The Bible In A Year: Day 7 (January 7th)
Having finally found somewhere quiet in the house, the reading for today is Genesis 18-19 and Romans 7.
To bring you up to date, in yesterday’s passage Abram was renamed to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. Abraham slept with Sarah’s servant (with Sarah’s permission), who then ran away. She came back and had a child who was named Ishmael0. Abraham was told that he would have a son by Sarah (to be called Isaac) and that God’s promise to Abraham would come true through Isaac, not Ishmael.
1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.
Is this normal hospitality on Abraham’s part or is it immediately obvious that this is God (with some angels)?
10 Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Abraham and Sarah are finally given a timeframe for when God’s promise will come true.
20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
God declares his intent for Sodom and Gomorrah to Abraham. In the following verses, Abraham asks the Lord if he will destroy the city if there are fifty righteous people found, which God says he will not. Abraham then asks about forty-five righteous people. Abraham argues God down to ten people, when he stops.
It should be noted that Abraham stopped of his own accord, God did not stop him. Would God have refrained altogether if Abraham had asked him to? There’s also an interesting parallel between this and the fact that God, through Jesus’ acts in the New Testament, has agreed not to destroy all in the world because of just a single righteous man, Jesus himself. However, this does bring up questions about God being unchanging. We see him explicitly changing his mind several times in this passage. How is this compatible with the view that God is unchanging?
On a slightly different note, during this discourse Abraham says:
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
God does not reprimand Abraham for speaking to him such. What effect should this have on how we pray? Should we tell God what he should and shouldn’t do, according to what he’s promised in the Bible? In my opinion, this is a clear example of an intercessory prayer being answered. Abraham is arguing with God on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.
To remove any suspense, the heading of this part of the chapter in the NIV is ‘Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed’.
In the first three verses of this passage, Lot (who you will remember lives in Sodom) convinces the two angels who were with God when he met with Abraham to stay in his house for the night. By verse 5, Sodomites have surrounded the house and, true to the nature suggested by the use of that word contemporarily:
5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”
Lot, surprisingly enough, refuses and then responds:
8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”
This is a function of the insane levels of hospitality required of people in these times.
As a result of this exchange, and the actions of the crowd afterward, the angels come to the conclusion that this city is not worth saving.
12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”
Though God has evidently not found the ten righteous people Abraham pleaded for, he still wants to save the few righteous people that have been found.
14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the LORD is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.
An all-too-common response to the Christian message contemporarily, though you can certainly understand why. However, reading to the end of this passage does suggest that this isn’t the best of responses…
29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.
This suggests that Abraham’s concern with God’s plan to destroy Sodom was mostly related to Lot, which was probably the case. God didn’t answer Abraham’s direct prayer but he did answer the underlying problem. The answers to prayer don’t always come in the form we expect…
In the last part of the passage, Lot’s daughters get him drunk, sleep with him (as their husbands-to-be were left back in Sodom) and get pregnant. They give birth to Moab and Ben-Ammi, the fathers of the Moabites and Ammonites, who were later to be bitter enemies of Israel. This is also the first incest in the Bible1.
1 Do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to men who know the law—that the law has authority over a man only as long as he lives?
4 So, my brothers, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.
Christians are not bound to follow the Jewish law.
5 For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.
Paul seems to be suggesting that the law caused the sin. In a sense it did, as right from the Garden of Eden, human nature has been to do that which is forbidden.
Paul goes on to say that it is our sinful nature that causes us to sin, even if we do not want to.
0 Ishmael is, in the Islamic tradition, an ancestor of Muhammed’s and a prophet. He was also the son who Abraham is later ordered to sacrifice.
1 Or, if you take the first part of Genesis literally, the first explicit incest in the Bible, as Adam and Eve’s children must necessarily have had incestuous relations for us to all be here now.