************ Sermon on Genesis 19:27-29 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on November 4, 2012
"God Remembered Abraham"
Moses switches gears temporarily in today's passage, leaving Lot's family in order to view the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from Abraham's perspective. Father Abraham rises early the morning God rained sulfur and fire upon the wicked cities. He returns to the place where he had stood before the Lord a day earlier pleading for the inhabitants of Sodom. He looks down upon the valley where those dens of iniquity once stood.
What does Abraham see? At one time, Abraham saw a valley that was green like the Garden of Eden. At one time, Abraham saw a valley that was fruitful like Egypt (cf Gen 13:10). At one time, Abraham saw a valley that was a bustling center of civilization, filled with cities and peoples and commerce and other marks of human occupation. But what does Abraham see this time? He sees smoke and fire. He sees salt. He sees a moonscape. He sees desolation and destruction and barrenness (Gen 19:28).
The readers and hearers of Moses know, of course, that Lot and Lot's daughters are safe. But, Scripture gives no indication that Abraham knows his nephew to still be alive. So, upon seeing the columns of smoke rising from the land, Abraham can only conclude that the loss of life has been total. As far as Abraham is concerned, no one has lived through the judgment.
Is Abraham shocked by what he sees? Is he hurt and disappointed? Scripture does not tell us. But in telling us about Lot's salvation from Abraham's perspective, Scripture does put our mind at ease about God, His judgments, and His mercy.
I Why Did God Save Lot?
A "Why did God save Lot?" I was asked that question in a recent family visit. That is a good question. Because Lot certainly deserved the same fate as the people of Sodom. After all, Lot was a part of wicked Sodom. Lot lived in Sodom. Lot was a judge in Sodom. Lot's daughters were engaged to be married to men of Sodom. Lot participated in the life and culture of Sodom. So, why did God save undeserving Lot?
B "Why did God save Lot?" Some of you, looking at what Peter wrote, might say Lot deserved to be saved. Remember what Peter wrote? He described Lot as
(2Pt 2:7-8) ... a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (8) (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)This argument says Lot deserved to be saved because he was a righteous man in the midst of wicked Sodom. This argument says Lot deserved to be saved because he was the only light in the midst of darkness. This argument says Lot deserved to be saved because he alone was distressed and tormented by the filthy lives and lawless deeds of Sodom's citizens.
To refute his argument, all we need do is go back to Noah. We are told that "God remembered Noah" (Gen 8:1). After hearing and reading these words, we – and Moses' audience – expect them to be echoed for Lot. We all expect to read, "God remembered Lot." But what we actually read is that "[God] remembered Abraham" (Gen 19:29). Lot was spared death even as Noah was spared death, but not because of his works.
Keep in mind, also, what Scripture says about every person after the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. When we clothe ourselves in our own righteousness, we clothe ourselves in the rags of sin (Is 64:6). Even the most holy of saints makes but the smallest beginning in living the kind of life that God demands. There is no one who does good, not even one. Or, as the song we sing puts it,
Not what my hands have doneMeaning what in the case of Lot? Meaning that Lot was not spared because he was so holy and righteous and vexed and troubled. After all, as I have mentioned in more than one message, Lot was a participant in Sodom and deserved death.
can save my guilty soul;
not what my toiling flesh has borne
can make my spirit whole.
Not what I feel or do
can give me peace with God;
not all my prayers and sighs and tears
can bear my awful load.
C "Why did God save Lot?" As we examine this question let's turn it on ourselves. "Why does God save you and me?"
That, too, is a good question. It is a good question to keep in mind as we prepare our hearts to partake of the Lord's Supper next week.
"Why does God save you and me?" Not because of our works – because they are not good enough. Not because of our faith – because it is not strong enough. Not because of our theology – because none of us can really understand the mind of God. Not because of our struggles and trials and pain and hurt – because none of it is enough to pay our debt of sin.
II God Remembered Abraham
A This brings us back to our question, "Why did God save Lot?"
Our text gives us the answer. Why did God save Lot when He destroyed the cities of the plain? Why did God bring Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived? Here is the answer: God "remembered Abraham." God, out of grace, "remembered Abraham."
God "remembered." Don't understand this to mean that God sometimes forgets. Don't understand this to mean that one day God slapped Himself on the forehead and said to Himself, "Oh yeah, Abraham! I forgot all about him."
God, out of grace, "remembered Abraham."
This is not the first time we have come across the word "remember." In Genesis 8:1, as I already mentioned, God – out of grace – remembered Noah. "Remember" points to God's faithfulness. From Noah's point-of-view, it may have seemed that God had forgotten him during the one hundred and fifty days on the ark. But God doesn't forget. He remembers. He is faithful. He is faithful to His promises. He is faithful to His people. He is faithful to the works of His hands.
The same word is used with Jacob's wife, Rachel. She was barren. When Rachel cried and prayed for children, "God remembered Rachel" and opened her womb (Gen 30:22).
When the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, they groaned and cried out for help; God heard their groaning and He "remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob" (Ex 2:24; cf 6:5).
When Hannah was unable to get pregnant she also cried and prayed for children and "the LORD remembered her" (1 Sam 1:19).
