Abraham, Pt. 8: Entertain and Intercede

Scripture: Genesis 18:1-33, Genesis 19:1-38
Date: 04/03/2004 
This is part 8 of a sermon series on Abraham and deals with Genesis 18 and 19. The topic is on hospitality, entertaining, and interceding. Christians ought to be hospitable. Abraham earnestly prayed for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and interceded, just as Christ interceded for us.
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Note: This is a verbatim transcript of the live broadcast. It is presented as spoken.

Morning. I would like to welcome everybody especially any that might be visitors. Maybe I’ll begin with just a practical question. Are any of you a little warm? If our deacons or engineers, whoever might adjust the air-conditioning if you could please turn it up a little bit. I don’t know if it would help to open the doors. It’s such a nice day that it might just blow hot air in, but whatever we can do if we could circulate a little more air maybe opening the doors would be an answer. I’d appreciate that. We are going through, if you are a visitor we are going through a series on Abraham and I’ve been taking my time to try to address it. You know you can only do this once every ten years so I don’t want to mess up. I want to cover as much as I can in this first attempt. Today we’re going to try and cover chapters eighteen and nineteen of Genesis.

Now let me tell you one of my goals. Some of you remember a couple of years ago I did a series on Genesis. I’ve done a brief series on Joseph. That’s been several years ago. I did a series on Jacob and Esau. When I am done my goal is that I will have covered, studied the entire book of Genesis with you. Won’t that be nice? And I’m getting a blessing from doing it and I hope you do. It’s really the foundation book for the rest of the Bible in a very real sense. Now I don’t know if this happens with you but when I read the Bible I hear voices. That scares you a little, doesn’t it? But almost every verse I read, sometimes more than others, I hear a voice that says, “Preach me. Preach me.” And whenever I read two chapters that’s a lot of “preach me.” And so I am going to do my best. I do, I read the Bible and I just, I just, oh, I just hear the scriptures calling to be preached. And I remember once hearing H. M. S. Richards, Sr. say something to that effect and I thought, “I know exactly what he’s talking about.” So go with me to Genesis chapter eighteen.

We’ll begin by reading the first eight verses and then we’ll sort of pause here and there and try to catch up with some explanation. Abraham and Sarah in our last adventure they both received new names, the covenant of circumcision was instituted, God renewed the promise that Abraham would have a son with Sarah. Here we are in chapter eighteen and it says, “Then the Lord appeared to him” Abraham “by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.” Well, you know that’s a good thing to do. He’s, remember Abraham is very wealthy. He has hundreds of servants, probably maybe thousands of people in his household, we don’t know. One of the only numbers that is ever given is that he had three hundred and eighteen servants trained for war and if you figure out what percentage of a society would be capable in military action and then figure that out by an average he may have had fifteen hundred, two thousand people in his household. Very wealthy, a lot of cattle and camels and donkeys and sheep and oxen and goats and so I want you to have the picture that this is a man of fabulous wealth. He has got the biggest tent in the camp and in the heat of the day it’s a good idea to sit in the door of your tent.

Any of you ever try to take a nap in a tent in the middle of the day in the summer? It just is like an oven. It’s like an Easy Bake Oven. Any of you remember those? But if you get in the door of a big tent they used to raise up the edges there’s a little bit of convection it was the coolest place that he could find. And he’s sort of probably relaxing and gazing out. And the Bible says, “He lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him.” It’s not quite sure how they got there but he sees that not far from the edge of the camp are three individuals that are obviously strangers. “And when he saw them, he ran” for his shotgun. Now that’s what we might do in our culture. Who are these strangers? We’re very apprehensive. They were in a culture that prized hospitality and our message today is Abraham the Ultimate Patriarch Part 8, and it’s dealing with Entertain and Intercede, Entertain and Intercede. He runs to them to welcome them and he “bows himself to the ground” and the way that word translates is he puts his head down on the ground.

Here is this great sheik and look how he treats, right now as far as he knows these are just strangers. He bows himself down to the ground and he says, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass by Your servant. Please” come in, stay with us “let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.” Which was equally as cool as the tent. This is the first reference in the Bible to foot washing. Of course you find it all the way into the book Acts of the Apostles and they traveled then, they did not have Payless Shoes, most of the shoes were open and your feet got dusty, people shared the same trails as the cattle and I won’t take that very far, but your feet got dirty, they got tired, they got sore, and having your feet washed was equally refreshing as maybe having your hands and face washed. “Wash your feet” and let me “bring a morsel of bread.” He uses a very humble term for just I’ll bring you a little bread. Stop; eat a little something, “you might refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by,” go on your way, “inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” He says, “This is… you look. You’re passing by. God has designed that I should refresh you. Let me take care of your needs.” And they respond, “Do as you have said.”

In other words, “Well, ok. We’ll accept your hospitality.” “So Abraham hastens to the tent to Sarah.” He doesn’t go to one of the hundreds of servants he has. And he says to Sarah, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal.” How many guests are there? Three, and he makes “three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And the way this reads is she doesn’t delegate that. Sarah makes the bread. I’m going to make a point here I think is very important. “And Abraham ran to the herd,” and he personally handpicks a good calf, “tender and good.” He gets the best. He’s going to make an offering to the Lord, but he doesn’t know it’s the Lord yet. He’s giving something to guests, but you know the Bible says, Inasmuch as you’ve done it unto one of the least of these you’ve done it to me.” He’s not going to find, he doesn’t say to his servant, “Well, there’s one. Let’s go find one sick, one that’s ready to fall over. We don’t know who these folks are anyway. We don’t know what they’re going to do once we feed them so let’s give them the leftovers.”

