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The God Who Does What is Right

Original Date: 
Sunday, July 13, 2014

Genesis 18 The God Who Does What is Right

Two Questions
Two questions. That’s what we are going to be looking at today. Two questions, about God, to which you must be firmly convinced of the answers. Two questions.

Is God strong enough to make a difference? And is He fair? Those are the questions that come up again and again. Whenever a tragedy strikes, whenever the stresses pile up, people start asking: Is God strong enough to make a difference? And is He fair?

For atheists, those two questions are deal breakers. They figure that an all-powerful God would be able to stop pain, and a God who is fair would want to. But since pain exists, God must not.

Even for those of us who believe in God, I think those questions keep gnawing at us. When a big tragedy hits, like a school shooting or a tsunami, we wonder: wasn’t God strong enough to stop it? And if He is, but didn’t, then can we really say He’s being fair?

And sometimes we ask those questions about smaller things, personal things. When a deal falls apart at work, or a bad diagnosis comes from the doctor, or we see someone we love suffer a heartbreak, we wonder: can God make a difference? Is He even being fair?

If we are going to maintain our relationship with God, we need to square away our answers to those two questions.

And to do so, we are going to go to Genesis 18. The two questions are asked in this chapter. They’re phrased a little differently. In the Bible they are: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” and “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” But they are essentially the same questions. And the answers we give to those questions are vital for us to have a strong relationship with God.

My goal is to go all the way through Genesis 18.

Entertaining Angels
Verse 1 tells us:

1The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting in the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day.

In Genesis 17, God appeared to Abram and changed his name to Abraham and his wife’s name to Sarah. He also reaffirmed that they would have a son named Isaac. Now, it can’t be too much later that the LORD appears to Abraham again.

But this appearance of the LORD is not like the last one. Whereas that visit took place in a vision or a dream (we’re not really told how it happened) this time God appears as a human being. This is God incognito. God in “plain clothes” (Nee, p. 71). Verse 2:

2Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.

It’s very tempting to see the Trinity in these three men. But chapter 19 calls the other two angels. Regardless, their arrival at Abraham’s tent is all rather mysterious.

The rest of verse 2:

When he saw them, he hurried [Note that word "hurried."] from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3He said, 'If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way--now that you have come to your servant.' 'Very well,' they answered, 'do as you say.' 6So Abraham hurried [there is that word again. I wonder what it looks like for a 99 year old man to hurry. He hurried...] into the tent to Sarah. 'Quick,' [another word for “hurry”] he said, 'get three seahs of fine flour [which is quite a lot] and knead it and bake some bread.' [Enough for a small army, I would guess.] 7Then he ran [hear that? “He ran”] to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried [there it is again] to prepare it. [Meat at a mid-day meal was an extravagance of hospitality.] 8He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

Now, we haven’t gotten to the first question yet, but there is something significant going on here. All of these details about the elaborate feast Abraham hurried to prepare tell us how important hospitality is.

Abraham didn’t even know who these strangers were (yet) and he still went out of his way to make them comfortable. This is in direct contrast to the inhospitality that will be shown in the next chapter by the people of Sodom, and it provides a good model for us.

Hospitality is something that is urged upon Christians. When the author of Hebrews exhorts his readers to hospitality he references this experience of Abraham: “2Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it” (13:2).

In this day of rapid travel and discount hotel chains, hospitality is not something we often get to practice; and yet, you never know when that stranger at your door--or man on the street, or the single mom at the county office—might be an angel sent into your life for you to serve. In fact, even when you know someone is definitely NOT an angel, the Bible still urges you to treat him as though he could be.

Is Anything Too Hard for the LORD?
So, Abraham models hospitality for us as God (in plain clothes) eats with him. But, we haven’t gotten to our first question yet, and we haven’t even gotten to the reason for God’s visit. Verse 9:

9“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said.

Here is Abraham’s first hint that he is dealing with supernatural beings. How do they know about his wife? How do they know about her new name? Why do they want to know where she is? Verse 10:

10Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

There is something big going on here. This is the LORD speaking. And He’s promising (again) that Sarah is going to have a son. A miraculous son. More from verse 10:

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?"

A delightful child at the age of 89? After a lifetime of barrenness? That’s impossible.

So, just like Abraham did in the last chapter, Sarah laughs. It can’t be; it must be a joke.

But the LORD is serious. Verse 13:

13Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son."

Here is our first question: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” We need to know the answer to this question.

Parents, you need to know the right answer to this question.
Kids, you need to know the right answer to this question.
Married couples, you need to know the right answer to this question.
Seniors, you need to know the right answer to this question.
Pastors need to know the right answer to this question.
Christians, you need to know the right answer to this question.

Is anything too hard for the LORD? Is there anything that God cannot do? Does the word “impossible” exist in God’s vocabulary?

