting “to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion process.” What is coming upon Sodom will be coming upon America unless we turn from our ways.

The Bible says, “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” We are heading right into the same destructive Force which met with and destroyed Sodom.

Yes, the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah was great… how much more is it crying out against us in the land which has a Bible in every home and a church on every corner. With great knowledge comes great responsibility and surely great judgment.

21 I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.”

We read an interesting parallel in Genesis 11 at the time of the Tower of Babel. It says, “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built.”

The Lord is again descending to the level of man to test and see the situation. It is as if He is stepping off His throne, even in the presence of Abraham, to make His determination. And this has nothing to do with whether He already knew the situation of Sodom or not – He did.

This act of justice is for the sake of Abraham and is a lesson of instruction for judges of the future. We are to personally inspect a situation to determine a matter before judgment and not go by word alone. The Lord has set the example in judicial proceedings.

II. The Judge of All the Earth

22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 And Abraham came near and said, “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

The result of what is coming is inevitable and Abraham seems to know it. The two men who were with the Lord have turned toward Sodom and will carry out the sentence. He’s already been there and he knows the wickedness of the place.

And so he “came near” to the Lord. This is a defining moment in the Bible because it is the Bible’s first hint of a prayer to the Lord.

In the 73rd Psalm we read this –

But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works. (28

Abraham is drawing near to the Lord in order to petition Him and to understand and declare all His works. There is only one hope in his heart and that is Lot’s personal testimony. We won’t know about it until we get to the next chapter, but by what Abraham says in the coming verses, we can guess he already knows.

Now he speaks to the Lord as if he were a free-born son in the house – openly and frankly, and he will continue to do so through the entire conversation. And yet he will do it with an air of humility. The book of Hebrews says this to the believer when speaking of our interactions with the Lord –

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (4:16)

I have no problem with people quoting this and trusting in it. It is an admonition to every believer that we should have the confidence to enter the throne of God’s grace in our time of need. But as I’ve told people many times in the past, we need to be on our face once we get there.

One of the most appalling and arrogant things that I hear Christians say, and I hear them say it all the time is “I claim.” “I claim something in Jesus’ name.” – be it a Porsche or healing, be it financial help or someone’s salvation. We have no right to claim anything except that which the Bible speaks of and the Bible doesn’t use the word “claim” …ever for such things from God.

Abraham’s boldness mixed with humility is the appropriate measure of how we too should conduct our affairs in the presence of the Lord. Let’s watch as he speaks to his Creator…

24 Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? 25 Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

There are actually five cities that are included in the account. Sodom and Gomorrah are simply the principle cities of this group of five, and Sodom is especially noted because it’s where Lot is. Could there be an average of ten righteous people per city?

If there are, then he is reminding the Lord that destroying the cities would destroy the righteous with the wicked. This is a problem and a question that not only fills the entire Bible, but also the minds of almost every person who has ever lived. “Why do bad events happen to good people?”

It is something that Job deals with. It is something that Habakkuk deals with. It is something that Paul speaks about and it is struggled over and debated the world over. There is a wrong view to God’s justice which says there is a law governing fairness which is higher than God and therefore it is binding on Him.

In essence He must act in response to the law itself. When we believe this, we make our appeal to the law. Our prayers to, or our comments about God, reflect this. This is wrong.

The correct view is that God is the standard of justice. He is the Creator and therefore He is before His creation. Therefore anything about Him simply is – it doesn’t change, it doesn’t increase or decrease. His power is used in conjunction with His own moral perfection. Therefore, whatever God does is fair – whether we understand it or not.

When we see this, we make our appeal directly to Him and not to the standard which stems from Him or to which He is subordinate. This is what Abraham has done. He has appealed directly to the Creator, though he doesn’t fully understand the situation, he knows the Source of the justice and he acknowledges it accordingly.

Non-Christians and confused Christians don’t understand this concept and therefore they blame God for adversity, tragedy, and trouble. But the one who knows God’s character and His nature stands on the assurance that what occurs is perfectly just and fair.

Isaiah understood this as he penned these words –

The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness. (57:1-2)

There is one thing lacking in Abraham’s understanding of the pending judgment – apart from imputed righteousness, there is none righteous, no not one. Abraham may be making a plea based on a faulty premise. Man is fallen and inherently unrighteous and therefore whatever judgment falls on Sodom is deserved.

III. Pondering Lot’s Witness

I hope you’ll pay particular attention to this point and I hope you’ll see yourself and your own testimony all over it – either meeting the needs or seeing that you don’t. If you don’t I hope you will endeavor to do so in the future.

26 So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” 27 Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: 28 Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” So He said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.

Abraham is now facing a dilemma. He was counting on there being 50 righteous people there. But he already knew the wickedness of the place. It was morally bankrupt. However, Lot had moved there and he was a follower of the one true God. He had a large camp with many employees under him too.

We know from 2 Peter that Lot was a righteous man. So he obviously wasn’t only a follower of the Lord, but also one to share the news about Him, right? He must have convinced 49 people about the path of righteousness. But… maybe not.

Lord, I am dust and ashes, but let me speak again. Dust and ashes is a reference to two concepts about the human being. First that we came from the dust when the Lord created us. Second, that we are ashes – beings deserving the judgment of fire in the presence of pure holiness. From dust we came and to ashes we deserve to go.

“I am dust and ashes, but what if there are only forty five?” You see, he’d been around Lot enough to know that he might not have told his sheepherders about the Lord. Lot was a busy guy and so Abraham realizes that he can’t count them in, so he’d better lower his number to forty five? And the Lord agrees – not for 45.

29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose there should be forty found there?” So He said, “I will not do it for the sake of forty.”

