The Old Testament Lesson for this Sunday, July 28, 2019, is written in the first book of the Torah. The text is Genesis 18:20-33 and is the account of Abraham and his bargaining session with the LORD over the fate of Sodom. In truth, it appears that Abraham is actually concerned for the fate of his nephew, Lot, who resides in the city of Sodom, and not so much about the city itself. The context of this pericope is that the “Three Visitors” have been with Abraham and announced the upcoming birth of the child of Abraham and Sara’s old age. Now, two of these visitors (angels) have left and are on their way to Sodom and the Angel of the LORD (the pre-incarnate Christ) has remained with Abraham and reveals what is about to take place at Sodom. Note it is the covenantal relationship the LORD has with Abraham that causes Him to share this information (vs. 17-19).
It is also the covenantal relationship that gives Abraham the right to have this interesting bargaining session (argument) with the LORD. Western Christianity is uncomfortable with this kind of conversation between God and man, however, it is a very common and accepted—even encouraged—manner of conversation in the Scriptures. This bargaining/arguing could be considered a sub-category of “Lament” which is quite common in the Psalms. However, we also see it with Moses, Elijah, and Jeremiah. Because of the God-established covenantal relationship, Abraham, as well as the rest of the covenantal people have the right to question God, or bargain and argue with Him. The Hebrews understood lament, in general, to be evidence of faith because one does not argue with a God they do not believe in, and who they do not believe has any power to change the order of things.
The Hebrews understood lament, in general, to be evidence of faith because one does not argue with a God they do not believe in, and who they do not believe has any power to change the order of things.
In this relationship Abraham knows the LORD and His promises quite well. Thus, we see Abraham recalling the LORD’s attention to the LORD’s own attributes, character and promises. Abraham knows that the LORD is merciful, gracious, just and righteous and so he points this out as he engages in the argument. Basically, Abraham is calling upon God to be who He promised to always be! And, Abraham is certain that the LORD will respond appropriately because He must be true and faithful—this takes great faith on the part of Abraham and shows how well he understands the covenantal relationship.
Remember, it is the covenant that gives Abraham the right to question God and His judgment. And, equally important in all manner of lament, Abraham leaves it in the hand of the LORD to deal with the situation properly. Abraham believes that God is personally in control of the events of history and can be persuaded to change His mind. After all, He who created the world in six days can certainly change His mind concerning Sodom, save Lot and his family, and still keep the earth spinning in the proper way!
God is in control, but God is also in relationship with His children and asks us to pray, to lament, to ask Him to change His mind as we participate as the bride with our Bridegroom. And, we trust that no matter what the action or answer to our conversation with Him, the LORD God will do what is good and right for the sake of His Kingdom.
18:20 זַעֲקַת; “outcry; cry for help; plaintive crying out”
רָבָּה root: רבב Qal: “to be numerous; to become numerous” The idea is that this is not a one-time problem but that the outcry continues in an ongoing fashion—habitual in nature.
כָבְדָה, מְאֹד Literally: “very heavy; very important” In this context: “very great”
18:21 הַכְּצַעֲקָתָהּ; from: צעקה. “outcry; lament (over an injustice); yell”
כָּלָה “altogether; completely” The Hebrew literally reads: “they have made a complete end”
18:22 וַיִּפְנוּ: root: פנה Qal: “to turn; depart”
18:23 וַיִּגַּשׁ root: נגשׁ Qal: “to draw near; to approach”
תִּסְפֶּה root: ספה Qal: “to sweep away; to take away; to carry away”
18:24 אוּלַי “suppose; may be; peradventure”
18:25 חָלִלָה from: חליל “far be it from”
מֵעֲשֹׂת root: עשׂה Qal, infinitive: “to do; to make”
18:26 אֶמְצָא, root: מצא Qal: “to find”
בַּעֲבוּרָם; from: עבור “because of; for the sake of”
18:27 הוֹאַלְתִּי root: יאל Hiphil: “to decide; to undertake; to be prepared to”
וָאֵפֶר “ashes; soil crumbling to dust”
18:28 יַחְסְרוּן: root: חסר Qal: “to lack; to be few”
18:30 יִחַר root: חרה Qal: “to be hot; to become hot; to burn; to be kindled”
18:31 הוֹאַלְתִּי root: יאל Hiphil: “to decide”
בַּעֲבוּר; from: עֲבוּר “for the sake of; because of”
Something to take note of: Abraham stops his bargaining short of the number of righteous in the city of Sodom. However, God who is faithful and just, answers Abraham’s concerns/prayers in another manner as He saves Lot and his family.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Genesis 18: (17-19) 20-33.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Genesis 18: (17-19) 20-33.