Genesis 18 Series, Part 15, Verses 23-33

We approach God based on the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ...
  • | Chris McCann
  • Audio: Length: 25:46
  • Passages covered: Genesis 18:23-33, Genesis 18:24, Genesis 18:26, Genesis 18:27,
    Psalm 103:13-14, Hebrews 4:16, Job 42:1-6, Genesis 18:28, Genesis 18:29, Genesis 18:30-32,
    2Peter 2:6-8, Romans 5:18, Romans 5:19, Matthew 24:37.

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Welcome to EBible Fellowship’s Bible study in the Book of Genesis. Tonight is study #15 of Genesis, chapter 18 and we are continuing to read Genesis 18:23-33:

And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And JEHOVAH said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And JEHOVAH went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.

This passage brings us to the end of chapter 18 and the account of Abraham’s intercession to the Lord on behalf of the righteous within the city of Sodom. We spent some time discussing the question Abraham asked: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And we saw that, yes, the Judge of all the earth will do right. God will judge righteously with a just judgment. The Bible declares this in numerous Scriptures and we can be certain that God will do right in judgment.

As Abraham began to make request on behalf of the righteous in Sodom, we notice there is a “count down.” First, Abraham brought up the number “fifty.” He said in Genesis 18:24:

Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?

God answered him in Genesis 18:26:

If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

Abraham brought up the number “fifty” and God assured him that He would spare the city of Sodom if He found fifty righteous within the city. Not stopping there, Abraham said, in Genesis 18:27:

Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes…

This is significant. Abraham recognized his own feeble condition before he continued to make intercession for any righteous in the city of Sodom. He had dared to take it upon himself to speak to the Lord, even though Abraham was “but dust and ashes.” Of course, we know mankind was created from the dust of the ground. We also know that God remembers that we are “but dust.” It says in Psalm 103:13-14:

Like as a father pitieth his children, so JEHOVAH pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.

We are “dust.” God remembers our frame and we are not built of some super material. We were created from dirt or the dust of the ground. We are made from this earth. So, Abraham acknowledged that fact as he approached unto God to make request on behalf of the righteous in Sodom. Abraham rightly pointed out: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.” He has no standing before God because this is the Lord of heaven and earth, the God of the Bible. He is the LORD of all lords and the KING of all kings. He is infinite in His being, His power and His glory. Everything about the Being of God is super-wonderful and super-glorious, far above the fallen creature that was redeemed by the one to whom he dared to speak. Abraham was a fallen creature that was still in a body that has seen corruption and, yet, he had taken upon himself this bold action to appeal unto God and to dare to bring up his petition that this great God would be a just Judge. He asked, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” What boldness to address God in this way! And, yet, God does not dismiss him or tell him to go from Him, but God engaged in this communication. The Lord entered in to discussion with this fallen (but redeemed) creature that was petitioning Him about the thing God was about to do to Sodom, Gomorrah and the cities of the plain.

We have not looked at this verse for a while, but we often went to this verse in the day of salvation when the Lord permitted men to approach unto Him and cry for His mercy. Of course, the day of salvation is over, and we can no longer beseech God for salvation for anyone today, although we can beseech God:

“Having had mercy, have mercy.” But we know He will not save anyone that is still dead in their sins. However, it says in Hebrews 4:16:

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.

We approach God based on the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ...

We could have come boldly before Him on behalf of ourselves or for others, but notice that it encouraged us to come boldly. And approaching God is a bold act and, obviously, we do not approach God in our own merit or because of any goodness or righteousness within ourselves. We approach God based on the merit of the Lord Jesus Christ and His righteousness that was imputed to us to make us righteous in the sight of God. It is only on that basis that Abraham could approach God. He was a sinner, but his sins had been atoned for by the Lord Jesus Christ and, thereby, Abraham had attained righteousness in the sight of God. Therefore, he approached God, acknowledging that he is still in the flesh: “Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.”

