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Covenant Father 9: Fire From Heaven - Genesis 18:16-19:38

While Abraham and Sarah celebrate the impending fulfillment of the covenant promises, Sodom and Gomorrah are a reminder of God’s covenant purposes. The destruction of these wicked cities reminds us why we need God’s covenant in the first place: because sin has made us all liable to the judgment of God, and apart from God’s covenant, we will all be destroyed like they were. But through covenant intercession, the righteous will be spared.

This passage can be divided into three parts: Abraham’s intercession, Lot’s rescue, and Sodom’s destruction, with a brief epilogue that completes Lot’s story.

Abraham’s Intercession – [18:16-33]

Abraham’s place: God wants to equip His friend Abraham to lead his family in doing righteousness and justice, and so He explains to Abraham that His angels are on a mission to investigate the outcry against Sodom and to bring justice. And because Abraham is a friend of God, God wants to hear what Abraham will say.

Abraham’s prayer is this: “Spare the righteous!” Abraham’s main concern is that when God brings judgment on Sodom, that righteousness and justice be done. He isn’t praying for God to spare the wicked, but he knows that isn’t just for the righteous to be destroyed along with the wicked.

Abraham’s persistence: Abraham presses on, until God confirms that He will spare the whole city for the sake of ten righteous people. Even though Abraham’s intercession doesn’t save Sodom, he does learn that God’s justice is careful and measured, so that we can rest assured that the judge of all the earth will do right.

Lot’s Rescue – 19:1-22

Picking up the scene in Sodom, we see Lot’s desperate hospitality. He knows that Sodom abuses her guests, and so he tries to intercept the angelic messengers and send them off quickly after sheltering them in his home. But the whole city comes to him to try and undo his hospitality with vile and wicked acts of homosexual abuse. This is the behavior that the angels had come to witness, and now that they have seen it firsthand, they prepare to bring God’s judgment on a wicked city.

But before judgment falls, God remembers Abraham’s prayer, and Lot is given the chance to save everyone that he can. Sadly, his worldliness catches up with him, and not only does his own family think he’s joking, but he can’t even bring himself to leave. The angels end up dragging Lot, his wife, and two daughters out of Sodom. You need to learn from Lot that you must constantly be working to replace the love of the world with love for godliness, or your story will be the same as his: you will lose your ability to influence others for Jesus, and you will lose your family to the world.

Sodom’s Destruction – 19:23-29

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is recounted briefly, as Yahweh sends down fire from heaven, destroying the city, the valley, the inhabitants of the city, and even the grass and bushes! The cities of the plain become a hellscape, a picture of what final judgment will be like. This is why the angels so insistently urged Lot away from Sodom: fire from heaven was coming. As you warn those you love about the consequences of sin, you will likely annoy and offend them, but if you really believe that fire from heaven is coming, then you will love them enough to warn them.

When Abraham awakes the next morning, he looks out and sees to his horror that there were not even ten righteous people in the land. Sodom is nothing but a smoking crater. But verse 29 is a great summary: in the middle of judgment and destruction, God remembered Abraham and saved Lot. This is the power of Abraham’s covenant faithfulness as opposed to the impotence of Lot’s worldliness: Lot couldn’t save his family, but Abraham’s prayer saves Lot. And so we see God’s covenant mercy in the midst of judgment.

Children of Sodom – 19:30-38

Unfortunately, there remains a sad epilogue that closes out the story of Lot. The way of Sodom follows Lot into the mountains as his two daughters drug and rape their father, and conceive children through incest. And the most terrifying part of Lot’s story is that Lot never engaged in the blatant wickedness around him; he opposed it! All Lot wanted was a comfortable, easy life for himself. And that’s scary, because that sounds a lot like us. In the midst of a sinful culture, we’ve avoided a lot of the big-name sins, and maybe even spoken out against them. But we’re not willing to give up the benefits and comforts that come from living too close to a sinful world, and so sin threatens to show up in terrible ways within our own families.

The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah remind us why the covenant and the covenant child are so important: fire from heaven is coming for all the wicked, but those who keep the covenant and who are kept by the covenant will escape. Through Abraham’s faithfulness, and ultimately, through Abraham’s offspring Jesus Christ, we are rescued and delivered from God’s righteous judgment. So flee from worldliness, and run to Jesus.

Posted on Thursday, May 25, 2017 by CJ Bowen