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In Genesis 18 we see some amazing hospitality from Abraham to God and two angels that appear along with God. Hospitality for strangers was important back in Abraham's day. How are we with our hospitality toward strangers today? Do we react as Abraham did toward these three? Remember that Jesus says to us in the New Testament, "whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me." So, yes, maybe Abraham realized he was being hospitable toward God. But - Jesus seems to infer we should be hospitable to everyone - particularly "the least of these" - for in doing so, we will be providing hospitality to Jesus. Who in our world today are the "least of these"? Are you being hospitable to strangers and to the least of these in your life today? How? Below is an oil painting by Spanish Baroque Era Painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo from the year 1667 titled "Abraham and the Three Angels":
Today in Genesis chapter's 18 & 19 we get a great look at how God responds to intercessory prayer and also clearly see God's judgment in chapter 19. Ch. 18 Verse 17 is a powerful start to our readings: "Should I hide my plan from Abraham?" the LORD asked." I think what we see here and in the following verses is that God obviously really cares for Abraham - as a friend - and as one who has been credited as righteous because of his faith. And I do think this is an important point before we read about Abraham's intercessory prayer to God - that for intercessory prayer really to have any standing before God, we need to be in right relationship with God. If we are being disobedient to God or being unrepentant of sins or bad habits that God wants us to give up, then I think our intercessory prayer for others can lose its effectiveness. Check out James 5:16 for this point: "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." Abraham was credited as righteous because of his faith (Genesis 15:6). Hence, his intercessory prayer was powerful and effective. Below is a portrait of Abraham by Guy Rowe - I imagine Abraham praying to God in Genesis chapter 18 in this portrait:
In verse 25 we begin to see Abraham's several requests, or intercessions, to God to spare the city of Sodom for the sake of the righteous living in the city: "Surely you wouldn't do such a thing, destroying the innocent with the guilty. Why, you would be treating the innocent and the guilty exactly the same! Surely you wouldn't do that! Should not the Judge of all the earth do what is right?"" And from here we see Abraham bringing down the number of righteous that would need to be in the city for it to be spared. I don't necessarily see what Abraham was doing here as haggling with God - but, I think he was acting out of compassion for the righteous few in the city - and surely Lot and his family were on his mind during these intercessions...
In Genesis chapter 19 there is a lot going on. And I'm sure a few things that jump out at you when you read them, and create a lot of questions in your mind. (Lot offering his two virgin daughters (v. 8) & what happened in the cave (v. 30-36), for examples) Let me recommend you take 10 minutes and read through Bob Deffinbaugh's "From City Councilman to Caveman: “What a Difference a Day Makes” (Genesis 19:1-38)" at this link at Bible.org. I think this will answer a lot of your questions on why certain things happened in this chapter, from Bob's perspective. One great quote from Bob at this link above is this: "Lot attempted to live his life in a city and then in a cave. We cannot become one with the world, but neither are we to flee from it. The proper balance between the city of Sodom and the cave is the tent of Abraham. We are to live in the world, but without becoming attached to it or conformed to it. We are to be strangers and pilgrims." I like that! How are you doing with the idea of being in the world, but not of it? Are you living in the city or in a cave? Will you seek to live in the tent of Abraham? Below is a map of the approximate area of where Sodom & Gomorrah and the Cities of the Plain (including Zoar) were thought to have been located, on the south side of the Dead Sea and now possibly under water:
One verse that immediately stood out to me in chapter 19 is verse 16: "When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the LORD was merciful." What struck me in this verse is that Lot hesitated. In the previous verse, the angels say very clearly and strongly - "get out of the city! hurry! God is going to destroy it!" And yet... Lot hesitated. This jumped out at me because in our couple of previous day's readings we have seen how promptly obedient Abraham was to God's commands. When God said to get circumcised and circumcise everyone in the house - it happened that same day! And yet, here we see Lot hesitating on a very clear command from angels... And I guess I do have to ask myself, and maybe you can ask yourself too - are we more often like Abraham or Lot? Are we promptly obedient to God's will and commands for our lives? Or do we hesitate? A great thing about verse 16 above is we read that even though Lot hesitated, God was merciful. God will still show us mercy when we hesitate... the grace of God is still clearly there for we who hesitate. But, even though there is amazing grace, maybe the question still is - what are we hesitating for? What are we waiting for? Below is an image by the artist Raffaello (Italian painter and architect of the Italian High Renaissance), circa 1500, of Lot and his daughters finally fleeing Sodom, while his wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt:
And below is an image of verse 24: "Then the LORD rained down fire and burning sulfur from the heavens on Sodom and Gomorrah."
Today in Genesis chapter 20 we see that Abraham is not perfect (we have seen this humanness of Abraham earlier in our Genesis readings too). This should be good news for each of us! :) Abraham essentially tells Abimelech a half-truth - and yes, half-lie. The thing to remember here is that Abraham has received incredible promises from God and covenants - and yet, it is apparent that Abraham still has some fear of what will happen to him and Sarah. This imperfection of God's people is something that we will continue to see throughout our Bible readings. God uses imperfect people for his purposes. God does typically use those that love him. But, those that love God do still sin and make mistakes. God partners with imperfect people throughout history. God partners with people like you and me. Below is Flemish Northern Renaissance Painter Jan Provost's "Abraham, Sarah and the Angel" from the year 1520:
Bible.org's commentary on today's readings in Genesis titled "If I was God..." is at this link, and "Sin and the City" is at this linkand commentary on Genesis chapter 20 today titled "Don't Ever Say Never" is at this link.
Worship God: Today’s readings reminded me of Zach William’s terrific song “Chain Breaker:"
Do you have chains binding you? Click here for those chains to be broken!
Please join us in memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture today: "For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." Genesis 18:19 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you will direct your children and your household to keep the way of the LORD.
Comments from You and Question of the Day: Do you believe angels are among us? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!
p.s. Download our monthly Small Group study notes for our Chronological Bible readings at this link.
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