It reminds us of Job who went through a grievous trial and then God revealed Himself to Job at the completion of that trial period. It says in Job 42:1-6:

Then Job answered JEHOVAH, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.

This was also the spiritual condition in which Abraham approached unto God: “I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes.” He was a sinner that had been granted repentance by the gift of God and, yet, he did come before the Lord boldly. He began to plead, “Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?”

God said He would not destroy it if He found fifty righteous. Then it goes on to say in Genesis 18:28:

Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.

The countdown has gone from fifty to forty and five. We find in Genesis 18:29:

And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.

The countdown is going in increments of “five” for the first three petitions. Then there is a change in the petition from increments of “five” to increments of “ten,” as it says in Genesis 18:30-32:

Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.

To begin with, it went from fifty to forty-five to forty, increments of five. Then it went from thirty to twenty to ten in increments of ten. There was a total of six petitions – three in increments of five and three in increments of ten. Then it leaves off because God left: “And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake. And JEHOVAH went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.” We see that God did not give Abraham an opportunity to say, “What if there be five righteous?” I always wondered why the countdown stopped at ten, because Abraham had in mind one righteous man, his nephew Lot.

By the way, the Bible makes a point to let us know that Lot was a righteous man. It says in 2Peter 2:6-8:

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

God is making a point to let us know that Lot was righteous, and Abraham was interceding on behalf of the righteous in the city of Sodom. But, again, why did the countdown stop at ten? Why did it not say, “What if there shall be one righteous person found there?” The countdown left off at ten and the fact is there were not ten righteous people in the city of Sodom. In the next chapter, we will find that God (in the form of two messengers) entered the city and warned Lot. Lot, in turn, warned his family. By God’s grace, Lot escaped with his wife and two daughters and his wife looked back, as it says in Genesis 19:26: “But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” So, she was destroyed and that would mean that she was not righteous because “far be it from God to destroy the righteous with the wicked.” Therefore, Lot was one righteous person and then there were possibly his two daughters. We are not sure about them because God can use people to picture the righteous at the point of their coming out of Sodom, but they may not have been truly elect. The best example of that is the nation of Israel that came out of Egypt, but most of them perished in the wilderness due to unbelief. God illustrated the deliverance of His elect through the deliverance of the nation of Israel from Egypt.

We have these questions and we wonder about it, but I think there is a simple explanation that we will address in due time, but now we are going to look at that number “50,” which will be key to all the numbers given in this chapter. If we break down the number “50,” it breaks down to “5 x 10.” We could break it down further as “2 x 5 x 5,” but I think “5 x 10” is sufficient. The number “5” shows that the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on behalf of His people is in view. When Christ provided the atonement for His people at the foundation of the world, what was accomplished for our sake? The answer is that we became righteous. It says in Romans 5:18:

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

The “all” refers to all the elect, because we must harmonize this statement with the rest of the Bible. Then it says in Romans 5:19:

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Without question, Christ is the obedient one that made many righteous. When did that happen? It was at the point of the foundation of the world and He made all those He died for righteous. It was just a matter of applying that righteousness to each elect person through the Word of God throughout history. So, the number “5” identifies with the atonement and atonement is closely related to righteousness. The number “10” points to completeness. Therefore, this has to do with the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ and the completeness of all that He saved.

In the New Testament, when the Lord Jesus spoke of His coming, He used two prime examples:

  1. the flood; and
  2. the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Bible says in Matthew 24:37: “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Likewise, referring to the coming of the Son of man, it says in Luke, chapter 17: “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot…Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed.” Therefore, the righteous within the city of Sodom are a picture of God’s elect that will be in the world at the time of the end. What we have learned concerning these righteous souls, as typified by Lot and his two daughters, will have application to our present time at the end of the world.

But we want to go slowly and carefully and think about these things. In closing this study, I think we will discover the reason God does not hide from His people the thing that He does. In Genesis 18, this has to do with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. It has everything to do with God energizing His people to make petition on behalf of the righteous. We will think about that more in our next study and how it relates to the days leading up to May 21, 2011.