He gets the fatted calf, as they say, “tender and good, and gives it…” good meaning healthy “and gives it to a young man and he hastens to prepare it.” They were going to slaughter and dress it and cook it very quickly. “So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared,” he’s taking the richest food. He’s got bread and butter, milk, not just water, “and the calf which he had prepared,” and he sets it before the guests; and he stands “by them under the tree as they ate.” There he is like a matrede in a restaurant wanting to know, “Is there anything else I can get you? Eat.” He doesn’t even sit down to eat with them. Now a couple of points I want to make here. One is Abraham sets a great example for us. Even though he was a very wealthy, extremely wealthy leader with a large family, a virtual king in his day, he was not above service and neither was Sarah. Part of the Jewish teaching that I think we’ve lost sight of, the wealthy, the religious leaders, the scribes, the lawyers, the Pharisees, it didn’t matter what you station in life was.

You were considered a worthless person, it didn’t matter how much money you had if you did not learn a practical application, occupation. You were taught to work with your hands to serve. Even the wealthy were taught to cook and to sew and it was considered very poor social breeding to think that you are so wealthy that you can’t make a loaf of bread that you can’t do the basic functions of life. Abraham was not above personal service. Neither was Sarah. And he did not delegate to one of his servants, he did not say to the visitors, “You know we’ve got a tent over there. It’s our restaurant. You can go get something to eat.” He served them. There is something to be said for that. I think this kind of hospitality is a lost art. He invites them into his camp, he gives them the best that he has and he serves them himself. Now I want to share a little bit with you about this before we go on and leave these verses. First of all, I think it’s interesting that a trinity comes to him. There are three individuals. One of them we later discover is who? It’s Jesus the Lord in a pre-existent state and he if flanked by two angels. In the temple of God the mercy seat was called the throne of God and on that mercy seat were what? Two angels. So here you have Jesus flanked by two angels as they come to visit Abraham.

This is a great honor that God comes to him in this way. He believes in the gift of hospitality which is a Bible teaching. They meet him in a place called Mamre which means strength or fatness and he gave his best and his richest to them. The word hospitality is somewhere between the word house and hospital. It’s a place of shelter and a place of healing. Our homes should be places of hospitality. That’s where you get the word hospice by the way. Romans 12:13, and we’re talking about sharing hospitality. Giving hospitality is something I think Christians should rediscover. Some of us, it’s a lost art you know especially in North America. In the early days of the church when people traveled they didn’t stay in hotels. They stayed with families. In the early days of our church, our denomination, that was the case. You didn’t put someone up in a hotel.

That was very rare and it was almost an insult. I remember when the Heritage Singers began, the music group, and when they first started traveling they were operating on a shoestring they would always farm the group out, there were somewhere between eight and sixteen of them as they traveled, with families as they traveled. Did any of you ever entertain some of these singing groups as they came around? I see some hands that are modestly going up. But then as time went on and the concerts got to be you know four or five, six a week it it just stopped being practical and sometimes you know when you stay with a different family every week your diet is unpredictable which can be scary. And they just started thinking, “You know it might be a little more practical to stay in hotels.” That same dynamic has happened in the church. We don’t want to impose on each other.

Some of us don’t want to be imposed upon and so as a result of that what happens is people don’t welcome others in anymore. We end up, it seems like we’ve lost this art of hospitality. I read to you Romans 12:13. First Timothy 3:2, “A bishop” an elder “then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, good behavior, hospitable, able to teach.” I think there is a connection between those. Hospitality was one of the criteria for leadership in the church. First Peter 4:9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” And it comes from the Greek word, I told you what the English word means, the Greek word is philoxinos and it means fond of guests. It’s where you get the word philio or Philadelphia, brotherly love, philial love, and that’s connected with the word hospitality. This is something we should learn how to give. Abraham obviously knew how to do that. Makes a nice gift for them, he gives his best and remember when you give the best to strangers Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to one of the least of these, you’ve done it unto me.”

You know the Bible says in Hebrews, you heard our scripture reading, Hebrews 13. “Be careful to entertain” and that doesn’t mean do a song and dance or vaudeville when someone comes by. It means to welcome them into your home, to cook, to take care of their practical needs. “Be careful to entertain strangers, in so doing some have entertained angels unaware.” Did I ever tell you the story about when I got picked up by an angel? I see a couple of you nodding your head. I don’t know, I really don’t know, but I got your attention, didn’t I? When I used to hitchhike around I had a lot of struggles. You know sometimes you stand on the road for hours, you go long periods of time without eating if you don’t have money, and sometimes I mean I could tell you story after story of as I hitchhiked around the country and I mean I have hitchhiked thousands of miles literally. From Southern California all the way up 5, I’ve hitchhiked 101, I’ve hitchhiked from 40 all the way back to California all the way across North America. I’ve taken 80, I’ve taken 10, up 95 on the east coast.

You getting the picture? Crisscrossing the US with my thumb. You have a lot of adventures. After becoming a Christian I found prayer and hitchhiking really go well together and I have prayed a lot hitchhiking. And I remember one time in particular when I first moved to Covolo I did it hitchhiking. I didn’t have a car. I would load my backpack from my cave. I didn’t have that much, but three or four trips and I got most of it there. Load my backpack, hitchhike all the way from Palm Springs up to Covolo, California, unload, go back with an empty backpack. But on the way home in the winter you don’t have a sleeping bag so I remember praying one time. I said, “Lord, I’m so tired.” I remember sleeping on the side of the road one time and finding out it was a place that the city had put sprinklers and five in the morning they came on. I mean you know it’s not pleasant. Another time I remember getting woken up on Highway 1 and there is a park ranger standing over me and he says, “Well, first of all you’re not supposed to sleep here, but main thing is, you’re sleeping in poison oak.”

