Encouragement from Genesis 19? Seriously?

imagesWhen you think of encouraging Bible stories and verses, I’ll bet nothing in Genesis 19 comes to mind.  You’ll never see a greeting card with Genesis 19:24 on it:

Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.

And don’t expect to see any beautiful plaques hung up in homes with verse 26 inscribed on it:

But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

Is there anything we can take away from Genesis 19 besides the fact that humans are exceedingly wicked and God is so holy that He will punish sinners?  Well, actually, yes.

In my last post we had to roll up our sleeves and dig deep into the muck and mire of the sordid story of Sodom and Gomorrah told in Genesis 19.  While it sometimes may be tempting to quickly skim past such uncomfortable stories, God put them in the Bible for a reason.  You can check my last post for some of the takeaways we can glean from that account.

imagesIn the midst of the darkness, sin, and apparent hopelessness of Genesis chapter 19, when things seem about as bad as it can be, there is a brilliant beacon of hope piercing the blackness.  That beacon is found in three little words in one verse.

So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived. (Genesis 19:29, ESV)

Ok, so what in the world has that got to do with anything?  Well, everything!  The text says that God remembered Abraham and therefore delivered Lot from the destruction of Sodom.  So what about Abraham did God specifically remember?

imagesWell, if you turn back a page and read Genesis 18:22-33, you’ll see that Abraham, aware of Sodom’s impending doom, desperately prayed that God would relent from the destruction He planned to rain down upon the city.  Now, Lot is not specifically mentioned in Genesis 18, but in light of 19:29, we now know that Abraham was specifically interceding for Lot.  It was concern for his beloved nephew who lived in Sodom that prompted Abraham’s prayer.  Judgment was coming, and Abraham interceded on behalf on Lot before God.  God remembered Abraham’s prayers, and Lot was delivered.

The Power of Prayer

imagesWe are reminded here of the importance and priority that prayer should have in the life of a believer. God is sovereign, for sure.  But God actually does hear prayers.  More than that, he actually responds to prayer!  Some of you may find that hard to believe, but it’s true!  There are things that have happened that would not have happened apart from the prayers of God’s people.

That reminder is very helpful to someone like me, who loves to emphasize and remember the overarching sovereignty of God over all things.  I must confess that in the past I’ve experienced temptations to descend into imagesprayerless passivity and use God’s sovereignty as a lame excuse.  But God desires us to “pray without ceasing.”  And prayer is meant to include praise, and communion with God, and thanksgiving, and it is also to include supplication (specific requests) and intercession (praying for others).  Scripture says, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2, ESV)

A sovereign God who is in control of the whole universe has ordained that certain things will happen through the prayers of His people.  Don’t try to figure it out.  I have found it easier to just relax and believe the Bible, even if I can’t get my head around it.

The great French Reformer John imagesCalvin wrote: “What the Lord does gratuitously — induced by no other cause than his own goodness — is ascribed to the prayers of men, for this reason; that we may be stirred up to worship God, and to pray to him.” Do you have wayward or unrepentant friends and family?  Are you concerned about their condition?  Genesis 19:29 is an encouraging reminder that God loves to use our prayers to benefit, bless, and rescue others.  The apostle John reminds us that:

…this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him. (1 John 5:14-15, ESV)

The key phrase there is “according to his will.”  God won’t always answer our prayers exactly according to our preference, and sometimes He may answer, “no.”  But because God is the perfect Father, we can always trust that however He responds, it will always be in a way that is best for His children.   (Matthew 7:11)

But there’s something even more encouraging about this story…

A pattern of intercession and mediation

imagesThroughout the Old Testament we see the recurring theme of a righteous man interceding for people under threat of the judgment of God.  We see over and over again the concept of a mediator between God and man.  We see Abraham interceding, we see Moses later on interceding, and this Old Testament pattern points us to a Greater Intercessor, a Greater Mediator.

Jesus Christ, the perfect Man of God, is that one true mediator between God and man.  We, who, like the Sodomitimageses, lived under the threat of God’s devastating judgment due to our own wickedness.  And right before the hammer blow of judgment fell, Christ, at just the right time, stepped in as our great Mediator.  And His first act of mediation was letting the hammer of God’s judgment fall on Him so it wouldn’t have to fall on us.

He suffered the death blow that you and I deserved.  The punishment for our sin rained down on Him instead.  And now all who put their trust in Jesus and His work on the cross have His payment applied to their account and they don’t have to pay for their sins in Hell because Jesus experienced Hell on the cross for them.

What’s more, Jesus Christ rose from the dead and continuous to work on our behalf!

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25, ESV)

If God remembered Abraham, how much more will He eagerly respond to the prayers of His beloved Son?  If you have placed your trust in this Great Mediator, you can forever rest in the security that, as surely as He saved you the moment you initially trusted Him, He will also keep you saved for eternity.  His intercession before God on your behalf will never fail.images

Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34, ESV)  To God alone be the glory!

Grace and Peace,

Pastor Demer

 

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