We need to examine three questions:
a) According to the Bible, what kind of world do we live in?
b) What has God promised to do about it?
c) What does God require of us, as His people? How should we live in the light of God’s plan?
The story of Gen 18-19 answers all these three questions
- It shows us a world in a mess and under God’s judgment
- It shows us God’s promise of ultimate blessing
- It shows us what God expects from His people
The story includes both ch 18 & 19
18 – A meal with God and 2 angels (unknown at first)
and a remarkable conversation
19 – The judgment of Sodom & Gomorrah and the rescue of Lot
Let’s see here : 1. Sodom – A picture of our world
2. Abraham – The promise of God’s mission
3. Way of the Lord – The pattern for God’s people
I. SODOM – A PICTURE OF OUR WORLD
Sodom and Gomorrah stand in scripture as a proverbial model of human wickedness
- a proto-type, paradigm of the world of rebellion that stands under God’s judgment
- the story of the destruction of the cities is one of several “moments” in the OT that are like sign-posts, pointing to the ultimate, final judgment of God and destruction of all that opposes Him – as also of
- the tower of Babel
- conquest of Canaan
This is the context of the story of Abraham
- world of fallenness, a world under judgment
How does the Bible fill out the details of the sin of Sodom?
i) Gen 18:20-21 – “outcry” – “ts e’aqah”
= cry for help, from cruel, violent oppression
Ex 2:23 (Israelites in Egypt)
Dt 23:23-27 – scream of a woman being raped
Therefore God hears cry of suffering and cruelty in land ruled by Sodom.
ii) Gen 19 – Horrific story of violent attempted homosexual gang rape of the visitors. Therefore place was perverted and violent sexuality, aggression and hostile lust.
iii) Isa 1:9-10ff – bloodshed corruption, theft = social rottenness at high level
iv) Ezek 16:49 – affluence, arrogance and callousness = too much money, pride and food but neglect of the poor and needy.
So the ingredients of Sodom’s sin include:
- cruelty and oppression, sexual immorality, violence and bloodshed, corruption, arrogance, extremes of wealth and poverty and callous neglect of the needy.
No wonder there was an “outcry”!
And what a picture with modern resonance.
If that was Sodom, it is a picture of the world of our day as much as Abraham’s
But Sodom was a real place in the real world where God had put Abraham
God did not call Abraham out of land of tower of Babel – “up to heaven” – but into the Land of Canaan/Sodom and already Abraham had had dealings with Sodom. Gen 14
So he knew very well what God was talking about – the outcry, the evil of the place
The Bible is not naïve or romantic about our world – paints the reality
That is the world in which God calls us in mission
– a world walking in the ways of Sodom
– a world that stands under God’s imminent judgment
– a world in which a few individuals can get £10 million in financial deals and bonuses
– while 10 million people are starving to death in Africa
– sex trafficking
– extremes of wealth and poverty
II. ABRAHAM : AND THE PROMISE OF GOD’S MISSION 18:18
Look at what God says (to Himself) about Abraham in v18 (READ)
But this comes at end of the meal – so let’s enjoy the story so far
Ch 18 v1 – we know it’s God – Abraham doesn’t yet
V8 – God’s eating in presence of a man!
- slow recognition:
- 9 - “Sarah” – how did he know? (Gen 17:17)
- 10 - promise of a son within a year
- renewal of 17:15-16
- 12 – Sarah laughed into herself
- 13-14 – God knew!
“laughter” = Isaac 21:1-7
so why did God stop off en route to Sodom and Gomorrah for a meal with Abraham and Sarah?
- on his way to judgment – God remembers His promise of blessing
- not just promise of a son for Abraham and Sarah but promise to bless all the nations on earth
- Gen 18:18 is a direct reminder of Gen 12:1-3 and it’s bottom line
“through you all nations/families on earth with blessing” - repeated 5 times in Gen
That’s why God called on Abraham
– to renew His promise
- to remind Abraham and himself of that great plan and mission
That promise to Abraham is so important in the Bible
– it is the heart of the Gospel
– the beginning of mission
“Gospel”? - yes – that’s Paul’s word for it
Gal 3:6-8 = Good news [very good Gen 4-11]
It was the biblical basis for all Paul’s missionary work
He was writing to “Galatians” – Gentiles
If wild tribal people of Southern Turkey – Galati = Celts, had come to believe in Jesus and to belong to God’s people
- it was because God was keeping his promise to Abraham and that was what the Good News was all about – accomplished by XT
- This is God’s great mission : agenda of world mission
God’s mission, is God keeping his promise to Abraham
- and so it has been all through history, even in OT times, when people like Jethro, Ruth, Naaman, widow of Zarephath believed in God of Israel and were blessed.
