10–16 January 2016.
In Genesis 17 we hear a different story about God’s covenant with Abraham. In this version, we don’t hear so much about the content of that contract. Instead the text mostly talks about how Abraham and his children should use circumcision as a sign that they have this contract with God.
In chapter 18:18–19 we hear again about the actual contents of the deal, that God will give Abraham many children and make him a great nation, and that in return Abraham will be a blessing to all the people of the world.
As soon as we hear this spoken, Abraham gets a chance to fulfill his side of the bargain!
That’s because a great cry has gone up to heaven about how wicked Sodom and Gomorrah are. In the ancient world, caring for travellers and strangers was hugely important. Abraham shows us the right way to behave: he welcomes the three mysterious travellers, he feeds them well and cares for them. But this is not the way strangers were treated in Sodom! Foreigners were hated, oppressed, beaten and raped by the townsmen. Sadly, those of us who have been strangers in a strange land know that people don’t always welcome us. So in v. 18 God tells Abraham about Sodom’s terrible punishment.
But immediately Abraham displays his righteousness by jumping to Sodom’s defence, encouraging God to reconsider his punishment. Is it fair for God to punish the good together with the wicked? Abraham bravely appeals to God’s sense of justice, and he actually intercedes for Sodom! Here he really is a blessing for the nations!
Today, we Christians have the same responsibility that was given to Abraham: to be a blessing to others. But too often we happily dream about the destruction of our enemies instead of being like Abraham and actually interceding for them. We happily give up on others instead of finding ways to bring them under God’s grace. Lawyers know that everyone needs a defence attorney, someone to speak for us. If only we could become like Abraham and bravely stand up to defend others, then we too would really be a blessing to the world.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis