Genesis 18-20: Abraham, Lot, and God’s faithfulness

1.  The LORD who eats with us (Genesis 18:1-21)

2.  Sodom and Gomorrah:  Character study of Lot (Genesis 18:22 – Genesis 19:38 )

3.  Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 20)

1.  The LORD who eats with us (Genesis 18:1-20)

Jesus appears to Abraham again by the oaks of Mamre.  This place is very symbolic – where Abraham had previously built an altar to the LORD (Genesis 13:18), and where Abraham found Amorite and other brethren against the kings and rulers (Genesis 14:13).  However, this time, it is a bit different.  Not only does Jesus appear to give him promises, but here we have the Anointed One, appearing with two other sent ones, to have a meal with Abraham!

Some find this incredulous, to the point of saying that these three men are either human or just mere angels (thus it isn’t God himself manifestly present in the face of Abraham).  But the reason people find this chapter fantastic, is because of the common misconception that God doesn’t tabernacle, or dwell with us.  Rather, God is a goal we reach, and he is untouchable.  Is that a Scriptural understanding?  Not the kind of God whom I know.  I, like Abraham, look forward to the day when I can also have a meal with the LORD, the same LORD who broke bread and shared wine with 12 apostles; the same LORD who had fish with his disciples after his resurrection; the same wedding feast which the LORD will come down to earth to attend

2And I saw(A) the holy city,(B) new Jerusalem,(C) coming down out of heaven from God,(D) prepared(E) as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold,(F) the dwelling place[a] of God is with man. He will(G) dwell with them, and they will be his people,[b] and God himself will be with them as their God.[c] 4(H) He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and(I) death shall be no more,(J) neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Then, we have the Angel profess to Sarah that around 1 year later, he would visit Sarah again.  This is interesting – in Chapter 21:1, the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, even after the “way of the woman” had ceased to be with Sarah.  This is interesting – and it parallels the story of the virgin birth.  Firstly, the re-establishment that one of the sent ones is the LORD himself; secondly, that the LORD is capable of doing the impossible, raising life when there should only have been death.  If the LORD is capable of raising Isaac out of the impossible, then how much more is the LORD capable of raising Isaac if he should ask Abraham to give Isaac as an offering to Him?  Surely this would justify Abraham’s behaviour in Genesis 22 – for Isaac was given completely from God, and to return his only son to God is more than acceptable (Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”)

2.  Sodom and Gomorrah:  Character study of Lot (Genesis 18:21 – Genesis 19:38 )

Then the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is very disturbing.  Abraham firstly intercedes for Sodom – yet he is very aware of the nature of the Sodomites.  Indeed, Abraham is burdened for the souls of the Sodomites – just as we all should be.  His constant plea, from 50, to 45, to 40, 30, 20, 10… and God is patient and loving and keeps to his promise.  How could Abraham be expecting 10-50 people righteous in the country?  Because he is not speaking of literally righteous people who are pleasing to the LORD.  Rather, he is speaking of those who are righteous by their faith in Christ.  It is quite evident why that is, when Lot and his two daughters are the only ones who escaped.  All those who failed to escape, being his sons in laws and his wife who turned into a pillar of salt, were all examples of those who are unrighteous – those who did not look to God, but looked back onto the city which they cherished.

(a)  The city

The city is something which Lot himself also cherished, but he failed to be the gospel witness that he should have been, compared to Abraham’s tent-like lifestyle.  Rather, as we saw in Genesis 13, he settled in the city.  Unlike Abraham, he did not look forward to the eternal kingdom (Hebrews 11) by living in tents, but only looked to his present comfort and lived in the city (Genesis 19:1; Proverbs 31:23).  Listen to him speak in verses Genesis 19:19-20:

“…But I cannot escape to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I die. 20 Behold, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one.  Let me escape there – is it not a little one? – and my life will be saved!”

What strange words to be coming from a man who is about to be saved from God himself.  He actually has PREFERENCES!  Yet, the LORD is patient, and grants him this favour also (Chapter 19:21).

(b)  Lot’s evangelism

There are a lot of problems with Lot’s evangelism.  Firstly, he failed to influence those around him – and he was a mere sojourner, who fully molded himself to the society’s culture.  Even the men wanted to rape the angels (Jude 7 – the men desired “strange” flesh), and Lot dared to even offer his two daughters, as if they are suitable substitutes.  It seems that Lot had completely back-fired from his rather ‘religious’ comment, that raping is ‘wicked’.  In only a matter of a few seconds, or minutes, he offers his own two daughters for rape!  Furthermore, he sounded unconvincing to his two sons-in-law when he sends the message of the imminent destruction of the city, the sons who no-doubt are not Jesus-fearers themselves.  The only people who did leave were Lot, his two daughters and his wife.  Even his wife looked back.  This is a clear example of the physical church – Lot, his two daughers, and his wife.  But only the true spiritual Israelites would pass through the fire; but the physical Israelite as it were, Lot’s wife, would not pass through.  The true church vs. the physical church.

Finally, it is pitiful to see that there weren’t even 10 righteous men.  Who are such ‘righteous’ men?  People who believed in God, for even God called Lot righteous (2 Peter 2:7), despite his compromises, his failure to evangelise and influence his neighbours, his lingering (Genesis 19:16), his offering of his daughers for rape… he is still considered as righteous.  So Abraham interceded for 10 men who had faith in Christ… and in all the time Lot had spent there, he still failed to influence even 10 men for Christ.  This shows that his time at Sodom was not for ministry; his time at Sodom was simply to be part of the family, possibly even marrying Sodomite men to his daughters.

