Genesis | Chapter 18

Genesis 18:1-33

“Abraham in the school of prayer”

I. Intro.

II. Vs. 1-15 Changing the heart about God

III. Vs. 16-33 Changing the heart about others

I. Intro.

The 18th chapter of Genesis is divided between two seemingly disconnected events that both happen on the same day. At first glance the only similarity is that they are both connected to the same heavenly visitation.

·      Verses 1-15, “deal with the heavenly visitation as connected with Sarah

·      Verses 16-33, “deals with Abraham’s intercession for Sodom

They reveal to us the key to prayer! Prayer is first and foremost is to change who are praying and not about changing the circumstances we are facing.  There are always two areas that God seeks to change in my prayer life found here in these two divisions of chapter 18:

·      Vs. 1-15 The Lord is constantly getting me to change my heart about Him.

·      Vs. 16-33 The Lord is constantly changing my heart about others.

II. Vs. 1-15 Changing the heart about God

Vs. 1 This visitation happens within three months after chapter 17. We know this because:

a.     17:21 We are told that a year from that day that Sarah would have a child.

b.     18:10 Sarah had not yet conceived, in fact based upon her comments of verse 12 they were not even intimate.

c.     This visitation took place after the Word of the Lord to Abram in chapter 17. Based upon Sarah’s word’s she had either not been told by Abram the Word of the Lord or had refused to believe it.

·      In chapter 15:1 the Lord spoke to Abram in a vision.

·      In chapter 17:1 He speaks to him by way of a message in his heart.

·      In chapter 18 He appears to Abraham bodily (verse 2 says that he saw three men, in verse 22 the two angels go towards Sodom as Abram still stays to speak with the Lord.)

In light of the incarnation; Paul wrote to Timothy (6:16) “no man has seen or can see”, then in John 1:18 we are told that “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” The only conclusion is that this is a Theophany or Christophany (pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus).

Vs. 2-3 The word “behold” tells us that what took place was something out of the ordinary. Abraham was relaxing by his tent and the “three men” appeared in front of him. Though the text calls them three men based upon his reaction he knew that one of them was the Lord. Three things Abraham’s hospitality reveals:

a.     When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them”: The way he reacts so quickly suggest genuine warmth and humility. Abraham is 99 years old and a wealthy successful world leader. Yet he initiates the action prior to any words being spoken.

b.     Bowed himself to the ground”: This is the same word in the Hebrew used for worship. Humility and hospitality go hand in hand, too often the leaders in Church’s are the ones wanting to be waited on instead wanting to wait on others! 

c.     My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant”: In verse one the word for Lord is Jehovah, in verse 3 it is Adonai which speaks of God’s supreme authority. Abraham looks at his service as a privilege an act of worship. It is almost as we get a picture of a heart that by its actions begs, “Oh let me wait on You!” 

Vs. 4-5 The first offering of hospitality was that of washing the feet and allowing them to rest. The next offer is to bring food as Abraham is so blessed to be in the Lord’s presence. Prayer is all about, adoration and communion, as Abraham only wanted to be a blessing to the Lord and to show his appreciation towards Him. There is no grocery list of things he desired, no complaint list of things, no not even a suggestion or question box. He only comes before the Lord and by his actions says he wants is to spend time with Him.

            The Lord and the two angels did not need to eat or rest yet they did as the Lord looks at the heart and not what is offered as an act of worship!

Vs. 6-8 In verse 5 Abraham said he was going to prepare a “morsel of bread” which in Hebrew means a “bit” yet his instructions to Sarah was for 6 ½ bushels of the finest flour. In Exodus 16:16 we are told that one measure was sufficient for one person for the whole day. He told Sarah to make cakes, not bread which were fried in butter or fat. Abraham offered to the Lord was far less then what he actually provided. Too often we offer the Lord is what is left over all the while we are proclaiming we are given Him our best. Abraham is there supervising every little step and stands by them as their personal waiter. All of this was obviously a love offering because Abraham felt so loved by the Lord.