I hope you know that the answer is “No.” No, there is not anything too hard for the Lord. No, there is nothing the Lord cannot do.

There is no problem so thorny that He cannot solve it.
No object so heavy that He cannot lift it.
No journey so far that He cannot travel it.
No task so complicated that He cannot perform it.
No opposition so great that He cannot overcome it.
No person so intractable that He cannot change him.
There is nothing that the Lord cannot do.

In fact, it’s just when things start to look impossible that God likes to get involved. Just when human solutions fail and it looks like things cannot be done, that’s when God takes over:
escaping slaves trapped between a raging army and a turbulent sea;
a battle hardened giant verses a teen-aged shepherd boy;
a childless couple well beyond retirement age,
the light of the world snuffed out and buried in a borrowed grave,
those are the kinds of “impossible” situations God loves to be a part of.

Sarah may be pushing 90. Abraham may be pushing 100. She may not have ever had a child and she may not have had her time of month for years, but God says she will have a child, and she will, because nothing is too hard for God. Nothing.

Now, why is that important?

Faith. If we are going to stay refreshed and alive in our faith, then it begins with the realization that what we are incapable of doing, God is capable of. Faith begins with knowing that nothing is too hard for God.

If you are going to be putting your faith in God—if you are going to stop trusting in yourself and start trusting in Him---then you need to know that God can do what looks impossible to you.

Nothing is too hard for the LORD, so we can trust Him. We can give Him everything in our lives—all our hopes and dreams and trials and tribulations—and we can know that He can handle it.

This isn’t news to you, of course. I’m sure, for most of us, this is sort of central to our very definition of God. But just because we believe it, doesn’t mean we always live this way.

Sometimes we act as if God cannot handle it. Sometimes we act as though certain things are just too hard for the Lord. Don’t we?

We’ve all seen people walk away from marriages because they decided that the LORD couldn't handle their problems.

We've all seen people despair at the hospital because they decided that the LORD couldn't handle their health crisis.

We've all seen people go off the deep end financially because they decided that the LORD couldn't handle their money situation.

We’ve all seen people throw their hands up in despair, or cry out in frustration, because they felt that what they had to deal with was just beyond anything God or anybody else could handle.

How often have we all done this? I decide that something will just be too hard for the LORD so I start to worry and get anxious and down and bitter about what will happen.

The Christian who has the God of the universe FOR HIM should be the boldest, most confident, most fearless person on Earth. Proverbs 28:1 says, "...the righteous are as bold as a lion."

But so often instead, in our sinful unbelief, we decide that some things are just too hard for the LORD.

What is it for you right now? What is it that is bothering you, that looks impossible to you, that looks like it is just too hard? Have you entrusted it to God? Have you put your faith in Him?

Is anything too hard for the LORD? The answer is “No.” Nothing is too difficult for Him. So trust Him.

Is anything too hard for you? You bet. But not for Him. So trust Him.

Will Not the Judge of All the Earth do What is Right?
Now, let’s keep going.

Dinner is finished, the plates are cleaned up, and the visitors are ready to leave. And the subject changes. Verse 16:

16When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham
walked along with them to see them on their way.

Sodom. The place has become notorious. 4000 years later and we still know it as a place of sin. Now, as Abraham and his guests stand on the heights of Hebron they can see the wicked city in the distance and God has a decision to make. Verse 17:

17Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19For 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.

This is a story about “right”ness and justice. God wants to teach Abraham a lesson. He wants Abraham and his descendants (and that includes you and me) to have the same concern for justice as He does. So He lets Abraham in on what He plans to do to Sodom. Verse 20:

20Then the LORD said, 'The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know."

There is an “outcry” against Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom and Gomorrah’s sins have reached the point of such excess that they demand God’s full attention. And so, God has “come down” on a fact finding mission.

And the implication, obviously, is that God is about to judge these two cities for their evil. Verse 22:

22The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing
before the LORD. 23Then Abraham approached him and said: 'Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25Far be it from you to do such a thing-to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?'"

Here’s our second question: Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

Abraham asks a question about God’s reputation. If there are 50 people who are innocent of the sins of Sodom, would it be right to destroy the city? 50 people might have been half the population of a city back then. So if half the population is righteous, then maybe God’s reputation would benefit if he spared the place for their sake. So Abraham asks the question: Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?

We need to know the answer to this question too. If we know that nothing is too difficult for God—if He has all the power---then we need to know whether or not He will use that power rightly. We need to know if God is just.

The answer, of course, is YES. Yes, the Judge of all the earth will do right.

And God is willing to go to great lengths to prove it. He doesn’t have to, but He loves to let people into His plans. To demonstrate His righteousness. He is a revealing God. Verse 26:

26The LORD said, 'If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I
will spare the whole place for their sake.'

