************ Sermon on Genesis 18:19 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on September 9, 2012
"Chosen to Direct His Children"
Once upon a time, in the land of Canaan, there were two families that lived together. However, because they were so wealthy in flocks and herds the land could not support them; they were not able to stay together. Therefore, the family of Lot and the family of Abraham separated from each other.
The family of Lot chose to pitch their tents in the Jordan River Valley near the city of Sodom. It was a rich, well-watered valley, like the Garden of Eden, like the land of Egypt. However, the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord.
The family of Abraham chose to remain in the hill country of Canaan. This land, presumably, was not as rich or as well-watered as the Jordan River Valley. It was there that God told Abraham to lift up his eyes and look north, south, east, and west. All the land that Abraham could see from the heights was promised to him and his offspring.
On this kick-off Sunday for the new church year I want you to consider the impact of these choices on the family of Lot as well as the family of Abraham. I pick the stories of Lot and Abraham because God wants the same thing of us – as a church, as parents and grandparents – that He wanted of Abraham. He wants us to direct our children "to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just" (Gen 18:19).
I Lot - a Righteous Man Making Wrong Choices
A As we look at Lot, we always need to keep in mind what Peter said about him: Peter called Lot "a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men" (2 Pet 2:7). Peter did not say this on his own. This was not something Peter made up. Peter, like the prophets of old, spoke from God as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet 1:21).
Lot was "a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men" (2 Pet 2:7). We are to see ourselves in Lot. How many times don't we, like Lot, make choices that have disastrous consequences for our families and children? How many times don't we, like Lot, put the souls of our families and children in danger?
B Do you remember the very first consequence of Lot's decision to live in the Jordan River Valley? The four kings of Mesopotamia carried off Lot, his family, and his possessions (Gen 14). Back then, captives – like Lot and his wife – were either killed or sold into slavery. As for Lot's daughters, they usually were raped by the victorious soldiers and sold to the highest bidder. By choosing the Jordan River Valley over the Promised Land, Lot endangered his family. By choosing treasure on earth over treasure in heaven, Lot risked the well-being of his family.
C Last week we looked at God's conversation with Abraham. God announced His intention to destroy the cities of the plain (Gen 18). Abraham, the friend of God, showed himself to also be the friend of sinners. Abraham interceded with the Lord. Abraham interceded for Lot and his family. Abraham interceded for the wicked cities. Like Paul, Abraham desired that they be saved from the coming judgment (2 Cor 5:11). In response to Abraham's pleas, Almighty God, El Shaddai, agreed not to destroy the cities for the sake of ten righteous people. Yet, as you know, God destroyed the cities anyway. Telling us what? Telling us there were not even ten righteous people in Sodom.
When everything was said and done, there was only one righteous person in the entire city. That righteous person was not either of Lot's two sons-in-law because they did not and could not take serious Lot's warning about coming judgment (Gen 18:14). They are like many people today who give never a thought to the return of Christ to judge the living and the dead. That righteous person was not Lot's wife because she, in disobedience to the Lord, looked back upon the burning cities with longing (Gen 18:26). That righteous person was not either of Lot's two daughters because they were willing to be married to unbelievers; and, the story of Lot ends with them getting their dad drunk and taking him to bed (Gen 18:30f). When everything was said and done, the only righteous person in Sodom was Lot.
What happened to Lot's wife? What happened to Lot's daughters? What happened is that Lot made a decision to let them live in the middle of wicked Sodom. What happened is that Lot made a decision that negatively impacted their souls for eternity.
It was in Sodom that Lot's daughters learned to have sexual relations with their father. It was in Sodom that Lot's wife learned to love the excitement and night life and evil of the wicked and formed improper relationships and ties with those who were evil.
Lot chose Sodom and in the process he lost his wife and daughters. Lot chose Sodom and the souls of his wife and daughters were lost.
If you were at the Right to Life banquet this past week, you heard from David Wilkinson. He warned his audience about the great evil and wickedness of Planned Parenthood in our public schools. To use the language of our Bible reading, our public schools have been turned into placed of wickedness where our children and youth learn the evils of Sodom. What we need are "ten" righteous people who stand against the evil. What we need are discerning parents and teachers who will not allow children to be exposed to such wickedness. What we need are friends of sinners who plead with God for His grace and mercy so that the wicked may repent.
We do not want our children and youth exposed to the ways and morals of Sodom. So, we keep them away from Planned Parenthood. So, we speak against marriage with unbelievers. So, we protect them from the wickedness that can be found on TV and the internet. So, we try to avoid the evil of today's public education.
II Abraham - Chosen by God
A Our Scripture reading reminds us of Abraham's special place in the heart of God. God Himself says, "I have chosen him ..." (Gen 18:19). There was nothing special about Abraham that led God to choose him. He wasn't better than all other men. He wasn't stronger, smarter, or more industrious. In fact, God chose him before the beginning of time already. God chose Abraham purely out of grace. This means it was not something Abraham deserved. Rather, it was something that God in His love decided to do.
"I have chosen Abraham," says the Lord (Gen 18:19). But God has also chosen you and me. Every single believer, like Abraham, is chosen of God. Every single believer, like Abraham, has an everlasting covenant relationship with God and therefore are one of God's separate, different people. Every single believer, like Abraham, is to be God's partner, God's fellow worker, in bringing about the Kingdom. Every single believer, like Abraham, is a friend of God to whom God reveals His will – not in person, but in the Word.
There is lots of choosing that goes on in life: we choose our friends and they choose us, we choose our marriage partner, we are chosen for church council or school boards or committee assignments, we are chosen by the boss for a promotion, we are chosen for a special position. But to be chosen of God – that is far more important, far more awesome, far more significant, far more enduring than any other choosing.