- It was God keeping promise to Abraham
NT and after – when the Gospel went
- Cornelius [Peter] – God keeping promise
- South [Ethiopian Eunuch]
- S East [India, ? Thomas]
- N East [Syria, Asia, China]
- West [Europe]
Every time Gospel comes another barrier of language, culture or geography, God is keeping his promise to Abraham
- until the day will come when there will be people of every tribe, nation and language worshipping the Lord Jesus Christ before God’s throne
Gen 10 Rev 7:9-10
Language, tribes and nations Rev 21-22
That is God’s great plan of mission – and it began with Abraham. God will bless the nations – even as he judged Sodom, God remembers this ultimate purpose
- if it was not so; no Gospel, no Jesus, no NT, mission, no hope.
But what does this mean for us?
Or mission is to play our part in God’s good story
- so the challenge for us to be involved in mission, is not a ‘special interest’ for a small group within church
- rather it is for all of us to get into God’s story
- to join the flow of God’s great promise and plan
- to be part of God’s keeping his promise to Abraham
- if we are in Christ, we are in Abraham Gal 3:14
Therefore if blessing of Abraham has reached us in China, then the missional goal of Abraham is also ours – to be a blessing to the ends of the earth
III. THE WAY OF THE LORD : THE PATTERN FOR GOD’S PEOPLE
Come now to v19 – key verse in this passage
When you read it alongside v20-21, the first thing you notice is the strong contrast between “The way of the Lord” and the way of Sodom
God wants to create from Abraham a people who will be very different from the world of Sodom
In a world walking in the ways of Sodom, God wants a people who will walk in the way of the Lord
Distinctiveness : = holiness = fundamental calling of the people of God in the Bible
Matt 5:13-16 – Salt and Light
God says here in v19 that this is the reason/purpose for his choosing Abraham and the way he will fulfill his mission
But what do the words mean?
a) way of the Lord = to live whole of our lives – according to God’s instructions, reflecting God’s character
ie, to imitate him – in his ways – of love, justice, compassion, truth, integrity, etc
- powerful element in OT teaching – Israel was called to reflect their God, Yahweh
- to be like God in the midst of world of other gods
- eg Deut 10:12-19 [READ}
- what Yahweh is like and does
- and you are to do the same
of Jesus – “love your enemies………”
why? “because God does. Be like him”
“walk in the way of the Lord
b) by doing righteousness and justice
2 biggest words in OT – hundreds of times = whole of life, personal and social, economic and political, to be governed by integrity, fairness – things should be right, straight, in line with God’s standards
R & J = total orientation of life to the values and stands of God – in every sphere
That is what God wants from the family of Abraham – and his descendants – including us
Mic 6:8 – ‘what does God require?”
- do justice
- love mercy
- walk humbly with your God
So here at very start of his great mission plan God is calling into existence a people who
- will be like God – not like Sodom
- will do justice – not oppression and exploitation
But why? – what has this to do with mission?
- look closely at the logic of v19
1. I have chosen him = election
2. he will keep w of L = ethics
doing R & J
3. God will fulfill his promise of blessing all nations = mission
The last line = God’s great plan of redemption for all nations – from v18
(= the evangelization of the world)
- it will happen through the people God has called and chosen
but the completion of that great project depends upon – not just the election of God’s people in Abraham
but also, on the way those people live
- it will happen if they live the way God wants
Ethics is there in the middle of the verse as the fulcrum/hinge on which it all turns
God connects his missional purpose through Israel to his ethical demand on Israel
God’s choice of Abraham was in order to create a community of distinctive R & J
And the existence of such a community was in order to enable God to bring saving blessing to all nations
Therefore : How are live as God’s people is the vital link between our calling and our mission
“There is no biblical mission without biblical ethics”
We need all three parts of this verse
- some people are passionate about election – but don’t see it’s missional purpose
- some people are passionate about mission but don’t see that it’s about how we live, not just what we say, or preach, or proclaim
- mission is not just about the works
NT – if we are in Christ, then we are in Abraham
Therefore we share the dynamic and logic of v19
- called and chosen by God
- in order to be a blessing to the nations in our mission
- therefore must live by way of Lord, in R & J
So this puts into sharp focus what is at stake in every act of obedience/disobedience in daily life
The way we live our Christian lives is never just a matter of our personal sanctification, or just ‘God and me and my conscience”
The link between the middle of the verse and the end of it shows us that how we live is either helping or hindering God in keeping his promise to Abraham.
-of bringing blessing to the nations
When we fail to walk in God’s way, fail to do what is right and just
- in our relationships, work, attitudes, behavior
- in other words, when we are no different from the ways of Sodom that surround us
- then we deny the very purpose of our election and we frustrate the promise of God
That should put a new perspective on any area of your life right now where you are conscious of deliberate sin, or folly, or things not pleasing to God
- not just a question of what it’s doing to your peace of mind, but what it’s doing to God’s promised mission
But the positive point is also worth stressing for our encouragement as we close
- are you faithfully seeking to walk in the way of the Lord – even if it brings mockery and hostility from around?
- Are you struggling to do what is right and just – even when it is very hard to know what that is, let alone do it, and maybe suffering for it?
Then be encouraged and press on!
For it is not just that in seeking to live a godly and obedient life you are “walking worthy” of your calling and election,
But you are walking with God and working with God, in God’s great promise to bless the world through such people
You too are participating in the mission of God