That’s more than fair. Notice, it’s not just a question of sparing the righteous—in the event, even when the needed minimum is not found and Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed, God still goes out of His way to rescue Lot—it’s not just a question of sparing the righteous, God is prepared to spare the whole place. That’s gracious, especially considering that even the righteous are sinful.

But Abraham, very boldly, presses the question. Verse 27:

27Then Abraham spoke up again: 'Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city because of five people?'"

If Abraham’s treatment of strangers is a model of hospitality, then his discussion with God is a model prayer. He is humble, but He is bold. He seeks the will of God.

Will you destroy the whole city because the righteous people come out 5 short? Answer? V.28

28'If I find forty-five there,' he said, 'I will not destroy it.'

Very good. Verse 29:

29Once again he spoke to him, 'What if only forty are found there?' He said, 'For the sake of forty, I will not do it.' 30Then he said, 'May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?' He answered, 'I will not do it if I find thirty there.' 31Abraham said, 'Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?' He said, 'For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.' 32Then he said, 'May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?' He answered, 'For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.'"

And that seems to be the end of it. Fewer than ten, God will save some other way. But the discussion is over. Verse 33:

33When the LORD had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham
returned home.

Abraham has his answer. YES. Yes, the Judge of all the earth will do right.

Now, why is it important for us to know that the answer to this question?

Well, for the same reason it was important to know the answer to the first: faith. If we are going to go home refreshed and stay refreshed, then we need to know that we can trust God with justice. We need to know that we can put our faith in God's righteousness.

We need to be able to trust God with evil: both the great evils that are done in the world and the injustices of all sizes that are done to us.

This world is not fair. Don't let anyone tell you it is. But God is just. He does justice perfectly. There is no shadow of turning within Him. He is all good all the time. And He deals with evil perfectly.

Not on our time schedule. Not the way we want Him to all the time. But perfectly every time.

Have you been wronged? We all have at some time. We've all been sinned against.

For some of us it is slight: a toy taken from us at playtime, our parking space filled with someone else's car, a joke stolen and told as someone else's.

For others of us it is heavy: an abusive relationship, a financial deal gone south, a broken marriage vow.

Jesus calls us to forgive. Jesus calls us to let those things go and release our claim on bitterness.

How can we do that?

By trusting that the Judge of all the earth will do right.

He can do anything. And He will always do what is right. Those are some pretty capable hands to put our injustices in.

God's justice does not operate on our schedule. But it operates much more thoroughly and perfectly.

Right now, there is so much in this world that is not right. Just read a newspaper. But the Judge of all the earth will do right. He will right every wrong. That's why there is a Hell, you know.

And that's why there was a Cross.

The cross of Jesus is all about justice. You know that, right? If God and Abraham were to have their back and forth about us, you know how it would go, don’t you?

God would say: “See those people at Hope Church? I’m going to destroy them for their sin.” And Abraham would say, “Lord, what if there are 50 righteous persons?” And God would look, and He’d say: “I can’t find 50.” So Abraham would say, “What about 25?” But God would look, and he wouldn’t find 25. And they could do it for 10, or 5, or even 1. But the problem is, God could look through this whole church, and he wouldn’t find 1 single person who is righteous on his or her own.

We all deserve the exact same thing Sodom and Gomorrah got. We all deserve to be punished for our sins. But Jesus went to the cross and He took the punishment of our sins upon Himself. Our sins do not go unpunished. They find justice in Jesus. And those who believe on Him are thus spared. So now, when God looks at Hope Church, He doesn’t see our sin, but the work of Jesus.

The Judge of all the earth did what was right.

We need to act on that. We need to release bitterness and be forgiving people. We need to warn people about Hell and the just judgment that is coming upon them for their sins. And we need to invite people to the Savior who took God's righteous wrath for them if they will believe on Him.

The God You Can Trust
There is a saying that goes: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It’s a warning about putting too much authority in the hands of one person. Our history is filled with examples of men who horded power and used it for utter evil.

Sometimes, when we hear that God can do anything, and yet we see so much evil in the world, people want to blame God for everything that is bad. People assume that there must be something wrong with God for the world to have so many problems. They assume that God is corrupt. Their idea of God is not much more than a man.

But God is bigger than our imagination. The Judge of all the earth will do right.

Yes He has power, but He is beyond corruption. He is perfect.
Omnipotence wedded with Holiness.
Wisdom coupled with Righteousness.
Strength married to Love.

He is above all things, knows all things, controls all things. And He is a God of truth. A God of goodness. A God who cannot be tempted and a God who never does wrong. He is perfect!

He is the God you can trust. He is the God who can do all things and always does what is right. He is worthy of our faith.

Know the answers to the questions today: No and Yes.
Go home confident, knowing these answers will never change:

No. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
And Yes. The judge of all the Earth will do right.