Miserable after that. So I remember praying. I had to hitchhike back down, no, no sleeping bag, and I said, “Lord, it would be wonderful if I could get a ride with somebody normal and they would buy me a hotel room.” And you know sometimes you pray these prayers and you’re just reaching, and I thought, “Well, what’s the harm?” I got picked up. This man drove me for hours, just a middle-aged nice looking man, didn’t say very much, seemed pleasant enough. He said, “I’m going to get a hotel. Would you like me to get you a room?” Bought a hotel room and acted like he was going to check in with me. When I woke up he was gone. And I always wondered, was that an angel? Just someone picked me up, drove me, and bought me a hotel room after I had prayed specifically for that. I wonder if you’ve ever seen angels. You know what? I would venture a guess when you get to Heaven and you say, “Lord, I want you to play back the tape and freeze, pause the tape at the times in my life when I have seen angels and I didn’t know they were there. They may have been in crowds.

They may have been on the street.” You will be shocked how often God stops the tape. They’re around us all the time. Abraham knew before the day was over he was entertaining angels, but you know, most of us don’t know. And I don’t think angels always appear as dignified and well-dressed and sophisticated. I think sometimes they appear as average people in need. Sometimes they might appear as homeless people and they’re angels and we have opportunity to bless them. And you know what? Even if they aren’t angels, Jesus said, “Inasmuch as you’ve done it to one of the least of these, you’ve done it to me.” This simple Christian principle of loving your neighbor and hospitality seems to be lost. Now I’m going to take this one more place. Because we need to know how to open our homes and bring people in and show them Jesus not just in our church but in our homes keep in mind Jesus is knocking on the door of our hearts. He wants to come into our hearts. If we don’t know hospitality for strangers how are we going to have “housepitality” for Jesus? So even just to invite Christ into our hearts. I believe when we invite others into our home it is a way of inviting Jesus into our hearts. Beyond that, you expect me to say we should have hospitality, there is also a gift of knowing how to receive hospitality. Amen?

Notice when Abraham offers these angels and Jesus this meal and this provision and some rest, first of all, do angels get tired? No, they don’t get tired. Do angels get hungry? I think angels get tired of us, but they don’t get fatigued. Do angels get hungry? No, I don’t think so. They have angel’s food cake all the time and they don’t, they don’t get hungry. So when they stopped to take, when they said to Abraham, “Do as you have suggested.” You know one reason they’re doing that is because it’s not polite to refuse an act of kindness. And so the Bible says… and you know the other thing is some people are really troubled, “I thought angels were all vegetarians! Here they’re eating a fatted calf.” Have you ever wondered about that? I’ve got to be careful what I say here. Could get stoned with veggie-cheese. You know Jesus when he sent out the apostles he said, “Eat what things are set before you.” I’m a vegetarian. Unless somebody has played a trick on me I haven’t really eaten any meat in probably twenty-seven years. And I have had a few tricks played on me by restaurants. You know you tell people, you ask the waiter, “Is this vegetarian?” They say, “Oh, yeah, this is vegetarian.” They bring it to you and I say, “There’s fish in this!” They say, “That’s vegetarian, isn’t it?”

Someone invited me over one time and I said, I always tell people, I said, “I’d love to eat with you.” I said, “I’m a little bit of trouble though because I’m a vegetarian.” I tell them in advance. It avoids awkward moments, you know, because you don’t want to be ungracious when someone cooks for you. And they said, “No problem I’ve got this dish that you’ll love. It’s a vegetarian dish.” I went to their home. It was a poor family. They had a little bit of water and bread and the only dish was tuna casserole and she said, “I knew you were a vegetarian so I made tuna fish casserole.” You know what I did? Oh, by the way, tuna are clean. They have fins and scales. I said, “Thank you so much.” And I ate it and I smiled and it brought back memories. They weren’t all pleasant because I went to public school and we ate so much tuna fish casserole. But you know there is a time when you need to just be gracious and say, “Thank you very much.” It’s very bad manners. And I think when you can avoid hurting somebody that issue I think is bigger with the Lord than the twenty-four hours it might take to get the tuna out of your system. You know what I mean? And so be gracious. When Abraham went and he got the fatted calf he didn’t know these were angels, he might have brought something else.

He would have brought a tofu-cow if he had known. And they ate it. It was an act of hospitality. It’s not going to hurt the angels, is it? They’re not going to have to go get heart surgery. You know, God is telling us this. Jesus received the hospitality of people and that was the way they’d give it. Notice what it says here. It is a gift to accept hospitality. “He sat it before them; and he stood by… under the tree and they did eat.” They sat there and they ate not because they were hungry but it was the gracious thing for them to do. Matthew 10:11, “In whatever city or town you enter, inquire in it who is worthy, and there abide.” When Jesus sent them out preaching did they stay at Hyatt or even Super 8 or did they stay with families? He said, “Inquire who is worthy.” Find somebody who will share your views and stay with them and bless their home. “Into whatever house you enter say, ‘Peace be to this house.’” Jesus told the apostles not only to be hospitable but they had to receive hospitality when he sent them out. Amen? Then there is a conversation that transpires in Genesis 18.

Let’s go back and we’ll begin with verse 9. Between the Lord and you note he waits until he eats. Usually before you bring up something heavy you warm your relations by eating. When Eleazar goes to get a wife for Isaac they sit down to eat and he says, “I can’t even eat before I tell you my errand. I’m too excited. First you need to tell me yes or no about my errand.” But it was always considered polite to eat first and then discuss business, and isn’t that still the case today? Otherwise you get indigestion depending on the nature of the business. “Then they said to Abraham, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ He said, ‘Here, in the tent.’” Not far away evidently. “And He said, ‘I will certainly return to you according to the time of life,…’” that meant nine months. “‘…and behold, Sarah your wife…’” not Hagar, not a surrogate, “‘shall have a son.’ (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)” They’re not far from the tent and the tree. “Now Abraham and Sarah were old…” I’m in verse twelve now. “…old, and advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.”

