1 – Genesis 18:27-33 (ESV) 27 Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. 28 Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” 29 Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” 30 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” 31 He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” 32 Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” 33 And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
RAF: One’s mind almost instinctively runs to James 4:2c (“You do not have, because you do not ask”) when reading this extraordinary passage. Look at how much more willing God is to be gracious and merciful, than we venture to seek Him for at first. Abraham learns this great lesson for us – ask. Do not imagine the Lord to be stingy with His grace – ask. Do not assume Him unmerciful – ask. Do not fail to think of Him in terms of the mercy and grace you yourself have received – ask. There was no great labor in Abraham’s pleas. God was not reluctant or rigidly opposed. Look at how easily He is moved from 50 to 10. Ask!
Now it is certain too that God knows there are but few to be rescued. Lot and his daughters will finally escape. Lot’s wife, nearly. The pervasive fallenness of man is also revealed in the most startling clarity. As much as we come here to reckon with God’s great mercy and grace (we see that it is shown even when there were fewer than the numbers asked for) – nevertheless, see how wicked humanity is. Not 10 in all the numbers there. Not 5. And of those rescued – it is only due to grace. How fearful is mankind’s fallen condition. And how great is the mercy and grace of our God. The two seen here in the most dramatic contrast imaginable.
2 – Genesis 19:4-8 (ESV) 4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. 5 And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” 6 Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, 7 and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. 8 Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.”
RAF: Commentators vary in opinions regarding Lot’s offer here. Some cite it as an example of how twisted his own thinking had become through his time in Sodom: That he strains at a gnat (that these men must somehow be protected at all cost) while swallowing a camel (that his daughters might be offered up to the slaughter). Others, think that his offer is not a serious one but a use of hyperbole – that he is making the point that to fail to prove to be protector to these two innocent strangers, would be worse than if he let his own daughters be raped. Given the assessment of Lot in 2 Pet. 2:7, it seems more reasonable to go with the latter. But it is a scene which begs us to examine where we live, and how we respond to the wickedness around us in our own day. Let us beware – that we do not allow our own thinking to become so infused with the spirit of the age that we cannot make clear distinctions or decisions. Do we sit in Sodom’s gate, and only respond to sinful society when the situation strikes home? Oh Father, make us men and women of genuine Christian courage in our day and in our environment.
3 – Genesis 19:30-34 (ESV) 30 Now Lot went up out of Zoar and lived in the hills with his two daughters, for he was afraid to live in Zoar. So he lived in a cave with his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth. 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.” 33 So they made their father drink wine that night. And the firstborn went in and lay with her father. He did not know when she lay down or when she arose. 34 The next day, the firstborn said to the younger, “Behold, I lay last night with my father. Let us make him drink wine tonight also. Then you go in and lie with him, that we may preserve offspring from our father.”
RAF: Even the most natural and holy of desires – such as the desire for marriage and family – can become idolatrous and destructive when unyielded to God’s providence. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Lot’s daughters wanting marriage and families. Such desires are part of our created constitution. Yet even these can gain such a grip upon us, that they drive us to sinful extremes. And it is such sins – those born out of natural and right desires – that are the most seductive, deceptive and difficult to gain the victory over. The arguments of our own deceptive hearts tell us how we deserve such things, and how God is stingy with us, forbidding us what is only our due, what is right and natural and good. But man was not created to serve his natural desires, but to harness them to serve him in his service to God. The child of God must vindicate God in his heart, and clear him of all false charges first if he is gain the victory here. We must be absolutely convinced of God’s goodness in His providences, that even when our desires are not being met, God is loving us more perfectly than we can love ourselves. That He loves us just as much in His withholdings, as He does in His bestowals. Once the enemy of our souls has made us doubt His great love and care for us in everything, he can manipulate us at his will. 1 Peter 3:15 reminds us we must always regard Christ both as Lord and as holy in our hearts – as incapable or ordering anything but what is meant to be used for our good. We must trust His love implicitly and explicitly in all things – if we are to know His sweet fullness, even in the things His loving hand withholds.
We note here too how these two daughters arrived at conclusions, without seeking the face of God, and giving Him time to show how it is He would work in their lives. “There is not a man on earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth.” Note the exaggeration – “not a man on earth!” Note the sense of entitlement – “after the manner of all the earth” – as is only natural and right for everybody else. Note the conclusion – this is just the way it is going to be unless we act in this way. All of them lies. The same lies our own sins playing off of our own desires – whisper in our ears all the time.
4 – Genesis 20:1-11 (ESV) From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb and lived between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. 2 And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. 3 But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is a man’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not approached her. So he said, “Lord, will you kill an innocent people? 5 Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” 6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. 7 Now then, return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, so that he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not return her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.” 8 So Abimelech rose early in the morning and called all his servants and told them all these things. And the men were very much afraid. 9 Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” 10 And Abimelech said to Abraham, “What did you see, that you did this thing?” 11 Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.
RAF: The most godly, and genuine of God’s servants and anointed ones, yet have their areas of great defect and weakness. After the experiences Abraham has had with God up to this point, it seems mystifying that he would rely on such common deceit out of fear. How graciously God paints this portrait for us, lest we be overly judgmental of others, or imagine ourselves to be beyond the simplest of faults. We are God’s people in Christ, but not so (yet) as to be rid of the root of sin fully. And it is often the case that very great men and women have as well very great faults. If we dismiss them, we must dismiss ourselves as well. While Abraham must own his sin and confess it here, we remember this is not the first time he fell in this regard. He had done the very same thing in Gen. 12 when in Egypt. But God has neither foresaken him due to it, nor overlooked it and let it go without challenge. Some sins we are prone to all our lives – though we gain the mastery over them and learn not to yield to them. Nevertheless, they call to us from the wings incessantly. Oh how we need to have both patience and compassion for our brothers and sisters in the areas they struggle, and to be quick to suspect ourselves in regard to our own weaknesses, and not imagine we possess some sort of spiritual superiority. Even the Father of the faithful (Romans 4:16) can have his moments of doubt and fear.
5 – Genesis 21:4-7 (ESV) 4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
RAF: Of all the lessons of the Christian life I find most difficult to master – it is that of patient trust in the providential appointments of God. We are so prone to measure everything in terms of our human concept of time. What is “too late” to us, is often the “just right” of God. Abraham’s time to father children was past. Sarah’s time to bear children was past. But God’s time to give them a son was not past. The world tyrannizes us with time. It forces us by virtue of “windows of opportunity” and the “must act nows” of the salesman. And it fails to believe that one cannot lose when we bring these things to the Lord, seek His face, and wait His time. Now it is true we can use such a truth to serve as an excuse for laziness, fear or rebellion. 1 Peter 2:16 warns us not to use our freedom as a cover-up for evil. We can abuse grace. But it is more often the case that our sin is in going ahead of God, rather than waiting upon Him in openness to be used as He sees fit.