Abraham thinks it through again and he says to himself, “Hmmm, I never saw Lot talk to any of his camp’s kitchen staff either. I don’t think there’s a single believer in the group.” “Lord, what if there’s only forty instead of forty five? And the Lord agrees – not for 40.

30 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: suppose thirty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

“Hmmm,” he says to himself the fourth time, “I never saw Lot give one family sermon in front of his harvesting crew. In fact, all ten of them cuss like the dickens and they drink beer all night. I’d better not trust in any of them either. Lord, what if there’s only thirty instead of forty? And the Lord agrees – not for 30.

31 And he said, “Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” So He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty.”

Abraham is running out of employees. He’s considered the shepherds, the camp cooks, the harvesters – Lot hasn’t talked to any of them. He’s been a backslider since he and Abraham separated more than 20 years ago.

The last time he visited Lot’s homestead, even the maids in the house were drinking and going out with the locals till all hours of the night. He can’t count on them either. Instead of being in church on Sunday morning, they’re sleeping in from hangovers. Lord what if there’s only 20? And the Lord agrees – not for 20.

32 Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”

Well, he can’t count on any of the hired staff and he’s at 20. After thinking about it, if he hasn’t talked to any of his own staff, then he probably hasn’t talked to any of his neighbors either. Lot has proved to be a major disappointment in his witness.

This leaves only four people in the house – Lot, his wife, and two daughters. The two daughters are set to be married and surely Lot would make sure they would marry godly men. That’s six people. And those men would be godly because of godly parents.

They would have raised them properly and punished them when they did wrong. Yes, there must be those four godly parents for those two godly boys who to marry his two godly daughters. Lord, what if there are only 10? And the Lord agrees – not for 10.

Six times Abraham pleads with the Lord and six times he sees the consequences of being a faithless witness for the Lord. Five cities stand in the face of destruction because one man failed to open his mouth and speak out.

I hope each person here is seeing themselves next to Lot in the mirror. We’re heading for judgment and there’s only one way to avert it – speaking out. And even that probably won’t do at this point. The most we can do is pull those we meet out of the fire.

Are you willing to go to heaven while those around you are destined for hell? There really is an eternal consequence for your lack of witness. As Matthew Henry says to you – “Though sin is to be hated, sinners are to be pitied and prayed for. God delights not in their death, nor should we desire, but deprecate, the woeful day.” We need to witness and pray that they may be saved.

33 So the Lord went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

We all have questions of the Lord and almost always the answers are found in the pages of the Bible. When they’re not, Abraham and others have been used as examples of how to interact with Him and what is and isn’t appropriate in our dealings with Him.

“I claim salvation for those in Sodom.” “I claim that this destruction be averted.” Never, no never, speak those words again in the presence of Your Creator! Have a little humility…

Let’s remember today’s account and know that when things are troubling us, we have a right to question the Lord about what is happening and how it will be handled. But in the end, we need to remember that He is God and we are man. Abraham never claimed diddly from the Lord, but trusted that what the Lord determined was ultimately right and just.

His decisions concerning a matter are infinitely wiser than our hopes about it and so let’s remember to trust His decisions and His counsel as a just and righteous Judge. If anyone here has never understood their need for Jesus who is the Mediator and Advocate between God and man, let me explain this to you…

Next Week – Genesis 19:1-11 (Destruction is Coming – Shadows of the Rapture)

The Outcry against Wickedness

The men rose and looked toward Sodom
And Abraham went with them, to send them on their way
And the Lord determined to reveal his intentions to him
Even if Abraham in this would find dismay

“I have known him and instructed him in the life to lead
And this pertains to his descendants too
They shall keep the way of the Lord surely and indeed
To do righteousness and justice all generations through

And the Lord said, “Because the outcry is so great”
And because their sin is very grave
I go down to Sodom and Gomorrah, I will not hesitate
To see whether the rumor is true, of how they misbehave

Then the men turned and went toward this task so grim
But Abraham stood still before the Lord, waiting to talk to Him

“Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked also?
I am sure this won’t occur, tell me it is not so

“Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city
Would You also destroy the place and not spare it for them?
Far be it from You to do such a thing, it cannot be
Destroying the righteous with the wicked, like tearing a cloth with one hem

“Far be it from You! It can’t be so in my sight
Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what’s just and right?

So the Lord said, “If for fifty righteous within the city,
Then I will spare the place – for their sakes I will show pity

Then Abraham answered and said, “Indeed now
I who am but dust and ashes have spoken to the Lord
Suppose there were five less than the fifty somehow
Would You destroy all for lack of five?” Tell me your word

So He said, “If I find there forty-five
The people of the city will remain alive

And Abraham spoke yet again and this he said,
“Suppose there should be forty found there?” What will you do?
I will not do it for the sake of forty instead
I have spoken and you know My word is true

Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak
Suppose there should be only thirty found there?
“I will not do it if I find thirty. Though the number is quite weak”
Abraham, I can see how much you care

“Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord
Suppose that only twenty should be found there?”
“I won’t destroy for the sake of twenty. Thus you have my word”
But this number is getting pretty low, it will end just where?

Then he said, “Let not the Lord be angry
Let the Lord show kindness and favor to me”

I will speak again but it will be only once more
I have already spoken so many times before

Suppose ten should be found there?”
And He said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.”
For ten righteous souls the city I will spare
Yes, I will do it for them… Abraham, I’m glad you asked again

So the Lord went His way after speaking
And Abraham returned to his place
His curiosity was certainly piquing
What would befall the cities that lay south of his place

If you wonder about how the Lord deals with us
He is righteous and He is also just
To save us from sure destruction He sent His Son Jesus
Yes, He is completely fair, in this all souls can trust

Hallelujah and Amen…



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