When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the operation of the Spirit, she sang a song to the Lord; she rejoiced that God has been "mindful [not the same as "remember" but very close] of the humble state of his servant" (Lk 1:48); and, she praised God for "remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever" (Lk 1:54-55).
The penitent thief on the cross said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" (Lk 23:42). Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise" (Lk 23:43).
So, when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, He – out of grace – "remembered Abraham" and brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the two cities (Gen 19:29).
B Why did God save Lot? Out of grace, God "remembered Abraham." What exactly did God, out of grace, remember? Go back one chapter to Abraham's prayer for Sodom. Abraham pleaded with God. And, because of Abraham's prayer, God agreed that for the sake of fifty righteous people He would spare the city. But Abraham kept pleading. So God agree that for the sake of forty-five righteous He would not destroy the city. Then forty, thirty, twenty. Finally, "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it."
We are led to understand that for the sake of Abraham's intercession, God – out of grace – spared Lot. We are led to understand that because of Abraham's prayers, Lot – out of grace – was saved by God. Understand this correctly: Scripture does not tell us Lot was saved by Abraham; rather, Lot was saved by God in response to Abraham's prayers.
According to James, "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (Jms 5:16). "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16). We see the truth of what James says in the life of Abraham and Lot. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."
If anything, Genesis 19:29 reminds us of our need to pray. It pleases the Lord – out of grace – to use our prayers as He redeems our family and friends. We can never pray too long or too hard for our wayward sons and daughters or unrepentant fathers and mothers.
I am sure you have heard of St Augustine. He was one of the foremost of the early church fathers. However, he was not always a churchman.
As a young man he led a wild and reckless life. He openly consorted with prostitutes and engaged in other forms of ungodliness.
For years, his godly mother prayed for him and his salvation. I am sure she despaired more than once. The Lord used her prayers so that not only was Augustine converted but he also became one of the most influential theologians the world has ever known.
Have you been praying for a non-believing friend or family member? Does it seem as if you have been praying for an eternity? Don't give up now, for God – out of grace – may remember you just like He remembered Abraham and grant salvation to your loved one.
C Why did God save Lot? Out of grace, God "remembered Abraham." What exactly did God remember? God remembered more than Abraham's prayer. God also remembered His Word to Abraham. Abraham asked that the cities be spared "for the sake of the ... righteous" (Gen 18:24). Abraham starts with fifty, then forty-five, then forty, thirty, twenty, and – finally – ten. God's final Word: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it" (Gen 18:32). Sodom's destruction can only lead us to conclude that there were not ten righteous to be found in the city.
Yet God, out of grace, remembered His Word to Abraham anyway. "How?", you may wonder? Lot is spared because of Abraham. I want you to notice, Abraham is to Lot what Lot should have been to Sodom. Abraham was used to save Lot in the same way as Lot should have been used to save Sodom. An individual who does not deserve to be spared, is spared because of the righteousness of another. When it comes right down to it, wasn't this God's Word to Abraham? When it comes right down to it, didn't God promise that for the sake of the righteous the guilty would be spared? That includes Lot.
If this kind of thinking seems strange to you, let me put it in New Testament language. At the heart of the New Testament lies the message that God spares the wicked – including you and me – for the sake of Christ. In other words, God spares the wicked for the sake of only one righteous person! In Christ and because of Christ, God spares all the wicked whom He, out of grace and mercy, calls.
God "remembered Abraham." He spared the guilty for the sake of the righteous. Think on this as you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week.
D Why did God save Lot? Out of grace, God "remembered Abraham." What exactly did God remember? God also remembered His covenant with Abraham. More specifically, in saving Lot, God remembered His covenant promises to Abraham. Review with me, for a moment, all of those promises:
I will make you into a great nation.Abraham and Sarah, their servants, and their neighbors have every reason to doubt every one of these covenant promises if Abraham's nephew perished in Sodom's flames. What sort of God do we have if, in response to Abraham's prayers, Abraham's own flesh and blood is not kept safe?
I will bless you.
I will make your name great.
You will be a blessing.
To your offspring I will give this land (Gen 12:2,7).
All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.
I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth (Gen 13:15-16).
A son coming from your body will be your heir.
Your offspring will be like the stars of the sky in number (Gen 15:4-5).
I will greatly increase your numbers and make you very fruitful.
I have made you a father of many nations.
Kings will come from you.
I will be your God and the God of your descendants after you.
I will give you the whole land of Canaan (Gen 17:2-8).
But God didn't forget His covenant promises. God keeps His promises. God is faithful to His promises. God didn't forget His covenant with Abraham. God remembered. And, Lot was kept safe.
Now, this coming week we are also called to remember. When we come to the Lord's Table we are to remember that Jesus died, that Jesus suffered, that Jesus made an atoning sacrifice for our sins – even as God promised long ago. We are to remember and believe that God continues to keep His covenant promises. That not one of them falls by the wayside. That not one of them is ever forgotten.
"Why did God save Lot?" Out of grace, God "remembered Abraham."
God remembered Abraham's prayers. God remembered His Word. God remembered His covenant and covenant promises.
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week, think about Lot and Abraham and the mercies of God.
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