And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
I. The vale of Sodom was a region blooming and smiling in all the riches of nature; on every hand there was something to raise the thoughts to the Creator. But amidst all this, what was man? His wickedness was so aggravated and extreme, that the region itself was doomed to perish with its inhabitants. Sin still infects the fair field of nature, and it is this which spoils the beauty of the scene. If all the sin in the world could become a visible thing, it would blast and overpower in our view all the beauty of nature. The sin of Sodom was so aggravated that its cry went up to heaven, and the righteous Governor was obliged to manifest Himself.
II. It is impossible not to be struck with the calmness and quietness with which the work of vengeance proceeded. Three persons came on a friendly visit to Abraham. They accepted his hospitality; spoke with him on a matter of complacent interest—the renewed assurance of his posterity. Then "the men rose up from thence and looked toward Sodom." We are left in the dark as to one circumstance here. Only two of the persons went on to Sodom, leaving Abraham to converse with the Almighty. The third disappears from our view—unless he was a manifestation of the Divine Being himself, and the same that Abraham conversed with in that solemn character.
III. Notice what value the Lord must set on the righteous, when for the sake often such men he would have spared Sodom. Only one righteous man dwelt in Sodom, and he was saved.
IV. The precise manner of the fearful catastrophe is beyond our conjecture. It would seem that an earthquake either accompanied or followed it, but the "fire from heaven" is intimated as the grand chief agent of the destruction. The people of Sodom had no time for speculations; there was just time for terror and conscience and despair. Yet our Lord says there is a still greater guilt, a more awful destruction even than theirs. The man that lives and dies rejecting Him had better have been exposed to the rain of fire and brimstone and gone down in the gulf of the vale of Siddim.
J. Foster, Lectures, vol. i., p. 103. Reference: Genesis 18:19.—R. M. McCheyne, Additional Remains, p. 125.
Genesis 18:22Even under the Old Testament, there were certain visits of Christ to our world which we cannot but consider as earnests or shadows of His great advent. It is clear that in very ancient times God appeared to His servants in the form of a man.
I. From many passages in the Old and New Testaments (notably Isaiah 63:8-9, John 8:56) we are led to believe: (1) that Christ exercised great concern in the affairs of the Old Testament Church; (2) that He did at certain periods discover Himself in the garb which He was afterwards to assume, and which when assumed He went on to wear for ever; (3) that He was the superior angel whom we find speaking under that manifestation, and to whom, always, Divine honours were paid.
II. The narrative in this chapter opens by telling us generally that "the Lord appeared unto Abraham." How the Lord appeared is related in the rest of the chapter. (1) To all his three guests Abraham was kind, hospitable, reverential; but to one he was more. From the first that one attracted his regard. He addressed him at once as "my Lord." (2) In the conversation which ensued there are certain things which all said together, and certain things which only one says. The former are comparatively trivial, the latter most important. (3) When the men were gone, we have these very discriminating words: "Abraham stood yet before the Lord."
III. Note some points in Christ's character and work brought out in this chapter. (1) He was accompanied by the ministration of angels. (2) He condescended to receive from man. (3) He exercised the two offices of a promiser and a reprover. (4) He came to Abraham as a Friend in sympathy, but He came also as a mighty Deliverer and an avenging Judge.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 1874, p. 228.
References: Genesis 18:22.—Bishop Woodford, Cambridge Lent Sermons, 1864, p. 73; C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, p. 371; J. Van Oosterzee, The Year of Salvation, vol. ii., p. 343.
Genesis 18:22, Genesis 18:30The intercession of Abraham is the first prayer that the Bible records; and in its great characteristics, human and spiritual, it is one of the most remarkable. It is the intercession of a good man, a friend of God, for men who, in their wickedness and their defiance of God, had well-nigh approached the utmost possibilities of human evil.
I. A man's praying power is not an arbitrary thing; it is the result of long antecedent spiritual processes. It is very significant that it is Abraham and not Lot who is the intercessor for Sodom. (1) Jehovah does not even impart His confidence to Lot; only at the last moment, when all is determined, He mercifully sends His messengers to bring him to a place of safety. (2) Even supposing Lot had been made acquainted with Jehovah's purpose, he would not have been capable of interceding for Sodom as Abraham did. He had not the requisite spiritual qualifications. There was spiritual life in Lot, but it ever leaned to the worldly side of things. There was spiritual life in Abraham, but it leaned to the heavenly side of things.
II. The praying power of man is conditioned upon the circumstances by which he surrounds himself. Abraham was at Mamre; Lot in Sodom.
