Three times over in the
Bible, and each in an entirely different context, Abraham is called "the friend
of God" ( 2 Chron. 20:7
; Isa. 41:8
; Jas. 2:23). In 2 Chronicles 20:7
, King Jehoshaphat
prayed to the Lord in a time of national crisis and referred to Abraham as God's
"friend forever'': while James, at the close of his argument about faith and
works, refers to Abraham as "the friend of God" (2:23). First of all, however,
it is to be noted that in Isaiah 41:8
the Lord Himself calls Abraham "My friend."
Chapters 17 and 18 of Genesis,
perhaps as no other passages, reveal the familiarity and intimacy that Abraham
had with the Lord, but Abraham's portion should be, in far greater measure,
the portion of every believer today. The friendship of God is offered to us
in the Lord Jesus Christ ( Jn. 15:15
Regarding our specific study
and consideration of Genesis 18:16-33
, let us observe first God's purpose in
The Purpose of God (18:16-22)
In verse 16, either the
two angels (as in v. 22), or the Lord and the two angels, "looked toward Sodom."
A guilty people may well tremble when God fixes His gaze on them. He waits a
long while before He unleashes His judgment (e.g., Gen. 15:13-16
; 2 Chron. 36:16
2 Pet. 3:9
; Rev. 16:19
), but eventually it comes. It is noteworthy that Abraham
accompanied his guests on their way in order to direct them to Sodom, and this
act of courtesy opened to him a marvelous opportunity of intercession.
It is a revelation of condescending
grace that the Lord desires, as evidenced in 18:17, to share His purposes and
secrets with the godly (cf. Ps. 25:14
). How much do we really know of
such intimate and enriching fellowship with Him?
Of Abraham's experience
at this time, W. Graham Scroggie has concisely yet instructively stated, "God
takes certain men and women into His deep counsels, and reveals to them His
purposes, and in this way history is set forward. That is the meaning of Hebrews
11. One God-fearing man is made the means of universal blessing; but that man
reaches the world through his family and that nation of which he was the origin."
In 18:18 we have the reason
for the Lord's condescending grace, and just as Abraham was caught up in the
purpose of redemption, so also have all true believers (see Rom. 8:28-30
purpose in making Himself known to Abraham was that He might bring into being
a family that would give witness to Him, enabling Him to fulfill His promises
(18:19). Today, this purpose and witness are being carried on through the Church
the Body of Christ, until such time as the witness of the Church on the earth
is completed at the rapture and God once again starts His time clock with respect
There is one important detail
in 18:19 which has both pertinent and practical significance today, and this
is represented by the words, "command his children." Parents have a definite
responsibility to train their children in the ways of the Lord and to evangelize
each generation (cf. Prov. 22:6
; Eph. 6:4
). Part of this training includes the
responsibility of believing parents to bring their children regularly to the
local church, thereby making the place of worship and testimony an integral
part of their family life.
No doubt the Lord addressed
the angels in 18:17 and 20, but Abraham was permitted to hear what was spoken
and was thus taken into the Lord's confidence. Using common human terms, the
Lord's action in 18:21 is similar to that of 11:7. Here, the two angels appeared
as men, though sometimes angels appear as horses and chariots of fire (cf. 2
Ki. 2:11; 6:17; Ps. 68:17
). God went down to Sodom in these two angels as His
representatives (Mt. 13:41).
Please note that while there
is most certainly a time and place for corporate prayer, Abraham waited until
he was alone with God before he began his intercession (cf. 18:22 with Mt. 6:6).
The Prayer of Abraham
This is the first great
prayer in the Bible, and it is noteworthy that it is intercessory. Observe two
main things about it. First, note its basis.
The Consciousness of
God (18:22): The words "drew near" remind us of James 4:8a
, "Draw near to
God, and He will draw near to you" (see Eph. 2:13
; Rom. 5:10
). To pray aright
one must believe that God is, even as one must come to God in faith ( Heb. 11:6
The Covenant of God (18:17-19):
Abraham had been taken into God's confidence and fellowship regarding His worldwide
The second main thing to
observe about Abraham's prayer is its characteristics.
It Was Reverent:
Believers today should show the same spirit of reverence reflected throughout
this intercessory prayer, even though it is true that we have a far greater
boldness of approach and access in the Lord Jesus Christ ( Heb. 4:16
It Was Earnest: There
is no mistaking the earnestness with which Abraham prayed (notice the occurrences
of "oh" in vv. 30 and 32).
It Was Discriminatory
(18:24-25): Abraham discriminated between the righteous and the wicked, and
he was concerned for both. Of course, he was thinking primarily of his nephew
Lot (19:29), and his prayer indicates that he understood what constituted righteousness
in God's sight. Lot manifested almost no practical righteousness at all, yet
he was--like Abraham--justified by faith ( 2 Pet. 2:7
That God distinguishes between
the righteous and the wicked is clearly set forth in His Word (e.g., Prov. 17:15
It Was in Accord with
God's Character (18:25; see Jn. 14:13
; 1 Jn. 5:14-15
; Jude 20
knowledge of God's character was used as basis for action, not inaction. He
did not take a fatalistic attitude about things as some are prone to do (see
It Was Definite (18:28-32).
It may be that much of our praying is so general as to be pointless, at the
same time lacking earnestness and fervency. General praying will never be rewarded
by particular answers, and at that, Abraham himself could have been more definite
than he was.
It Was Persevering:
Six times over Abraham asked that Sodom might be spared, and each time God gave
him the exact answer to his petition.
It Was Humble (18:27):
Abraham never lost sight of the One to whom he was praying. One of the great
lessons of this passage is that the wicked owe far more to the presence and
prayers of the righteous than they would be willing to admit. This is indicated
elsewhere in God's Word (e.g., Acts 27
). Had there been ten believers in Sodom,
the Lord would have spared the city. A further noteworthy lesson is that Abraham
stopped praying of his own accord; he was not told to stop. In other words,
Abraham ceased praying before God stopped promising. Perhaps he could have gone
on petitioning, requesting that the city might be spared for just one soul,
but he did not take this liberty, no doubt assuming that there would be at least
ten believers in Sodom between Lot and the members of his family.
In these "last days" of
this present age of grace, with the world hurtling headlong toward God's sure
judgment, let us press on to realize more and more of our Lord's purposes through
a diligent study of His Word, remembering that one of the chief ways of getting
to know both His purposes and Person more fully is by prayer. Abraham's example
is a good one for us today. May we be encouraged by it to frequently "draw near"
to our Saviour-God, even this very moment.