ORTHODOX THEOLOGY ONLY HELPS YOU IF YOU APPLY IT —
ANSWERING 2 KEY THEOLOGICAL QUESTIONS THAT MUST BE APPLIED
What is your concept of the person of God? What do you know of His attributes? How orthodox is your theology? Satan has a pretty good understanding of who God is … but it doesn’t benefit him. Sometimes our intellectual understanding of who God is doesn’t benefit us either.
Helpful when God is the one teaching us theology and answering our questions.
How do we interact with God’s Revelation??? Communicating Theology – Truths about the Person of God
Parunak: This chapter is a hinge between 17 (the promise of Isaac) and 19 (the destruction of the cities of the plain). Its own cohesiveness comes from the focus on the three visitors who come to Abraham’s camp.
5 INSIGHTS REGARDING DIVINE REVELATION:
I. (:1-15) Q1 — IS ANYTHING TOO DIFFICULT FOR THE LORD
A. (:1-8) Insight #1 — Revelation Arrives Unexpectedly — Teaching Setting — Visit by the Three Angels
1. (:1) Engaging Presence of the Lord
“Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.
Not aloof; but the God who draws near to His people – engaging presence
We know it is the Lord; don’t know at what point Abraham got the full picture
Normal everyday activity for Abraham; did not know that this was going to be a very special day
Outside of Hebron; not some small tent but an entire encampment encompassing his whole household
Mid-day siesta in the heat of the day
Parunak: Mamre [wealth, fatness] is an Amorite chieftain with whom Abraham had an alliance (14:13). Both the man and his grove are first mentioned in 13:18, where Abraham camped after Lot chose the best part of the land.
2. (:2-5) Entertaining Angels Under the Tree – Humble and Hospitable
“And when he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, ‘My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.’ And they said, ‘So do, as you have said.’”
Abraham did not see them approaching – even though the terrain was very flat; he looked up and they just appeared before him
Hughes: In Old Testament times, supernatural visitors often appeared from nowhere and then disappeared (cf. Judges 6:11-21).
Pre-incarnate Jesus with 2 angels
Parunak: The word translated “my Lord” is the same used in 15:2, where we rendered it, “Sovereign Lord.” [Did Abraham recognize Jesus up front or just by the end of the encounter?]
“bowed himself” – same word used for worship when God is the object (24:26)
Could still run at age 100; gene pool on hamstrings has deteriorated over the centuries;
Would have been easy for Abraham to miss or reject this opportunity to receive God’s revelation.
Heb. 13:2 “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.”
3. (:6-8) Extravagant Feast
“Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes.’ Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf, and gave it to the servant; and he hurried to prepare it. And he took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.”
Started out promising them just “a piece of bread” – quickly escalated into a sumptuous feast;
3 measures = 6 gallons of fine flour
B. (:9-10) Insight #2 — Revelation Addresses the Key Issue — Teaching Lesson — Prophecy of Sarah Giving Birth to Son Next Year
“Then they said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘Behold, in the tent.’ And he said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him.”
Not dealing with some peripheral issue here; not something of no consequence or importance;
Abraham and Sarah are consumed with this promise – How can it possibly be fulfilled
C. (:11-15) Insight #3 — Revelation Attacks Our Doubts and Fears — Teaching Application — Sarah Wrestling with Applying Her Knowledge of the Power of God
1. (:11) The Difficulty
“Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age;
Sarah was past childbearing.”
2. (:12) The Disbelief
“And Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’”
Steven Cole: Have you ever thought about how embarrassing it would be if your thoughts were uncontrollably linked to your vocal cords, so that whatever you were thinking was broadcast for everyone to hear? Instead of, “I’m pleased to meet you,” you would blurt out, “Oh, no! I’m going to miss the kickoff if I talk to him now!” Instead of, “Great sermon, pastor,” as you go out the door, you would hear yourself saying, “I thought it never would end!”
3. (:13) The Key Theological Question
“And the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?
Is anything too difficult for the LORD?’”
