God visited Abraham to reaffirm His promise on His way to judge Sodom. The story of Sodom is difficult for many people in our current society. It is not difficult to understand but difficult to accept for what it is. Many people want to twist the words so that they do not have to feel guilty before God. Others count the story as legend rather than history. I believe the story historical. I believe we should pay careful attention to what God is doing. I believe God’s judgment is real.
The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed? For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him” (Genesis 18:17-19).
Like with Jesus’s visit to Abraham, we see complete gratuity when He decides to reveal what He is about to do to Abraham. Jesus does not have to reveal His works. He wants to. Why? He tells us. He wants to reveal what He is about to do to Abraham because Abraham will:
- become a great and mighty nation, and
- all the nations of the earth will be blessed in him.
- God has chosen him so that
- there will be righteousness and justice,
- so that the Lord may be found faithful.
From the start of the Sodom sequence, we see God’s motives. We see why He reveals His plan to Abraham. His motives involve bringing righteousness and justice. In juxtaposition to Sodom, that will happen through Abraham. It is only by God’s faithfulness and work through His people that righteousness and justice will be found upon the earth. Sodom serves as another example of what results when people rule themselves without submitting to God. The insinuation, here, is that Sodom has rejected righteousness and justice. Her people are unrighteous and unjust, much like we saw in Genesis 6—enveloping the whole earth.
In contrast to Genesis 6, and evidence that God is keeping His Genesis 8 promise, God now only comes against one city instead of the whole world. He reveals His plan because He wants people to know Him and know His works. God’s glory is His motivation. He wins His glory by working all things together for good–in this case, to bring righteousness and justice to a fuller degree. This is the same reason He chose Abraham according to this text. This is the reason Jesus will come and assume human flesh as a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It is about the glory of God and the good of humankind. I believe the Christian worldview, properly understood, seeks the good of humankind through the glory of God alone.
And the Lord said, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Genesis 18:20-21).
It seems odd to me that God has to go to the city to see if the people have done entirely according to the outcry that has gone to Him. I might believe that Jesus is doing this for Abraham’s benefit, only because Abraham is present. But, the wording of the text insists that He is going and will know if what He has heard is not accurate. This text can be difficult for people like me who believe that God is omniscient and omnipresent. This is another reason trinitarian belief is so important when we observe the Bible, else the descriptions of God may be seen as incoherent. This is the preincarnate Christ, who from Genesis 3 has been consistently portrayed as having particular presence. This is the same person of God who looked for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. He is the same person who admittedly will not know the day or hour of the judgment upon Jerusalem (cf. Matthew 24:36). He observes and makes judgments. He finds out. God is omniscient. Yet, the Son is always seen seeking, finding, observing, evaluating evidences and casting judgment. He is always about the Father’s will. Since the Son’s role is always to reveal the Father, I think the way He operates has everything to do with His role in the Godhead. The Father wills. Jesus reveals. The Spirit does the effectual work. Every operation is inseparable. This is why the outcry comes to Jesus. Jesus goes down to Sodom to reveal a judgment according to the outcry.
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” So the Lord said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place on their account.” And Abraham replied, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord, although I am but dust and ashes. Suppose the fifty righteous are lacking five, will You destroy the whole city because of five?” And He said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” He spoke to Him yet again and said, “Suppose forty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it on account of the forty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak; suppose thirty are found there?” And He said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.” And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.” Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.” As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place (Genesis 18:22-33).
Abraham humbly asks Jesus if He will sweep away the righteous with the wicked. After a few rounds of questioning, Jesus’s position is clear. He will not sweep away the righteous with the wicked. Now, let’s remind ourselves what righteousness is and how it is possible. Righteousness is to act rightly, not only before God but in relationship to our fellow man. If righteousness is absent, the earth become corrupted, unmerciful, love-lacking, unjust, and violent. We don’t have to search too hard to see these consequences in our own modern society. How is it possible to attain righteousness? On our own it is impossible. Abraham is counted righteous because he believes God (Genesis 15:6). It is Abraham’s belief in God that drives him to ask Jesus these questions relating explicitly to justice upon the earth. He cannot believe God would be unjust. He has a proper sense of justice because He has come to believe God.
I want you to know something very important. Many people on the earth say they want to see justice. Justice has become a very popular topic in our modern day. People have all sorts of theories about what it will take to create a just world and just society. Yet, the further we get from belief in God as we pursue justice, the more injustice we see created. I believe the answer to a just society is explicit belief in God and trust in Him alone to provide righteousness–which was finally accomplished in Christ. Any concept of justice without the imputed righteousness of Christ has shown to cause more injustice and violence–to create a corrupt society. It is only in Jesus true justice is found, through the conforming of our minds to His. This is, I believe, one of the roles of the church upon the earth–to bring justice through the proclamation of the Gospel of peace such that all nations are truly blessed through Abraham. All nations are not blessed only because of the availability of eternal life in Christ but because God intends to bring peace and justice to the whole earth as Jesus conquers the world (cf. Isaiah 9:7).
There are many people who criticize God for judging Sodom. What kind of God does such a thing? Then, the same people complain about the existence of injustices. The kind of God that judges justly and carries out just sentences, whether it is Genesis 6 or Genesis 18, is a God who cares about justice enough to cause it to increase upon the earth.
Do you want to see peace and justice upon the earth? Believe God. Let it be counted to you as righteousness like it was to Abraham.