(c)  The angels, and the Angel

Lot however is very aware of the angels – he even baked unleavened bread and made a feast for them which they ate, just as Abraham had done the same.  Both are aware of the angels’ awesomeness, but the latter failed to live up to his actions.  He knew the city centre is dangerous, hence he decides to welcome the angels into his house.  But, like an introvert Christian, he lives in a holy bubble yet slowly molded to the culture’s standards.

I would like to impute some meaning to the unleavened bread here, but the symbolism of the unleavened bread had not taken its effect until the time of Exodus.  Contrarily, look at Abraham’s actions – Genesis 18:8 says his wife had prepared curds, milk, calf… a full course meal, that took time to prepare.  But unleavened bread, which is hardly as tasty as leavened bread, was prepared for the angelic guest.  What kind of ‘feast’ Lot had offered is unknown (Genesis 19:3), but the way it was written displays a sense where Lot’s response to the angels is less convicting than Abraham’s response.  Abraham had displayed thorough family teamwork by asking his helper, his wife, to make the food; whereas Lot worked by himself, whilst his two daughters and his wife were unaware and uninvolved.  Lot not only had evangelistic problems outside his house; he had the same problems inside.

Genesis 19:7 – though the ESV translation says “And as they brought them out, one said”, the better translation is “And as they brought them out, the one (meaning the one standing OUTSIDE of the city) said, ‘Escape for your life… escape to the hills…”.  The reason why I make this distinction is because the same ONE Angel is referred to in v. 21.  “He said to him…” – it would be entirely difficult to know who “He” is, unless in the Hebrew, the Angel of the Lord had already been impliedly distinguished in v. 17.

Now, if you, like Trypho in his dialogue with Justin Martyr, have been assuming that this LORD is the Creator, the father Himself, let’s put the terminology “LORD” into context.  Genesis 19:24, the verse which stumps all non-Trinitarian doctrines in the Old Testament.  “The LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven”.  Which LORD are we speaking of?  Of course, the first LORD is the one who had awaited with Abraham, the LORD who warned Lot himself.  This is Jesus.  And the LORD out of heaven?  The Father himself.

(d)  The father of the Moabites and Ammonites

These are the Moabites and Ammonites that Moses himself knew, as chronicled in Deuteronomy 23:3-6 –

3(B) “No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the LORD. Even to the tenth generation, none of them may enter the assembly of the LORD forever, 4(C) because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt, and because they(D) hired against you Balaam the son of Beor from Pethor of(E) Mesopotamia, to curse you. 5But the LORD your God would not listen to Balaam; instead the LORD your God turned(F) the curse into a blessing for you, because the LORD your God loved you. 6You(G) shall not seek their peace or their prosperity all your days forever.

And yet, we get a little side-story on how they came around – by the illegal and sinful incestuous conception of his two daughters.  Lot, not only did he fail to persuade his daughters NOT to make him drunk, in his drunkenness had sex with his two daughters.  Yet, this is the same righteous Lot Peter spoke about in his second letter.  Have I hammered the point enough that Lot is therefore not righteous by his own standards, but by Christ?

3.  Abraham and Abimelech (Genesis 20)

This is a repeat of Abraham’s sin in Genesis 12:10-20.  Yet, the LORD is continually faithful, despite his rather repetative inability to present his wife as his WIFE.  Here, Abraham feared men more than God – and yet God is still faithful to him.  This just enforces God’s faithfulness to Abraham; Abraham compromises his faith too often to be assured of his own salvation, had he relied on his ‘work’ – that is – faith.

Conclusion

In overview, we get a character study of Lot and the continual faithfulness of Jesus Christ, and his relationship with his Father is further revealed in Genesis 19:24.  So far, we have recorded several instances of the Trinity working; from Genesis 1-3 in creation and in Jesus walking throughout the garden; from the pre-Mosaic law sacrifices made; from the Noahic flood; from the Christophanic appearances to Abraham and Lot; from the Trinity going to confuse the people of their understanding in the making of Babel… these are merely the instances reeled off the top of my head.  If anything, the deity of Christ is far more focused here, in comparison to the New Testament.  This is why Jesus can say that he saw Abraham (John 8:57) – because he really did!  If we are ever going to look for the deity of Christ, why look in the NT when the OT is littered with other names which also described the same Son, when he is called LORD, the Angel of the LORD, the Blessed man, the Anointed One, the righteous One… which point so much more to his character and deity which the incarnate Christ had also embodied?

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Genesis 18-20: Abraham, Lot, and God’s faithfulness

7 thoughts on “Genesis 18-20: Abraham, Lot, and God’s faithfulness

  1. Jacky says:

    on one level it seems to be about abraham marrying his sister, a picture of Christ marrying his sister, the church. so abraham isn’t really misrepresenting sarah.

    you need to also look at the context of where abraham is, and the significance of the story of him, and his sister, both plundering unchristian nations as a parallel of Israel plundering the Egyptian nation when the Exodus occurred… and that analogy extends to us Christians plundering from non-Christians in many ways too

  2. believer says:

    Genesis 18:20: The LORD [God the Son] continued: “The outcry over Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sins are so terrible, 21 I’m going down to see whether or not they’ve done everything I’m told by those who cry to Me. I want to know.”

    Genesis 18:22: The Men [the Son and Spirit] left and went on to Sodom while Abraham kept standing before the LORD. – Abraham starts his haggling with God the Father

    Genesis 19:24: Then Yahveh [the Son and Spirit] rained on Sodom and on Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahveh [the Father] out of the sky

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