Hughes: literally, “too wonderful” or “too surpassing” or “too incredible”
Is. 9:6 – name of Messiah – “Wonderful”
Cf. response of Mary, the mother of our Lord to announcement by Gabriel – “How wilt this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). And Gabriel’s answer – “the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35)
Steven Cole: God brings us to the end of our strength so that we will trust in His ability to do the impossible. . . That’s where the Lord wants us in our relationship with Him, to recognize our weakness so that we will trust His strength. Many people mistakenly think that the reason they struggle in their Christian lives is that they’re too weak. That isn’t so. The reason we struggle in our Christian walk is that we do not recognize our own weakness for what it is, and so we trust in ourselves rather than in the Lord. When we see our weakness and cast ourselves on the Lord’s strength, then we’re strong. God doesn’t help those who help themselves. God helps those who are helpless. . .
There’s a theologically staggering verse in Mark 6:5, which states that Jesus could do no miracle in His home town of Nazareth, except for healing a few sick people. The next verse adds that “He wondered at their unbelief.” Even though God is sovereign in His almighty power, He has chosen to 6 limit His working through our faith. So He views unbelief as a serious sin, and He confronts it in His people, just as He confronted it in Sarah
4. (:14) The Declaration Repeated – Specific Time-Stamped Prophecy
“At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.’”
5. (:15) The Denial and Rebuttal
“Sarah denied it however, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’”
Sarah came to believe God’s promise – Heb. 11
How do we respond to God’s revelation?
Steven Cole: Jeremiah the prophet was a godly man who faithfully spoke God’s word to a disobedient people who rejected both him and his message. For years he warned them of coming judgment if they did not repent, but they didn’t want to hear it. They mocked him, threw him in a muddy pit, and listened to the false prophets who told them what they wanted to hear, that God wouldn’t judge them for their sin. Finally, just as Jeremiah had warned, the powerful Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar came and besieged Jerusalem. Jeremiah was thrown into prison by the wicked Jewish king Zedekiah because he was predicting a Babylonian victory.
In that bleak situation, a strange word came to him from God. The Lord told him to buy a field from his cousin because he was the closest relative with a right of redemption. This would be like telling someone to buy a house in Sarajevo when it was under siege. It was obvious that the country was about to fall to a foreign king, who would confiscate all property. So you would be throwing away your money. But God told Jeremiah to buy it as a testimony of the Lord’s faithfulness to His promise to restore His people to the land. So Jeremiah obeyed God and handed over the precious little money he had to purchase this field. In that context Jeremiah prayed, “Ah Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You” (Jer. 32:17). The Lord confirmed Jeremiah’s prayer by answering, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” (Jer. 32:27).
II. (:16-33) Q2 — SHALL NOT THE JUDGE OF ALL THE EARTH DEAL JUSTLY?
A. (:16-21) Insight #4 — Revelation Arms God’s Servants to Fulfill Their Unique Role in God’s Program
1. (:16-18) God Grants Special Revelation to Equip His Special Servants
“Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. And the LORD said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?’”
Hughes: So as God’s friend and conduit of blessing to the whole world, it was essential that Abraham know what was going down in respect to the neighboring cities where his nephew Lot dwelt.
2. (:19) Abraham Chosen By God to Reflect God’s Righteousness and Justice
“For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his
household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and
justice; in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken
Steven Cole: Verse 19 can be translated as either “I have chosen him,” or “I have known him.” H. C. Leupold translates it, “For I acknowledge him to be My intimate friend” (Exposition of Genesis [Baker], 1:544). The Lord shares His secrets with His friends. Jesus told His disciples, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Abraham here is shown to be God’s friend, as the Lord reveals the divine plan to him.
Parunak: this knowledge is active, not passive. “I have known him in order that something will happen.” This is an example of God’s elective knowledge of people, choosing them for his purposes. . .
The purpose of the intimate relationship that God establishes with Abraham is the ordering of his family. This ought to encourage us concerning the first priority of the family. God does not elect Abraham in order to be a great preacher, or in order to subdue uncivilized nations, or in order to generate a prosperous society, but in order to rule his family well.
Steven Cole: Righteousness refers to conduct which conforms to the ethical or moral standard stemming from God’s character. Justice points to the administration of God’s righteousness in human affairs, such as government and society, through honest and consistent application of the law.
