Summary: Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance but laying hold of His willingness. Prayer is a dialogue. Dare to ask God for make things happen.
Have you heard of the phrase: “One person can ONLY do so much”?
• This is only true without God. With God, we have to take the word ‘ONLY’ away. “One person can do so much!”
• With God’s help, one person can make a lot of difference.
I came to Gen 18 in my reading and saw the courage of one person who cares to intercede; one person who is willing to stand in the gap and plead for God’s mercy.
• That one person makes a big difference because God responds to him.
• And in responding to this man, he comes to understand the character of God.
Let’s read Genesis 18:20-33.
• The Lord announces what He has in mind in verse 20. Look carefully. This is the revelation of God’s intention. And it wasn’t a judgement.
• God did say at the outset that He will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. God says He will inspect the cities.
• 18:21 the Lord (angel): “I will go down and to see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me.”
The LORD is compassionate and gracious. He is slow to anger and not quick to judge. That’s the refrain that we have been hearing from the OT.
• God did not plan to destroy. He wasn’t determined to exterminate. In fact, you can sense here that He was finding some reasons not to destroy them.
• Abraham prays and latches on God’s willingness. What if there are some righteous ones there? You wouldn’t be so unjust, right?
Abraham pleaded for Sodom to be spared and persevered in asking God to spare it for a few righteous people.
• He started with 50, then 45, 40, 30, 20 and right down to 10. Spare the city if you can find 10 righteous people!
• The picture did not come across correctly for most. We tend to see a willing man begging a somewhat unwilling God, who is only eager to destroy the city.
But this is an incorrect picture. If you study the discourse carefully, God is actually not keen to destroy the people.
• For every line that Abraham had for Him, God’s answer is: “I will not destroy it, I will not do it!”
• Yes, if there are some righteous people, I will not do it. I do not want to do it, if possible. Find me some righteous people!
You can sense that God is delighting in Abraham’s persistent asking. Keep asking, keep asking. Abraham was echoing what is in God’s heart.
Martin Luther: “Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance.
It is laying hold of His willingness.”
In asking, Abraham got to hear God’s answers, and came to understand His character. In praying, Abraham got to know God MORE.
• This is interesting if you look at how the conversation started. In vv. 20-21 God tells Abraham about Sodom.
• Verse 22: After that “the men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord.”
He does not want to leave. It’s like there is something he wanted to say, after hearing what the Lord said.
• There seems to be a pause here, and then verse 23: “Then Abraham approached Him and said…” He remained standing and then he approached the Lord.
• It’s like this, we have something to ask or tell our boss. He is standing there. But we hesitated. We want to be sure we get this down well and say the right words. We waited momentarily for the right moment.
Abraham seems to be wrestling within himself: “How can God do this? Can I ask Him? Is this the right thing to do? How should I say it? Will God be angry?”
• We sense this when we hear how he speaks to God.
• 18:27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes…”
• 18:30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak…”
• 18:32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more...”
Do we not sometimes think that way? We don’t DARE TO ask God because we feel that we may OFFEND Him? We are not sure if God likes it.
• We feel that way because we do not know Him well enough.
Thank God, Abraham eventually mastered the courage to APPROACH Him.
• And he got to know that God is more merciful and gracious than he thought.
• Prayer brings us closer to God. It does not change God; it changes the way we see God. It helps us understand Him.
Abraham knows God MORE after the dialogue. God is NOT willing to destroy the city if He can find 10 righteous people in it.