She had evidently gone through menopause which is an indicator there are no eggs left. “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself,” don’t miss that. She laughed within herself. Did she laugh? Yes, not out loud, but she did laugh. She “laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’” I guess that things weren’t very frequent anymore. “And the Lord said to Abraham…” I mean, you know, Abraham is what? A hundred now? “And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Is anything too hard…’” “And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?”’” He is giving Sarah a promise of new life when it looks like hope for that life was gone. Now let me ask you, was Sarah laughing because she didn’t want a baby? Did she want a baby? That was the dream of every Jewish woman that they could have a son. That was your posterity, it was your social security, your emotional security, so many things were connected with having a family. She longed for that, and he was here giving her this promise of life. And he said, “Why did she laugh? She will surely bear a son.” And then God says, in verse 14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Now God is asking Sarah why she laughed.

She is laughing because first of all she had a mental picture of her, this old lady, pregnant which obviously has a connection. They did, this was not a miraculous birth as it was with Jesus. It was going to happen the natural way albeit she was old. So that brought on a smile plus the fact that she had gone past the age of childbearing. It wasn’t just that the clock was ticking, the clock had stopped. And so she laughed, she thought, you know. And I don’t know that Sarah knows yet who this is. And God says in verse fourteen, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Now I want to ask you that question. Is anything too hard for the Lord? That’s good for us to remember. God, when you think that all hope is gone, have you noticed that in your life the Lord sometimes brings you past where you think a miracle is possible and then he still does something wonderful.

I mean when it looks like it’s hopeless, when it looks like the time of bearing is gone then God surprises you. You probably have seen this happen. I’ve got two or three cases I’ve run into of friends they didn’t have children and then they maybe adopted and then the got pregnant. I see some nodding out there. It’s like God said, “These children needed parents too. I wanted to wait until you adopted them and then I thought I’d give you one of your own.” After Hannah had her miracle child with Samuel, years of barrenness, then God laughs, he gives her five more, right? And so the Lord sometimes tests our faith. “‘Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied it, and said, ‘I didn’t laugh.’” Well, she’s not saying that because she’s lying. She’s saying that because she didn’t laugh out loud. She was afraid. “And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh!’” You know why he could say, “You did laugh”? Because this is the Lord. Does he know the heart?

He heard her laughing on the inside. Only God knows that. So verse 16, “Then the men rose… and they looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on their way.” Have you noticed in Bible times part of good hospitality, Karen has really been working on me in when I first met her, I think my manners are better. They’re still not great. I mean, keep in mind I lived in a cave. But she’s told me, “When you have company get up and go to the door and greet them when they walk in.” I usually shout from the office, “Hello!” She says, “No, you get up, you come.” I said, “Ok.” So I’m learning to do that. Then when they leave she says, “Walk them to the door.” I usually wave and say, “Write when you find work and send a check.” But she said, “No, you walk them to the door and you stand there like the farmer with his pitchfork and you wave at people as they go away.”

And Karen is always doing that. You know it’s a ritual, but it’s really good manners, isn’t it? Have you noticed that when Naomi is leaving that Ruth and Orpah (I almost said Oprah!) bring her to the, they take them on their way. It was a good custom to bring someone on their way to walk part of the way. It was like letting them know, “I don’t want you to go so I’m going to linger with you and set you on your way.” And so Abraham is seeing them on their way as a part of good manners. And Abraham it says, and the men turned away from there and they went “towards Sodom,” but Abraham stood before the Lord. Now two of these messengers continue, the Lord stops and he’s lingering with Abraham. “And Abraham came near and said,” oh wait a second I’ve missed a big section here. “And the Lord said,” verse 17, I’m sorry, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?”

Here they are friends. “…since Abraham shall surely become a great nation, a mighty nation, and all nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord might bring Abraham what He has spoken of him.” Verse 19 is very important. Abraham is a spiritual leader. It’s one of the important lessons I didn’t want to miss in this series. Notice it’s what God commends about Abraham. He commands his household after him. He set an example of spiritual leadership in his family. He didn’t just send them off to church Sabbath morning, say, “I hope you learn something.” He led them spiritually. I believe all fathers should be spiritual leaders, and certainly if you’re a single parent you should be a spiritual leader. Abraham is an example for you husband or wife, man or woman, that we command our children after us. You notice it doesn’t say that he just sent them off to public school and say, “I’ll let them find themselves.

I don’t want to push my religion on them.” I’m not condemning those of you who may have to send your children to public school, but that’s all the more reason for you to command them in the way of the Lord. This politically correct attitude that people have these days that, “I don’t want to force my religion on the children. Let them just find themselves. You know they’re free!” That’s how my mother raised me and boy, was I mixed up. I believe that children want something definitive from their parents. This is the truth and to command them in the way of the Lord. You have that right by God, you used to have it civilly too, that your authority should be respected. He commanded them. I know Abraham will command his family. Verse 20, “And the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against 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 outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’” Now that almost sounds like God is saying, “I’m not sure. I’ve heard a report, but I’m going to see firsthand.” Did the Lord know what was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah? Was he checking out because he didn’t really know? No, I think sometimes the Lord identifies with us so we will know that he knows.