Vs. 9-10 The Lord has come to Abraham and Sarah, to prepare her heart about how she saw the Lord. The Lord asks where she is at while already knowing her name is a way of getting her attention as women were not to come out into the presence men so they instead would stay by the tent door to listen. Thirteen years earlier God had told Abraham this but now He wishes for Sarah to hear it. He has repeated it twice within three months but it appears as though Abraham never told Sarah.

Vs. 11 Moses interjects to explain the impossibility of procreation apart from the Lord’s intervention. The words “Sarah had passed the age of childbearing” literally mean “the manor of a woman had ceased to be with Sarah” which means that she was no longer menstruating and ovulating and could not possibly be able to have children. Sarah’s case was irreversible, as she had already gone through the change of life.

Vs. 12 As she listens to the Word of the Lord she laughs within herself as to the impossibility of the prospect of her having a child. To show how impossible the thought is in her head she says, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” This suggests two things:

a.     She still loves Abraham as she reverences him calling him lord.

b.     She has lost her desire to be intimate.

As far as Sarah was concerned her problem with the word from the Lord was physical and emotional but in reality her real problem was spiritual. Here is the truth of the matter, “What Sarah wanted the most in life (the child of promise) she could only believe could be produced in the energy of the flesh but doubted it could ever take place in the energy of the Spirit!” Most of our failures occur when we find it easier to believe we can obtain the promises of God through the energy of the flesh instead of trusting God to be able to do what only He alone has promised.

Vs. 13-14 Sarah is taught four lessons about the Lord that she need to have in her prayer life:

a.     She was taught that the Lord is all knowing: Sarah saw her limitations, but the God revealed that He was aware of them as well and that those limitations were nothing compared to her lack of trusting Him to do what He said He would.

b.     Vs. 14a She was taught He was all-powerful: She viewed herself as being beyond nature, yet what she did not grasp was what He has promised He alone is able to perform.

c.     Vs. 14b-15a She was taught that God is a God of grace: He had promised, she had doubted, He had revealed more, she again doubted, He confronts her doubting she denies it. Yet a year later He still brought forth the child that He promised.

d.     Vs. 15b She was taught of His holiness: She had lied in her heart yet God clearly knew that she had lied and confronted her with the truth.  

III. Vs. 16-33 Changing the heart about others

Vs. 16 Sarah needed to have a changed heart in her view of God the Lord turns to dealing with Abraham’s heart towards a sinful world. Abraham tells us that he sees the heavenly group look towards sinful Sodom and walks with them several miles. Tradition has it that they stopped at place called Beni Naim which is where you can look down and see the Dead Sea which at this point of time was lush and fertile.

Vs. 17 The Lord draws Abraham into a place where he will look at his own heart. The Lord gives us insight into situations about others in order for us to have a change of heart! God is not gossiping about the sins of Sodom, neither is just trying to satisfy Abraham’s curiosity. The Lord wants to do something in Abraham’s heart through that which only He knows!

Vs. 18-19 There are two reasons the Lord gives for including Abraham into what He is about to do in Sodom and neither of them have to do with Lot!

a.     Vs. 18 “Since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him”: He will have a great influence over multitudes of people through future generations, therefore it was necessary for him to know the reason why God would destroy two cites. Abraham through this chapter would tell future generations the truth about Sodom and Gomorrah and God’s judgment against them.

b.     Vs. 19 “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”: Abraham would serve as an example to those of faith and trust in the Lord. God did not want His character to be misrepresented to the children of faith.

Vs. 20 God tells Abraham that the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great because their sin was grievous. The sins of Sodom and Gomorrah that led to such a wicked lifestyle are given us in Ezek 16:49-50, “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”

Vs. 21 God knew the situation of the two cities as their sins cried out to heaven, His responses reveal several things:

a.     He never judges in a hurry, as He desires mercy not judgment. 2 Peter 3:9 tells us that He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”

b.     He is always about justice so win sins cry out they are calling out for His justice to intervene.

c.     The investigation is for Abraham’s benefit to get him to intercede and have a compassionate heart towards those trapped into a life style of sin.  

