God “shows up” all over the place in events recorded in the Bible and today, but He is not passive. Rather, the LORD is active in Earth’s affairs.
A pattern of behavior we see in the Torah reading וַיֵּרָא Vayera (“and He appeared”) is that when people are in “fight or flight” mode, they usually make very poor decisions. Lot’s “bright idea” to give his daughters to protect his guests from a vile mob, Lot’s daughter’s “bright idea” to get pregnant by their father a mere few days after they escaped from Sodom’s flames, and later Abraham and Sarah’s decision to lie to Abimelech about the extent of their kinship, all these poor decision had consequences.
We will see through the testimony of the words of God the interplay between the promised one, Yitskhak (Isaac), and the one born only through the flesh, Yishma’el (Ishmael).
Genesis 18:16–19:38: Sodom Inc. weighed and sealed
The LORD doesn’t send judgment without knowing the intricacies of what is going on. We see this with the Tower of Babel and we see it in this reading regarding the sentence on Sodom and the neighboring cities.
We are told the LORD “remembers” the righteous. We see that phrase used regarding Noakh (Noah) and Lot. The Lord does not have a problem with his short term memory. When He “remembers” it’s a deeper connection than just a memory. The Lord doesn’t forget Himself and He doesn’t forget us either.
We see here how the LORD and Abraham bargain over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s boldness in prayer and intercession is a model for us to pray for mercy and deliverance for the righteous living in our modern cities.
“Abraham came near and said, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23 NASB)
What case do we make in our prayers for the cities near us? Lot was delivered amid judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. We see here that sometimes, we are saved because of the prayers of the righteous.
Is rebellion inevitable when humans are given freewill? The book of Revelation tells us that he or she who endures to the end is the one who will conquer the pull of society to live life apart from God (Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7). We should want to chose His way, not our way.
Abraham argued with God and survived. Jacob wrestled with God and survived.
A big shift happens in society when people move from the rural areas to cities. Urban areas have been around since the most ancient times. And from ancient times we see that the more people are around each other, the less they care for each other, unless you actively fight against that.
Do you know your neighbors? Most Americans don’t. People in Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties have had to do that out of necessity in recent days after the Tubbs/Nuns/Pocket/Napa/Redwood Valley fires raged through our area. It has taken tragedy and adversity to bring people together.
Lot knew very well what life was really like in Sodom. We are told that Lot “sat at the gate.” In the Ancient Near East, that is where civic decisions were made. When he saw the two messengers of God come in, he went into protection mode. Lot knew that Sodom would either figuratively or even literally eat visitors alive and spit them out. It was notorious.
We see how far Lot was willing to go to protect his guests. He was even willing to give up his own flesh and blood to save them. God gave up His own Son for people who didn’t deserve it.
Do you only reserve your hospitality for the righteous? Do we only love those who love us? Yeshua tells us “no.”
“’If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’” (Luke 6:32–36 NASB)
We also will see how the wicked oppress the righteous when they reap the consequences of their actions, blaming the righteous for their poor decisions. The mere existence of the righteous in the midst of a wicked people is a silent rebuke of their unrighteousness. This is why the wicked usually end up killing the prophets God brings to them.
Yeshua told to be as “cunning as serpents and as harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). We are not to fear those who can merely kill the body but Him who can throw body and soul into the fire (Matt. 10:28).
Even thought Abraham and Sarah made the wrong decision regarding Hagar and Lot’s daughters made a poor decision regarding their relationship with their own father, God made the sons conceived in these encounters (Ishmael, Moab and Ammon) into patriarchs of nations. The sad thing is that those nations became a thorn in the side of the nation of Israel, but God doesn’t protect us from all of our bad decisions, or the bad decisions of our ancestors.
Genesis 21:1–7: Yitskhak is Abraham’s 100th year
Apostle Paul addressed these key questions related to circumcision in Galatians 4:21–31:
- Are you born into the covenant or are you promised into it?
- Is the person who chooses circumcision superior to the one who had that choice put upon him?
“Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. For it is written, ‘REJOICE, BARREN WOMAN WHO DOES NOT BEAR; BREAK FORTH AND SHOUT, YOU WHO ARE NOT IN LABOR; FOR MORE NUMEROUS ARE THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE THAN OF THE ONE WHO HAS A HUSBAND.’ And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also. But what does the Scripture say? ‘CAST OUT THE BONDWOMAN AND HER SON, FOR THE SON OF THE BONDWOMAN SHALL NOT BE AN HEIR WITH THE SON OF THE FREE WOMAN.’ So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.” (Galatians 4:21–31 NASB)
The punchline is found in Gal. 4:31 and answers these questions:
- How can Mt. Sinai be a bondage, a form of slavery when they were just freed from slavery in Egypt?
- How is Egypt juxtaposed with Jerusalem?
- What is the source of bondage? Torah? Paul is quoting from the Torah in Galatians.
- What is the value of circumcision?
Abraham was considered righteous before circumcision. This promise that is given, that people can enter into, including the Gentiles, proceeds the signing of the contract (Romans 4).
Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, ‘FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’ How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised.” (Romans 4:9–12 NASB)
Noach showed his faith by building an ark. Abraham showed his faith by the sacrifice of his miracle son. Abraham knew God could resurrect Isaac and bring him back from the bed to make sure the promise was kept.
“And the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”” (Genesis 18:13–14 NASB)
Genesis 21:8–21: Yishma’el’s ‘laughter’ at Laughter
Yishma’el’s “laughter” at the one named Laughter (Yitskhak) leads to expulsion and deliverance. There’s a shadow of the Mashiakh in this story. Yeshua is the ultimate bringer of laughter of joy for the LORD’s “great things done for them.” (Psalm 126):
When the LORD brought back the captive ones of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter
And our tongue with joyful shouting;
Then they said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us;
We are glad.
Restore our captivity, O LORD,
As the streams in the South.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting.
He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed,
Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalms 126:1–6 NASB)
The LORD did a great thing for Abraham and Sarah and they laughed in joy with Isaac’s birth. They had been waiting for so long for Isaac, yet “all things are possible” with God. When it seems that nothing can happen, when the LORD wills something, He will do it. There’s no tank, missile, nuclear bomb that can defeat the Creator of Heaven and Earth.
Genesis 22: Offer your son, your only son
There are so many shadows of Mashiakh in this chapter.
- Yeshua is the only Son of God. (John 1:14, 18)
- Yeshua is the Lamb of God. (John 1:29, 36; Rev. 5:8)
- He is the Lamb slain from the foundations of the Earth (Rev. 13:8).
We don’t always know what the LORD is doing, but we know where He is going. The LORD had “many people” in a city as debaucherous as Corinth (Acts 18:8–11). Certainly, our large urban areas, even the most notorious, have some righteous living in them, too. We can be a part of God’s great harvest if we are willing to ask God to give us the same heart for mercy and justice that Abraham had.
Banner photo by Adam Jackson/Freeimages.com.
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