A. Angels Appear to Abraham: Two Purposes (Genesis 18)
1. To Announce a Birth (Genesis 18:1-15)
We understand the announcement of the birth of Abraham’s son. This relates to the many promises and hopes that God stirred up in Abraham and Sarah’s heart. God was readying Abraham for his great leadership position.
God works through circumstances to train His children. Abraham was no different. God was going to further purge Abraham of his love for the world. He had too much sentiment toward it. He was willing to leave Canaan for elsewhere if Lot chose Canaan. When he drifted, he often went off toward the cities (of Egypt and Gerar) where more modern accommodations were available..We do acknowledge that Abraham rightly never did go back from where he came.
Questions & Application
When a man and woman get married, settle down and have a child, they often leave God. Sometimes they come to church but sometimes they don't even do this. They have revealed a scary love for the world.
2. To Pronounce a Death (Gen 18:16-33)
Did the LORD (Yahweh) know how many righteous were in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? Sure He did. Why did the Lord tell Abraham about the death of two cities? Do you think Abraham was concerned about the righteous, Lot or the survival of the city? Why? We know Abraham knew Lot was there.But we also acknowledge Abraham had a love for the comfort of the cities.
We do see that with the birth of Abrham's son, Abraham had needed some work on his character. Afterall, his life would influence millions of people in the future. If any bitterness came up between Abraham and God at this stage, then this would pollute God's good work. Instead, God showed him two things about Himself.
To help Abraham appreciate Gods merciful heart:
Many people do not associate God's mercy with the destruction of Sodom, and yet it is very clearly found here. God is found to be slow to express His wrath. God judges only after His wrath is filled up to the top. He could theoritically judge earlier on, but He just patiently waits.
We see this in several ways.
First of all, we see that the Lord was not looking for an occasion to bring judgment but an occasion to put off His wrath and anger.
There is a pattern in the scripture. God waits to judge. He waits till His wrath has built up or been completed. In other words, the Lord waits for years until He judges a society. Notice that the Amorites in the land of Canaan would have 4 more generations before judgment (by Joshua). That is so patient.
God was doing the same thing with Sodom. Its wrath though, had now been filled up. It was time for judgment. Even Abraham came to this conclusion as we see in the next section.
To help Abraham accept Gods wrath against sin:
What did Abraham's tactic of lowering the number of righteous men in Sodom reveal about the city?
God told Abraham about the coming destruction that he could better grasp God's justice. Abraham never thought about it until he tried to make this bargain with God. He started his plea with the Lord at 50 righteous men. Not very confident about that, he kept reducing the number until the Lord stopped him at ten. In other words, Abraham had to come to realize that he might not want judgment hit those cities, but it fully deserved it.
In fact he was wrong not to want justice for that city. The city was evil and needed to be eliminated for the sake of others. We find the Lord wantd justice (18:21). Only there wasn't the presence of the righteous. It had to go.
Reflections on Genesis 18
Our perspective of God greatly shapes the decisions that we make. God needed to reshape Abraham's view of God. The Lord often does the same thing with us.
He takes a situation combined with the Word of God and challenges us with the purpose and works of God. We are forced to understand more of God by His works. This is essentially what Jesus was doing. He forced us to establish and think through to a new understanding of God.
One common problem is the way Christians (and non-Christians) get upset with the way God deals with some situation. A good example is the way He destroyed Sodom, babies included. When we understand more of God such as His great forbearing spirit by putting off the judgment, we should be able to accept God's final judgment. 911 was a warning for America but not a total judgment like she deserves. The droughts and falling economies are warnings but not final judgments.
We should on account of God's mercy, put off any willingness to get bitter at acts of God's judgment. We should allow the fault be our own. We don't fully understand the situation. We can fully trust God's judgment.
Genesis Introduction: Introduction to Genesis | Outline and Genealogies | Genesis' Chronologies (5 & 11) | Unified Themes of Genesis