Sometimes parents will know what their children have done. You tell them to clean their room and you wonder if they’ve cleaned the room. You know that they were not up there long enough to clean their room, but rather than saying, “Go back up there and do it right.” You go up there so you can say, “Even though I knew you didn’t clean your room because you can’t make your bed in three seconds…” Right? Or if you do it will look like it was made in three seconds, right? You go up there with them and say, “See? I already knew it but I’m here as a witness.” And this is what the Lord is doing. He’s saying, “I’m going to have personal witness.” Because before you’re going to execute that kind of severe judgment he’s about to bring on Sodom and Gomorrah it’s appropriate to say, “I saw firsthand.” So the Lord is doing that to relate to humanity. And Abraham is worried. Why is he worried? Who is in Sodom that he cares about in a special way? Lot is there. “So Abraham came near and said, ‘Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?’” Ooo! What boldness to talk to the Lord that way! How could he talk to the Lord like that?

First of all, if you could hear the tone in his voice there was great reverence. I mean a minute ago he was bowing with his face on the ground, his forehead on the ground before the Lord. So what he’s saying he’s saying very reverently, but he is interceding and you know after you’ve just shown someone hospitality and you’ve fed them and you’ve given them shelter it’s a little harder for them to say no to your request, isn’t it? You know if you need to address somebody about something important and you’ve got a request it’s so much better in person than on the phone and if you can take them out to dinner and say, “Let me take the check.” And then after you pay the bill say, “By the way, there’s something I need to ask you.” It’s a little harder to say, “No,” isn’t it? Now Abraham has just lavished them with the fatted calf and butter and bread and three loaves. Oh, did I miss that? Those three loaves, that represents of course the word of God. The butter represents the milk and the bread. These are all symbols for the word of God and the calf even represents sacrifice there. And so after he has done all that he’s pleading on behalf of his brother Lot. He’s interceding. “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Now does Abraham know who he’s talking to? Do you have your Bibles open?

Are you reading with me? Okay. And “the Lord said, ‘If I find…’” Every verse is saying, “Preach me!” and I’ve got to keep moving. “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the place for their sakes.” Now these cities of the plane probably had multiplied thousands of people but the Lord is saying if I just find fifty righteous the influence of that salt “You are the salt of the earth” has a preserving effect and at least there will be potential for revival if there’s a remnant there. If there’s fifty righteous I’ll spare it. But Abraham is wondering, Well, maybe if there’s not fifty… and he starts to worry about Lot again. He said, “Indeed now, I who am dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?” In other words, forty-five. And the Lord said, “If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it.” Now does God know how many righteous there are in the city? You know why San Francisco is still there?

Must be more than forty-five righteous. “Then he spoke to Him yet again and said, ‘Suppose there should be forty found there?’ He said, ‘I will not do it for the sake of forty.’” Now Abraham know that he better not press his luck so he starts cutting the numbers down much faster. He’s wanting to find what the ceiling is of God’s mercy. “Then he said, ‘Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?’ And the Lord said, ‘I won’t do it if I find thirty righteous there.’” Abraham is feeling better, but he’s been to Sodom. Remember it says the men of that place were wicked exceedingly. He thinks, There may not be thirty. He says, “Indeed, I’ve taken it upon myself” I’m in verse thirty-one “to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?” And he said, “I won’t destroy it for twenty’s sake.” And then verse thirty-two. He says, “Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak once more: Suppose then ten should be found there?” And God said, “I will not destroy it for the sake of ten.” Abraham thought, “There’s got to be ten there! Pfft!

Must be ten righteous.” And he stops. Did he stop too soon? Even though he plead a long time he never did find out what the limit was. And it says, “When He finished speaking with Abraham; Abraham returned to his place.” And the Lord went his way. And you know the Lord is going with those two angels but he becomes the invisible witness. Now I want you to notice something that happens here with this intercession. Abraham is interceding with a friend and he’s able to talk this way to God because they are friends. Isaiah 41:8, “But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham My friend.” How does God address Abraham? Isn’t that wonderful to say hear the Almighty say, “You’re my friend”? Can you talk to your friend the way Abraham talked to God? When you pray do you talk to the Lord as though you’re talking to a friend? He wants to have that relationship with you. Doesn’t Jesus say, “Before, I called you servants. Now I’m calling you friends.” James 2:23, “And the Scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.’ And he was called the friend of God.” Now God is not exclusive. He wants to be friends with you too. He wants to have the relationship with you that he had with Abraham.

If he doesn’t, it’s not his fault. You know the Bible says, “He who would have friends must show himself friendly.” And God wants us to be his friends. As Abraham is pleading notice he has a heart for souls. He’s thinking about the people in the city but he’s especially thinking about Lot and his family. Notice his humility when he prays. He says, “Indeed, I am dust and ashes and yet I’ve taken it upon myself to talk to the Lord. I know what I am, but please bear with me.” Notice his reverence. He says, “Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak.” Notice his persistence in his prayer. “Let not the Lord be angry and I will speak but once more.” So when you pray be reverent, be persistent, you want to be humble in your prayer and have a heart for souls. Abraham is interceding. Now the same thing that happened to Sodom is going to happen to our world. How many of you know that? God said that Sodom and Gomorrah are set forth as an example. Do any of you have friends or family in Sodom that are in danger of judgment? The prayer that Abraham prayed for Lot, we should pray for our loved ones. Persistently praying, have a heart for these souls that are under the looming sword of judgment. Then two messengers come to Sodom and I don’t have time to read all of chapter nineteen, but let’s quickly review it, because nineteen doesn’t really deal with Abraham but I want to cover this. These two messengers come into the city and Lot is in the city gates and he sees them. He knows how dangerous the city is.