Sending two angels to investigate reveals that God does nothing without full possession of all the facts. This was all put down for our benefit as God always does that which right concerning the affairs of men. People may proclaim their innocence, justify their actions but their judge knows the beginning from the end.

Vs. 22-26 Two angels move towards Sodom, and Abraham is left with the Lord to make intercession. This intercession reveals that Abraham reduces the number of righteous six times, three times he reduces the number by 5 three times he reduces the number by ten, until he reached the number of righteous number of ten. Why ten? Abraham thought that he knew of ten righteous people in Sodom: Lot and his wife, two unmarried sons, two unmarried daughters, two married daughters & their husbands. Abraham would soon learn was that it was harder to get Sodom out of Lot then to get “Lot” out of Sodom.

There are eight qualities in the heart of Abram during his intercession.

1.     Vs. 22b. “But Abraham still stood before the LORD.” The right position of the heart of an intercessor, “in the presence of the Lord.” E.M. Bounds wrote that, “It is a great thing to be willing to go to men for God but a greater thing still to be willing to go to God for men!”

2.     Vs. 23a “And Abraham came near”: The heart of an intercessor first desires to draw near and become more intimate with the Lord.

3.     Vs. 23b “Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” The first words out of Abraham’s mouth are concerned not with the outcome but rather with how the Lord will look. Effective prayer always prays in line with the character of God.

4.     Vs. 24 “Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city”: Nowhere is Lot and his family mentioned; Abraham’s heart was one of compassion for the city lost in sin. How about it do we pray for the salvation of our enemies, the ungodly that rub us the wrong way?

5.     Vs. 25 “Far be it from You to do such a thing as”: Abraham takes all of this difficulties to the Lord and allows Him to sort it out. Here then is a key element in effective intercession, “Start with what you know is true about God’s character and nature and let him sort out what you don’t understand about the situation.”

6.     Vs. 25 “to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You!” Abraham makes an urgent plea and uses prayer as the scratch paid of the heart. We can always be quick to pray, slow to speak and slow to anger.

7.     Vs. 25 “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” There is a confidence in Abraham not in the situation turning out the way he wants but rather in that the Lord will do what is right.

8.     Vs. 26 “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.” With specific prayer there is a specific response that can only be received by faith.

Vs. 27-33 This dealt with the heart of Abraham and not with the elements of prayer. There are four essential elements intercessory prayer:

a.     Vs. 27 “Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes …to speak to the Lord:” His prayer was based upon humility! He approached the Lord with two important things:

1.     A knowledge of how unworthy He was.

2.     A knowledge of great and Holy God is. 

b.     Vs. 27 “have taken it upon myself”: His prayer was with understanding! Not of the situation but of who God is. He approached God based upon His greatness and grace, in total dependence and absolute surrender.

c.     Vs. 28-29 Abraham was specific in his prayer! There was no, “Save Sodom”! Instead there was a specific plea to save Sodom if there were 50, 45 etc. righteous. As the number decreased Abraham grew bolder based upon the Lords response as he saw the Lord’s desire to save he asked for more.

d.     Vs. 30-33 Abraham was persistent in prayer! The more he interceded the more his heart was drawn into the heart of God for the lost. Effective evangelism begins and ends with a heart that is persistent in prayer broken with compassion over the thought of even one perishing apart from knowing God love.

1.     It was Abraham who stopped asking not God who stopped answering!

2.     Abraham did not receive the answer to his prayers the way he perhaps thought he would. God did not save the city for the sake of the righteous instead the four righteous were saved from the city. We may not see our prayers answered the way we thought but we shall always see them answered the way they ought!

In chapter 19: 27-29 we are told that “Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the LORD. Then he looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and toward all the land of the plain; and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt.” Abraham knew not the outcome but he knew that the Lord would do right. He watched overlooking the Dead Sea as God spared the four righteous.