Genesis Bible Study (God's Grace To Overcome)

Genesis 18, Moving God’s Sovereign Hand

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In Genesis 17 we read about the Lord giving Abraham the sign of circumcision, which was another sign to confirm his covenant to Abraham. When the Lord tells Abraham that it will be a child from the body of Sarah, and not Ishmael who will be the child of promise, Abraham laughs and asks that it simply be Ishmael. Because Abraham laughs the child of promise will be named, “He laughs,” which is, Isaac. Now God is going to confirm the covenant again to Abraham.

Three Visitors (Genesis 18:1-15)

Genesis 18 opens with three travelers suddenly appearing to Abraham. The author gives us information that this is the Lord who is visiting Abraham. But it is not evident that Abraham knows this. It is possible that he knows that he is being visit by the Lord or he may understand these to be angels or heavenly visitors. The translations are evenly divided on this, some capitalizing “Lord” in verse 3 (ESV, NASB, NKJV), while many others leave “lord” lowercased (HCSB, NIV, NRSV, NET, NLT). Either way, Abraham addresses these men as people greater than himself. Therefore, Abraham offers hospitality to these three strangers who have suddenly appeared before him. A calf is killed and cakes are made for these visitors.

While these visitors are eating they ask Abraham where Sarah is. Abraham responds that she is in the tent. The Lord then says that this time next year he will return and your wife will bear a son. Verse 11 is important. We are told at the very beginning of the account of Abraham and Sarah that this is a hopeless couple. Sarah has no children and she cannot have children. Verse 11 presses the hopelessness further. Now Sarah cannot physically have children because of her age either. She is advanced in years so that her body cannot possibly have a child, never mind the fact that she was barren in the first place. With this news, Sarah laughs to herself, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” Remember in Genesis 17:17 Abraham did the same thing. He laughed and said to himself that both he and her were too old to have children. Now Sarah responds the same way.

Just as the Lord knew what Abraham said in his heart, the Lord also knew what Sarah said in herself. Listen to the Lord’s response to Abraham in verse 13. “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year and Sarah shall have a son.” What the Lord asks is very important. The Hebrew verb that is translated by most versions as “hard” or “difficult” means “wonderful, marvelous, amazing, difficult.” Is there anything too amazing for God?

This is the central issue to the life of Abraham and is the central issue for us for walking by faith. The ability of the Lord is beyond human comprehension. What a thought! What a comfort to know this! God expects his people to believe his promises, trusting and obeying him, because nothing is too difficult or too amazing for the Lord. Is there something God cannot do? I think everyone in this room would say that God can do anything. But let us make this more personal now. Is there something God cannot do for you? When it comes to our lives the answer seems to change. Now we are not so sure that God can do anything in our lives. We are not confident that there is nothing too amazing for God to do. But this is the bedrock of our faith. What problem in your life is too big for God? What struggle do you have that God cannot handle? Either we believe that God is able to do anything and that there is nothing too amazing for him to accomplish or we laugh within ourselves at such an idea and lack faith. God can take hopeless people and change their lives. But do we believe that trusting and obeying the Lord will lead to  God working in our lives? Is anything too amazing for the Lord?

Judgment Revealed (18:16-33)

The Lord does something amazing at this point. The Lord says that he is not going to hide from Abraham what he is about to do. The Lord tells Abraham what he is going to do in verses 20-21. The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave. Therefore God is coming to visit these cities in judgment for these sins. Now stop and think about this for a moment. Why does God tell Abraham this? I submit to you that this is an invitation statement. We do this many times in our conversations. We make a statement looking for a response. If I say to my wife, “I am going to buy a shirt,” I am looking for a response. I am inviting a conversation. Perhaps she will say that she will go with me to buy the shirt. Perhaps she will say I do not need a shirt. Maybe she will say that we do not have money for a shirt. She could say that it is about time I updated my clothing. Whatever the answer, the reason I made the statement was to invite a conversation.

Think about the fact that this is exactly what God is doing with Abraham. God is opening the door of conversation with Abraham by telling him what he is going to do. God reveals his will, inviting his creation into a dialogue with him. How amazing it is that God reveals himself and his will and then invites to have a conversation with him! How often we are afraid to talk to God when he is inviting us to talk to him! We read this discussion between Abraham and God and we are amazed at the boldness of Abraham to say what he says. Look at verses 23-26:

“Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” (Genesis 18:23–26 ESV)

The Lord invited this discussion by telling Abraham of his intentions. Then further notice that the Lord listens to Abraham’s request. Think about what this combination means. The power of prayer to move the hand of God in which nothing is too amazing for him! God invites us to speak with him, the One who is sovereign over all things and nothing is too hard for him to do. God reveals himself so that we will speak with him and ask him to do things that from our perspective seem impossible. Here is Abraham, in great humility, asking God to not judge the cities that deserve judgment even if there are 50 righteous people, then 45 righteous people, then 30 righteous people, then 20 righteous people, and finally 10 righteous people in the cities. Oh, how we are invited to speak to God and ask anything of him and move the sovereign hand of God!

Gracious God Desires To Save (18:16-33)

Then consider this final aspect in our consideration of God. We see a patient God desiring to rescue. God does not say no to Abraham’s request. God is not desiring to pour out his wrath on these cities. God must not be pictured as a wrathful God looking to barbecue his creation whenever there is opportunity. God is patient and longsuffering. God loves people and desires to save. God desires to rescue. But here is the sad part to this story. When we turn to Genesis 19 we see that God desires to rescue, but no one wants to be rescued. God does not want to destroy, but we leave him no other option. He is the righteous Judge and he is just and right in all of his judgments. Notice how this is emphasized in verses 20-21. God is going “to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me.” What God does is always right and always just. Therefore we are invited to approach and converse with God, in which there is nothing that is too difficult or amazing for him to do, understanding that whatever the outcome of our request, God always does what is right and just.

We conclude with the point we observed at the beginning of this lesson. The central issue for the life of Abraham and the central issue for our lives: Nothing is too difficult for God. Therefore God is to be trusted and obeyed. Will we believe what he has revealed about himself and about his will? Will we respond to his desire to rescue you from the judgment that is coming against all ungodliness and unrighteousness? Will you give your life to the loving God who sent his Son to save you from your sinful ways?

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