I believe that Lot’s wife has something to do with why he’s in the city. Remember Lot said to Abraham, “I’d like to pitch my tent towards Sodom because there’s lots of flocks and herds and pasture there and it’s a good place for the sheep. It’s like the Garden of God.” But now we find him living in the city. Maybe his wife was a little more cosmopolitan. She didn’t want to be a shepherdess any more. And so he’s there. He’s also got nothing but daughters and the mall is in the city, isn’t that right? Why is it only the men laughed? And so he’s in the city, and I don’t believe it was his first choice, but he’s in the city gate. He sees these two strangers that come in. He can tell by looking at them they don’t have the aura of Sodomites and people of Gomorrah. They don’t have the aura of Gomorrah. And so he says, “Hey, look, come and stay with my house.” Look at that hospitality again. He’s inviting them in, and they say, “No, we’ll stay in the streets.” And his eyes get big and he thinks you’re new here, aren’t you? “No! You stay in my house.” “No, we’re okay.” “NO!” and he persists with them, “You’re staying with me.” Maybe he even lays hold on them and brings them home, and he tells his wife to prepare food and they make a feast for them. Same thing Abraham does.

Where do you think Lot learned it? From Uncle Abe. He learned this gift of hospitality. They bring out the best and they made a feast and they even have unleavened bread for them which has some religious overtones. And they feed these two guests and while they’re enjoying the food under the shelter of his home the men of the city who had spied these messengers of mercy and had eyed them, they thought, “You know we could take advantage of them. They don’t look like they’ve got any protection. They don’t have any swords with them.” And they had designs. Maybe they heard the laughing and saw the light coming from the abode of Lot. And the men of the city, the wicked men, they gather around and they begin to pound on the door and they say to Lot, “Bring out those men that we saw come to you. We want to know them.” Now when you read this on the surface it might appear like he just the mob wants him to introduce them. But Lot knows that’s not what is on their minds because he says, “Please,” he goes to the door and shuts the door behind him and says to the men of the city, and they know who Lot is. It was his uncle who had saved them! They were all carried away captive. Do you remember? They all know who Lot is but they resent that he is so pious. Maybe they resent that they owe him.

He knows what they have in mind and Lot says something that shocks people. He says, “Look, I’ve still got two daughters at home that are virgins. Let me bring them out, but don’t do this vile thing to these guests.” Now how many of you are disturbed by that, that he would offer his daughters to this inflamed, this mob that’s inflamed with lust? That seems like what father would ever do that? I’m not trying to justify it, but I’ll try to enhance your understanding. In Bible times when somebody came within your home or in your tent for hospitality you were supposed to give everything you have and everybody in your family was to lay down their life to provide sanctuary for them. Your home was to be a refuge, it was a sacred law of the east and it’s still followed in some ways that when someone comes into your home for refuge… how do you think Saddam and his sons were able to hold out so long in these different families? There was a code that when someone found refuge in your home you were to protect them at all costs even if there is $20 million on their head.

It was a code that was ingrained. And so here he’s willing to send out his daughter. You read in the book of Judges. Something similar happened where a man, of a Levite and his concubine, the house they’re staying in and Benjamin is surrounded by another perverted mob and the men of the house say, “Here are the women.” Now something else you can learn from that. The sin of homosexuality, practicing homosexuality, the strongest language that God has available for us to understand is used to describe it. It is called confusion. It’s called an abomination to him and in the eyes of heaven it was preferable to see a rape in a “natural sense” (I hope you’re listening very carefully because I’m going to get letters on this.) than an unnatural sense. Whether that’s right or wrong, I’m just telling you what their view was. You understand where I’m coming from? I’m not justifying anything. I’m just saying it was preferable for Lot to see them take his daughters than for him to turn over two men to be raped by a mob of men. And I know this is a very disturbing thing to talk about but that’s how low things had come. Now while I’m on this, I want to read something to you. Jesus says, “As it was in the days of Lot so will it be in the days when the Son of Man appears.” Let me read this to you. Luke 17 verse 28.

He also says something similar in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. “Likewise as it was in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed.” Now when you think about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities of the plain, there were actually four and a half cities. There’s a little one named Zoar. But what do you principally think of as the principal sin? If I say, “Well, that city is like Sodom.” What do you think of? We don’t want to say it, do we? It’s not politically correct. You think of homosexuality, don’t you? Matter of fact, we’ve got a word. Sodomy. It comes from guess where, because of this story in the Bible. And it’s not the only sin. Jesus said, “As it was in the days of Sodom.” Notice here. I want you to look in Ezekiel. What was the sin of Sodom? Ezekiel 16:49-50, “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom… and her daughter” that was Gomorrah, “…her daughter had pride.” What’s the first thing that’s mentioned? “…pride, fullness of food,” an abundance of food “and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.

They were haughty…” We’ll get the government to take care of the poor. We don’t want to do it. They were haughty. They “committed abomination.” Now what is that abomination they committed? Leviticus 18:22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind. It is an abomination.” So what is the other abomination? Homosexuality was one of the characteristics, but it wasn’t the only one. It was pride. Do we have that in our country? An abundance of idleness. Do you know that we are the most idle culture that has ever lived, this age, do you know why? Because of modern farming techniques. How many of you remember the age when the majority of Americans lived in rural communities? In one generation that has changed where the majority of Americans live in cities. Very few people run the farms. It’s all become so mechanized it just takes a handful of people where it used to take hundreds. And so because of the abundance of… let’s face it, friends, have you been to the supermarket lately? It’s not enough to just have a corner store anymore. We don’t just need a shopping cart or a little basket anymore. We get a big rolling pallet to go through Costco, right? I mean, let’s face it. Do we have an abundance of bread? I can say this because Karen is not here today.

