Chapter 18 opens with Abraham being visited by three men, whom he greeted joyfully, as was customary. While he may have seemed to overdo it a little, hospitality was among the most highly valued virtues of his time. After his visitors had been served the very best he had to offer them, they inquired about the whereabouts of Sarah. Abraham told them that his wife was inside the tent. Sarah was, indeed, inside – just inside – eavesdropping. Abraham is told that he and Sarah would have a child of their own within a year. Upon hearing this, Sarah laughed. Being aware of her bitterness, the men asked why she laughed. She denied that she had done so. The visitors knew she was lying and told her so.
The next section tells the story of Abraham pleading for the redemption of Sodom. The city was overrun with wickedness and there were people pleading with God to do something. Abraham became aware that God planned to observe the city and decide if it was doomed. The patriarch became quite agitated and began a bargaining session, of sorts, with the Lord. It bothered Abraham greatly that God would punish those who had done no wrong. And he told Him so. He negotiated with God on just how many righteous lives it would take to save the city from destruction. By the end of the negotiations, Abraham had gotten the Lord’s word that Sodom would be saved if only ten good people resided there.
Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the judge of all the Earth do right? Genesis 18:25
The first thing in this chapter that grabs me is how hospitable Abraham is towards his visitors. This behavior, once extremely important, is almost nonexistent. We no longer eagerly welcome strangers into our homes. This is understandable, right? To be perfectly honest, our world is a dangerous place. Opening the door to a stranger might well be the last thing one does. But what of a meal? A smile? A kind word? Helping someone who is down, even in the form of encouragement, is a rarity. Especially from Christians.
The next thing to catch my attention is Sarah. Her behavior grew increasingly more resentful. She was living a life of unhappiness. Remember that Sarah desperately wanted a child of her own. However, she could not conceive. So she pleaded with her husband to give her a child to love through Hagar, her servant. Once he had done so, she learned that one must be careful what she asks for. So one would think that the news of a child would make her happy. One would be wrong. Sarah is very resentful that she didn’t get this news when she wanted it. Then on top of eavesdropping and mockery, she lies when confronted with her reaction. Now this is something we see a lot of today. In our society, it is normal to want what you don’t have. It is normal to beg, borrow, and steal until you get it…only it doesn’t make you happy. Yeah, there are many Sarahs in our society. And bitterness, resentment, and lies are far too common. Especially from Christians.
Finally – and most importantly, in my opinion – is Abraham’s willingness to bargain with God over the lives of people he doesn’t even know. Abraham’s disquiet over the suffering of innocent people is touching. It demonstrates that Abraham doesn’t recognize a God who is unfair, a God who sees no difference between good and evil. Abraham took his concerns directly to his Lord, openly and honestly. It didn’t matter that he was powerless and it didn’t matter that it had no imminent impact on his life. He could have been self-righteous and agreed that the city be destroyed. He could have been indifferent and have no concern whatsoever. He could have been a good “follower” and not question what he didn’t understand. But…he didn’t. He was determined to save as many lives as possible. He was confident enough to ask questions of a God he didn’t understand, at that moment. He was his brother’s keeper. That type of thing doesn’t happen nearly enough. Especially from Christians.
For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it (Sodom) Genesis 18:32
This is the God that I know. My faith encourages me to be kind and patient. It encourages me to offer food to the hungry and kind words to the depressed. My faith does not let me wallow in bitterness and resentment, or strike out at others in anger. It certainly does not allow me to turn my back on my brothers in need or neglect to ask God to help them in whatever capacity they need most. Because of the relationship I have with God, I expect certain things.
Especially from Christians, I expect hospitality towards all people.
Especially from Christians, I expect less anger and bitterness.
Especially from Christians, I expect more keeping of brothers.
Especially from Christians, I expect to see hints of … Christ.