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Do the Right Thing

“Prayer sermons” are sermons disguised as prayers. Some people use public prayer as an occasion to scold the church. They supposedly address the prayer to God—but everyone knows that the congregation is the real audience.

In today’s passage, Abraham uses prayer to scold, but the audience is God. He protests to God when he learns that Sodom is about to be destroyed. You might say that Abraham preached to God when he lectured Him about doing the right thing.

The Lord appeared to Abraham in human form near the great trees of Mamre, a location where pagan worship was common among the locals. After reiterating His earlier promise to give Abraham and Sarah a son, the Lord disclosed His plan to judge Sodom. Abraham was alarmed at the news because his nephew Lot lived there. The sequence of events, however, suggests that the God’s agenda all along was to prompt Abraham to intercede. Throughout this encounter, God showed patience and grace.

Abraham’s boldness may have been prompted by the exchange of verses 17 through 19 that seems to have taken place within his hearing.The Lord had two reasons for drawing Abraham into his plan. First, Abraham’s descendants were destined to become a great and powerful nation and a means of blessing to all the earth. Second, Abraham needed to teach his children to do what was right and just.

This emphasis on justice gave Abraham the courage to demand: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (v. 25). Rather than an accusation, this is a confession of faith. Abraham expected the God who demands righteousness to act justly. God responded in faithfulness to Abraham. Although He did not spare the city, in which not even ten righteous people could be found, He did spare Lot and his family.

Apply the Word

The boldness and familiarity reflected in Abraham’s negotiation with God can be found in many psalms. We cannot bully God into getting what we want, but we can be bold and specific when making our requests, confident that God will do the right thing. Do you know someone who needs the grace of God? Follow Abraham’s example and pray for them today.

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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