She’s at pastors’ wives’ retreat and I hope she’s having a good day. She came back from Costco and she’d bought a gallon of soy sauce which sat in the refrigerator and displaced everything else and I thought, “Dear, based on our use of soy sauce, do you know how long we’re going to have this?” I’m not exaggerating. It is now in the Camellia Room kitchen and it will probably still be there, because I don’t know how often we have Chinese food for our potlucks. But we have so much food that we buy things in these copious quantities. We have an abundance of time, idleness. We have an abundance of bread, pride, and you know I think that we have some of the same sins as Sodom. Now, I’ve got to be very sensitive and I hope everyone’s listening. I believe the epidemic of homosexuality that you see in our culture is a combination of the brokenness of the American family, you can see an increase in our culture in direct ratio to the deterioration of marriages. Did you know that? You go to countries where there’s very few divorces; go to India where they have 90% marriage retention, they have much less incidence of homosexuality. It is so important for young men and women to grow up with a man and a woman role models at a very formative age. I don’t believe it’s biological.

I believe it’s environmental, but there are certain character issues. It seems that with young men it’s young men who have more melancholy dispositions, the more creative type, if they do not have a strong father image at key times in their life, in their development they have this propensity. There are going to be a lot of young men and women who have had these temptations and tendencies in heaven because they haven’t acted them out. Everybody is tempted. Heterosexuals are tempted, aren’t they? It is one thing to be tempted. It’s not a sin. Fulfilling those temptations. Now is our society telling us to just go ahead and fulfill the temptations, that it’s natural, just do it, if it feels good, God made you this way? And they put the blame back on God. This is what the sin is. We would not practice these things or would we? You know the Bible says in 2nd Timothy 3:1, “Know this, in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty,” notice this “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” I believe a lot of people who are struggling to live pure lives, whether you are single, heterosexual, or you struggle with homosexual tendencies God wants us to be pure, but some people are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power.”

They go to church and they say, “Well, you know God is just going to have to accept me with my sin.” He will. You can come to you with your sin, but He saves you from it. They think that they can have the pretence of being a Christian and practice perversion and the Bible says this group of people will not be in the kingdom of heaven. It cannot be any more clear. Those that do things will not be in the kingdom of heaven. You cannot practice perversion. Whether you’re a heterosexual or you struggle with homosexual tendencies God is calling you to live pure. And I know that there are people that struggle and it may not be easy. Who said it was easy to take up a cross and follow Jesus? But it is better. It costs to follow Jesus, but it pays more than it costs. It costs much more to follow the devil and to live out the lusts of the flesh.

The Bible tells us in Romans chapter one, verse thirty-two. You might find that or jot it down. Some of us, we’re horrified when we read what those men in Sodom wanted to do to two angels no less. You know, not only have some people entertained angels and shown them hospitality unaware, I’ll submit to you when people get to heaven there are going to be some who find out that they accosted angels, that they abused or attempted angels and had no idea what they were doing to God’s messengers. We wouldn’t do those things, but I’ll submit to you that all of what happened in Sodom and more happens on the American television during prime time every day. And why we would say, “Oh, I go to church and I would never do those things.” You know that if you find entertainment in watching others do those things to some extent it’s the same thing. Romans 1:32 I gave this to you.

We do it vicariously. “Who, knowing the judgment of God,” and in Romans chapter one Paul is specifically talking about lesbianism and homosexuality. “Who, knowing the judgment of God, that they that commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same but have pleasure in them that do them.” We might not do it but if we watch others do it and vicariously enjoy it. Have you noticed the trend? You know ever since some of the gays began to come out of the closet on television they’re becoming part of the cast in more and more programming to normalize what God calls an abomination. Now I know I’m not going to be popular for saying this, at least not on earth, but it’s the truth. “As it was in the days of Lot so shall it be in the day when the Son of Man returns.” Finally Lot goes to his daughters and his sons-in-law and he pleads, “Get out of the city.

The Lord is going to destroy this place.” And they mocked him. They had lost respect for their father. They thought he was joking. They thought he was mad. He pleads with them, “Flee! The city is going to be destroyed.” And he goes from one of his children to the other in their homes. He says, “Let’s get out of the city.” And he can’t persuade them. Of course it’s probably in the middle of the night part of the time. Remember when the angels tried to, when the mob tried to get at the angels the angels struck the mob with blindness and they said to Lot, “Get your family and get out of this place for God is going to destroy it.” So through the night he pleads with his family and they don’t listen. Finally the angels have to lay hands on Lot, his wife, probably one angel has got Lot and his wife, one has got each of the daughters and they take them physically and somehow rapture them out of the city and they say, “Flee for the mountains and don’t look back!” Lot says, “Oh, please don’t make me go to the mountains. I’m so used to city life.

Can I go to that little city, Zoar? It’s sinful, but it’s just a little city.” You know somehow we think that something is little it makes it okay. I would never live with a St. Bernard, but a Chihuahua… I mean, what difference does it make? If it’s a sin, it’s a sin, right? So the angel says, “Alright. I will spare that city for you, but whatever you do flee and don’t look back.” Well, as they’re fleeing they maybe hear the roar, the thunder, it probably sounds like a hundred cyclones where fire literally rains down from God out of heaven, the earth opens up and you know part of it was probably because her heart was yearning for children still in the city. Let’s give her credit. Part of it might have been because her possessions were still in the city but if you love anything more than you love the Lord, Jesus said, “You’re not worthy of me.”