David Thompson: God doesn’t take the saved to heaven right away because He wants us to be a witness to the world of His righteousness and justice
3. (:20-21) Sodom And Gomorrah Need a Practical Display of God’s Righteousness and Justice
“And the LORD said, “’The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’”
Hughes: when God judged Sodom and Gomorrah, their ruins would become a powerful teaching tool to Abraham and his descendants. There on the border of Israel, the eerie, burnt-out, Sulphur-stenched remains of Sodom and Gomorrah permanently testified to what happens to a people who reject righteousness and justice.
The Hebrew word for “outcry” is used in Scripture to describe the cries of the oppressed and brutalized. It is used for the cry of the oppressed widow or orphan (cf. Exodus 22:22, 23), the cry of the oppressed servant (cf. Deut. 24:15), and the cries of the Israelites in Egpt (cf. Exodus 2:23; 3:7, 9). Jeremiah uses it to refer to the scream of terror by an individual or city when it is attacked (cf. Jer. 18:22; 20:16; 25:36; 48:3-5, 34; 49:21; 50:46; 51:54). Such an outcry is the miserable wail of the oppressed ad brutalized.
Robert Chisholm: The Lord would not arbitrarily destroy them [the people of Sodom and Gomorrah]. As a fair and just Judge, He would examine the evidence and then reward their deeds appropriately. The anthropomorphic language veils the ontological reality of God’s omniscience, but the Lord seems to have been more concerned in this context with revealing Himself as a fair Judge.
B. (:22-32) Insight #5 – Revelation Does Not Always Seem Fair Due to Our Limited Human Perspective
Series of 6 Objections put forth by Abraham in the form of interrogating the Judge of all the earth
What is really compatible with Divine Righteousness and Justice?
1. (:22-26) First Objection
“Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the LORD. And Abraham came near and said, ‘Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from Thee to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from Thee!
Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’
So the LORD said, ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.’
Jonathan Edwards: This verse caused him to say: “The justice of God will eventually be revealed in the damnation of the sinner”
Bob Deffinbaugh: Undoubtedly Abraham’s primary concern was for Lot and his family. While this is not stated, it is implied (19:27-29). His appeal is based upon the justice of God. Justice would not allow the righteous to suffer the punishment due the wicked (verse 25). Abraham appealed for the sparing of Sodom in order to spare Lot, not so much out of concern to save the city or the wicked.
2. (:27-28) Second Objection
“And Abraham answered and said, ‘Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, wilt Thou destroy the whole city because of five?’
And He said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’”
3. (:29) Third Objection
“And he spoke to Him yet again and said, ‘Suppose forty are found there?’
And He said, ‘I will not do it on account of the forty.’”
4. (:30) Fourth Objection
“Then he said, ‘Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?’
And He said, ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there.’”
5. (:31) Fifth Objection
“And he said, ‘Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?’
And He said, ‘I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.’”
6. (:32) Sixth Objection
“Then he said, ‘Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?’
And He said, ‘I will not destroy it on account of the ten.’”
It turns out there were only three righteous in Sodom, Lot and his two daughters – and their conduct left much to be desired as we will see later.
Jack Arnold: God answered Abraham’s prayer but not exactly like Abraham had petitioned. His petition was that the righteous would be spared and the city not destroyed. God destroyed the city and spared all the righteous. Abraham’s desire was answered but not his entire petition.
(:33) Epilogue – Revelation Finished
“And as soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the LORD departed;
and Abraham returned to his place.”
Bob Deffinbaugh: Mature Christians have a clear grasp of two eternal truths: the greatness of God, and the goodness of God. These truths undergird the 18th chapter of Genesis. The first is found in the question of our Lord in verse 14, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” The second is the basis for Abraham’s intercession in verse 25, “Shall not the Judge of all the Earth deal justly?”
The first truth rebukes all worry and lack of prayer, for “with God, nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). Every time we worry about the future we reject the truth that God is all-powerful.
The second truth provides an answer for life’s most distressing and perplexing problems. The God who is all-powerful is also loving, kind, just, merciful, and so on. Infinite power is joined with infinite purity.