B But, now, on this kick-off Sunday notice the unusual twist God gives to His choosing.
"For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children ..." (Gen 18:19). I want to remind you there are two kinds of election in the Bible. There is salvation election – being chosen, out of grace, for eternal life. But there is also task election – being chosen, out of grace, to fulfil a certain calling. Our text teaches us this task election:
(Gen 18:19) For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.Do you hear for what task Abraham has been chosen? He has been chosen to direct his children and his household to keep the way of the LORD – something, by the way, that Lot did not do.
This is not the only time Scripture teaches us task election. I have always loved the words of Peter and Isaiah:
(1Pt 2:9) But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (Cf 1 Pet 2:4-5)Do you hear the task election: to declare His praises?
(Is 43:20-21) ... I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, (21) the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.
C Abraham has been chosen by God. So, what does God expect him to do? What does God expect of us as a church? What God does God expect of us who are parents, prospective parents, grandparents?
Our text has three powerful words and one powerful phrase.
The first word is direct. The psalmist uses this word to describe what God did when He called all of creation into existence. This word also describes how all creatures and elements follow God's direction. This word describes how God, by His providence, guides the course of history. When applied to parents, it means they take charge of their children's religious and moral instruction. They don't ignore this. They don't allow children to make their own choices. They don't allow them to decide things like whether or not they will pray, read the Bible, or attend worship.
The second word is keep. The word that is used here means to guard, to watch. It is the same word used of a watchman standing guard on a city wall for the enemy; he needs to be careful, he needs to be observant, he needs to stay awake, he needs to keep a vigilant watch. In the same way, godly parents stand watch over their children and teens to pay careful attention to the ways of God. Again, this is something Lot did not do.
The third word is way. It means path or road. The way of the Lord, of course, is found in the Bible. More specifically, children are to be directed towards faith in Jesus Christ Who died and arose; they are to be directed towards obedience to God's law; they are to be directed towards a regular dose of worship, Bible reading, and prayer; and, they are to be directed towards a life of showing love and concern for those who are less fortunate.
The powerful phrase is right and just. This phrase and its variants appears more than ninety times in the Bible. It first of all describes God:
(Ps 9:8) He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.
(Ps 11:7) For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.
(Job 8:3) Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right?
Our text makes clear that God expects His people to imitate Him. So, in our text Abraham is told to direct his children so they do what is right and just. But this is not the only time we hear this.
(Deut 16:19) Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.
(Prov 21:3) To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
We have seen how important the phrase is but what does it mean? It means you conform to God's standards as laid out in His Law and His Word. It means to be "straight." It means to be fair.
Godly parents, chosen parents, direct their children to keep the way of the Lord. So what did Abraham do? We first note that his son Isaac – and Ishmael, too – were born into a covenant home and received the sign and seal of the covenant. I've remarked before that wherever Abraham went in the Promised Land he built altars – places of worship and prayer and sacrifice; so Abraham's children were exposed to the worship of the Almighty. Also, when it was time for Isaac to get married Abraham made sure he found a God-fearing wife. And, of course, Abraham walked and talked with God – and set an example for his children to follow. No, Abraham was not perfect – as we have been finding out again and again – but he was the Lord's servant. And, he raised his children in God's ways.
D Godly parents, chosen parents, direct their children to keep the way of the Lord. In Genesis 18 God revealed to Abraham what happens when parents do this: blessing. God tells Abraham He will fulfill His covenant promises if Abraham directs his children and household to keep the way of the Lord. "The Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him" (vs 19).
Godly parents, chosen parents, direct their children to keep the way of the Lord. In Genesis 18 & 19 God also revealed what happens when parents do not do this: punishment. Lot was forced to flee and Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because parents and children did not keep the way of the Lord. The charred ruins of the two cities spoke to all who passed by of the fate of the ungodly. They are a permanent memorial to all who passed by that ungodliness and wickedness are punished.
E Godly parents, chosen parents, direct their children to keep the way of the Lord. On this kick-off Sunday I want to remind every parent we expect your children and youth to be in Sunday School and Catechism. I want to remind you of our mid-week programs: GEMS, Cadets, ETM, Youth Group. I want to remind you of Central Valley Christian School. I want to remind you of the need for Christian instruction in the home. I want to remind you of the need for regular family devotions.
My brothers and sisters, let us take to heart what God says to us: parents who are chosen – like Abraham was chosen – to be one of God's covenant people, want to do all that they can to shape their children's values and beliefs. They want to do all that they can to shape their children's souls.
This is not optional. We cannot follow the route of Lot – who compromised the souls of his wife and children. Nor, can we follow the route of modern parents who ignorantly declare that they want to leave religion and faith and morals for their child to decide. I have heard parents say things like, "I'm not going to push religion on my children. I think they should make up their own minds about spiritual things. They have to choose their own beliefs and values. I have no business trying to influence their choices." Really? Well, then, they are about the only ones who do not want a say in their child's faith development.
You need to realize, congregation, there is a whole world out there eager to influence the minds and souls of our children and youth. The New-Age Movement, for instance, has an army just waiting to get hold of your children. The gay-rights movement in this country wants nothing more than to make a generation of children think homosexuality is an acceptable alternative life-style. Planned Parenthood wants our youth to think abortion is acceptable and pre-marital sex is self-expression. Advertisers on Saturday-morning cartoons want to influence your kids. Rock bands are trying to influence them. Friends are putting pressure on them. So are drug dealers, beer and cigarette companies, the pornography industry, Hollywood, internet sites – the list goes on and on.
If you don't want to influence your children, you are about the only one who doesn't. So it is not a question of whether someone will try to influence their choices and values, but whose influence the children will choose to follow.
On this kick-off Sunday, listen again to God's words to Abraham. And, hear in them His words to you and me:
(Gen 18:19) For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.
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