III. Even when God vouchsafes to visit a man, much of his spiritual blessing depends on his character and circumstances.
IV. It is instructive to compare the intercession of Abraham with the pleadings of Lot when the angels sought to deliver him. The prayer of Abraham is perfect in its humility, when daring in its boldness. The prayer of Lot is troubled, selfish, and self-willed.
V. There is one contrast more, which is very suggestive. The narrow, selfish, self-willed prayer of Lot was answered; the holy, Christ-like intercession of Abraham was unavailing. Therefore it is no criterion of a right or a wrong prayer, that it does not receive the kind of answer we solicit.
H. Allon, Congregationalist, vol. i., p. 201.
References: Genesis 18:22, Genesis 18:23.—H. Allon, The Vision of God, p. 197. Genesis 18:23-25.—A. W. Momerie, Preaching and Hearing, pp. 174, 189. Genesis 18:23, Genesis 18:33.—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 304.
Genesis 18:25Abraham had learned that to address himself to God's justice was better even than to appeal to His mercy. And for this reason,—it is a stronger basis. Justice is a more definite thing than mercy. Every man who feels his sins should lay firm hold on the thought that "He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Then we stand upon a rock.
I. The greatest requisite of a judge is justice. The last great judgment will be characterised by the most exquisite justice. All the justice of this world is merely a reflection of this attribute of the Almighty.
II. It seems essential to the dignity and uprightness of that tribunal that we believe equally two things: (1) That God having been pleased to lay down only one way of salvation, no man who, having been made acquainted with that way, attempts to get to heaven by any other, can be admitted; (2) that no man, who is in earnest about his salvation, can or shall be lost.
III. Here the question arises, What is the state before God now? what will be the final condition of those who have never heard the name of Christ? We must keep to the one thought—the justice of the last judgment shall be vindicated. We inherit from Adam an entail of condemnation. Jesus Christ by His death rolled back the entail of condemnation from all mankind. These two facts are co-extensive. No man perishes because of Adam's sin: God has cancelled that evil by the death of His Son. From the second chapter of Romans we gather that every man will be judged and dealt with according to his conscience; and if any man have really lived up to the light that was in him, even though that light was only the light of reason and nature, that man will not eternally perish. The man who does not perish because he has obeyed his own conscience is saved for Christ's sake, even though he never heard His name. He owes his salvation to an unknown Saviour.
IV. Does this view affect injuriously the work of missions? No; because (1) it does not follow, because a heathen who obeys his conscience will not perish, that therefore he can attain the same degree of eternal happiness as a Christian. By making him a Christian we put him in a better position. (2) Consider the very small chance there is that any heathen will follow his conscience. Christ bids us "preach the Gospel to every creature."
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 15th series, p. 117.
References: Genesis 18:25.—T. Birkett Dover, A Lent Manual, p. 15; R. H. Story, Good Words, 1877, p. 128; S. Cox, Expositions, 1st series, p. 54; W. Hubbard, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 376.
Genesis 18:32I. Notice first the words of God which introduce this history. "Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great," etc. Behind this human manner of speaking what a lesson is here! The judgments of God from time to time overtake guilty nations and guilty men; but, huge and overwhelming catastrophes as these often are, there is nothing hasty, blind, precipitate about them. He is evermore the same God who, when the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah waxed great, is described as going down to see and inquire whether they had "done altogether according to the cry of it."
II. In God's assurance to Abraham that if there are fifty, forty, thirty, twenty, or even ten righteous men found in the city He will not destroy it, we may recognise a very important law of His government of the world: this, namely,—that it is not the presence of evil but the absence of good which brings the longsuffering of God to an end. However corrupt any fellowship of men may be, however far gone in evil, yet so long as there is a sound, healthy kernel in it of righteous men, that is, of men who love and fear God and will witness for God, there is always hope.
III. This promise of God, "I will not destroy it for ten's sake," shows us what righteous men, lovers and doers of the truth, are. They are as the lightning conductors, drawing aside the fiery bolts of His vengeance, which would else have long since scorched, shattered, and consumed a guilty world. Oftentimes, it may be, they are little accounted of among men, being indeed the hidden ones of God crying in their secret places for the things which are done against the words of God's lips. The world may pass them, may know nothing of them, yet it is for their sakes that the world is endured and continues unto this day.
IV. Does not this remind us of one duty on behalf of others which we might effectually fulfil if a larger measure of grace dwelt in our hearts?—I mean the duty of prayer and intercession for others. Prayer for others is never lost, is never in vain; often by it we may draw down blessing upon others, but always and without fail it will return in blessing on ourselves.
R. C. Trench, Sermons Preached in Ireland, p. 190.
References: Genesis 18:32.—W. Morley Punshon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 9; J. Oswald Dykes, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 182; Parker, Pulpit Analyst, vol. ii., p. 241.
And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake.
And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.
And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake.
And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.