She looked back, meaning her heart was not where God was telling them to go. Her heart was behind her and she turned into a pillar of salt at that very moment. At that point Lot changed directions and he said, “We better go to the mountains like the angel said.” Now here’s something. I don’t know if you realized it. The Bible says, “Abraham went out.” Genesis 19:27, “Abraham got up early in the morning and he went to the place where he had stood before the Lord.” The brow of the hill where Abraham and the Lord had talked about Sodom, “And he looked toward Sodom… and the smoke of the country went up as the smoke of a furnace. And it came to pass, that when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the” city. For whose sake was Lot saved? For Abraham’s sake because of the prayer. Lot was saved by prayer.

Can people be saved by our intercession? Lot was saved by hospitality. What if he had not invited those angels in? Rahab, when Jericho was destroyed, was saved by hospitality. She invited those two spies into her home and her whole family and everybody in the house was spared because she invited those people in. You ever thought about that? Hospitality could save you? But there’s more than that. Those two messengers, those two spies, two angels, they represent the two witnesses of God’s Word, the Law and the Prophets. When we receive God’s Word, that’s what saves us from the coming judgment. Amen? Think about this. Abraham saved Lot twice. Once with the sword, you remember when he went to rescue him with the sword, if you have been coming? And once with prayer. The sword represents what? The Word of God is sharper than any two edged sword. And intercession is prayer. What are the two most important weapons that we have in reaching others in our own salvation? Prayer, that’s when we speak to God, and the Word is when He speaks to us.

Those are the two things that were involved in Lot being saved. I am out of time, but I can’t miss this. Lot was saved by the skin of his teeth. Have you read in First Corinthians chapter 3, verse 15? There are some people who are saved as by fire. Lot lost everything. The influence of Lot in Sodom wasn’t very successful, was it? Matter of fact, we later learn that his own daughters end up sleeping with their father and Lot’s children were also his grandchildren. Talk about a blended family. They ended up becoming enemies of God’s people Ammon and Moab. His influence… his staying in the city… and think about this. Remember that day when Abraham said to Lot, “Look, we’ve got too many flocks and herds. You decide where you want to go and I’ll go somewhere else. You go north, I’ll go south.” And the bible says Lot decided to take the best for himself and he pitched his tent towards Sodom. Now what does Sodom look like today? It’s smoldering ashes. It’s one of the most desolate places. It’s the lowest place on the planet, thirteen hundred feet below sea level. Hottest place.

It’s just been, and you can actually still find sulfur and brimstone in the soil. I can bring you a piece and show it to you. Someone brought back for me. That’s still there. Did you know that? And you can light it with a match. It’s in the ground in the areas south there of the Dead Sea. Abraham who gave Lot first choice ended up having better country, didn’t he? The first will be last and the last will be first. There are so many lessons here. But Lot was saved, he lost everything but he was saved. The Bible calls him a righteous man. it says, “That righteous man, living among the wicked vexed his soul day by day seeing all their wicked deeds.” First Corinthians 3:15, “If any man’s work be burned,” everything Lot had was burned in the city, “he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as by fire.” Some people may be saved in the very end because in their hearts they are good and they’re righteous but they lose everything because they didn’t let the Lord lead them in where they planted their work and their family. Very important lessons here.

You know I’d like to end on the thought that Abraham is a type of Christ here. He saves Lot once with the sword, his word; he saves him once through intercession. Lot is saved by the intercession of Abraham. What Abraham did for Lot is what Jesus does for us. Doesn’t Jesus pray for us to the Father? And it’s what Jesus wants us to do for others. This world will be destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham is an example of us to be like Christ and that’s a good place to lead into our closing hymn which is “Be Like Jesus” 492. Let’s stand, please, as we sing.

Teach me, Father, what to say; Teach me, Father, how to pray; Teach me all along the way How to be like Jesus. I would be like Jesus, I would be like Jesus! Help me, Lord, to daily grow More and more like Jesus!

We’ve run out of time to go very long. I want to sing one more verse and I want to give you an opportunity to respond. There are people here maybe for the first time. There may be some who have not accepted Jesus. This world is going to be cleansed with fire the next time. He wants to save you before that happens. Have you come to Christ? Some of you maybe would like to ask the Lord to help you open your hearts so you can open your homes that you can intercede and that you can entertain the hospitality. Then maybe you’ve closed yourself off because you’ve been hurt and you’re afraid to reach out. Would you like to come and have the Lord show you how to do that, be like Jesus? Come as we sing our last verse together. Verse four.

Teach me how we may be one, Like the Father and the Son; And when all is overcome, I will be like Jesus. I would be like Jesus, I would be like Jesus! Help me, Lord, to daily grow More and more like Jesus!

Before we bow our heads for prayer if there are any others please come now. Don’t be afraid. Also I’d like to remind those who were baptized today if you can we’d love to have you at the door so the family can welcome you immediately following our prayer. And I’d like to just pray that we can be a church that will be faithful to live up to the word. Amen? That we’ll be a church that will show hospitality and intercession for the lost.

Loving Father, we are thankful even as we go into these ancient stories of Abraham how practical they are for us today. Lord, I pray that as we know the Day of Judgment is approaching that we will have hearts that yearn to see the lost redeemed. Help us, Lord, to first open our hearts that in turn we may open our homes to show the love of Jesus in rolling out the best for those that come within our gates and reflecting His love and through our prayers and intercession to win their hearts and to win their souls. Lord, also I pray that you will teach us to be gracious to receive that hospitality knowing that in welcoming others into our homes we may be welcoming angels unaware, welcoming Jesus through them and also finding mercy for ourselves. Bless us, Lord, so that we might represent these principles. Be with those that have come with special needs and we also ask for a special filling of your Spirit and a hedging in of your angels for those who have been baptized today. Be with them, Lord. Bless us and thank you for your presence today. We pray these in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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