Sunday, July 29, 2012

Praying them out of Sodom

by Pastor Ron Bridge of Rehoboth Baptist Church

Sometime later this Summer I plan to start preaching through the epistle of James and have been thinking about some of the key passages. One very familiar one is James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much (5:16 NASV). One of the most effective prayers of a righteous man was the prayer of Abraham for Sodom (or for a few people in Sodom) prior to it's destruction (Gen. 18,19). No doubt you know the story and the events leading up to it.

Abraham and his nephew, Lot, had parted company because of the size of their flocks. Abraham had given first choice to Lot and Lot chose to dwell in the fertile plain and pitched his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 13:12). Lot was so taken by the quality and goodness of the land that he was blinded to the depravity of nearby Sodom. In Gen. 14:12, we learn, sadly, that Lot had moved into Sodom.

Some time later, Lot was taken captive in one of the local wars and had to be rescued by Abraham. After paying a tenth of all the spoils to Melchizedek, king and priest of Salem (Jerusalem), Abraham returned all the captives and the material goods to the king of Sodom saying that he would not keep even a shoelace for himself - Abraham wanted nothing to do with Sodom. However, amazingly, we find that Lot returned to Sodom and chapter 19 opens with Lot sitting in the gate of Sodom. What was he doing there?

His position in the gate indicates that he was a well known citizen and someone respected for his judgment. 2 Peter 2:7-8 indicates that Lot was a righteous man and was grieved over the sins of his fellow citizens. Apparently, by remaining in Sodom Lot was attempting to provide some kind of moral guidance and corrective to the prevailing gross immorality. But, it was not appreciated (Gen. 19:9) and in addition, Lot put his whole family at risk by exposing them to the evils of the place, evil company corrupts good character.

It is difficult even for a good man to live in an evil place and not be stained by it, not be affected by it in some way. Lot had moved near Sodom then had moved into Sodom. He was grieved by the sin of the place but did not remove his family from it. Lot was caught up with the prosperity of the place. It was easier to live in Sodom with all its conveniences than to chase sheep and goats in the hills. But there is a price to pay fro friendship with the world, even if that friendship is just one of convenience. One part of the price was ignorance of impending doom, proving that association with the world has a dulling effect on the spirit. The more time one spends in the world and with the things of the world the less spiritually in tune one becomes.

Abraham, on the other hand, knew what was going to happen and boldly interceded on behalf of any righteous person that may have been in the city: will you destroy the righteous with the wicked? (18:23). Abraham bargained with God (not recommended unless you are on intimate terms with Him and you have the faith of Abraham). Abraham started at fifty righteous persons and eventually got God to agree on ten. From Abraham's perspective that would just about cover Lot's family. God answered Abraham's bold prayer and Lot was delivered - but only just!

We are astonished to read in 19:16 that Lot lingered - he hesitated! What was there to hesitate about? Just at this point we see the real power of this world's system and the power of evil to deceive and blind even the eyes of God's people. Lot had been warned, his own spirit vexed, and yet the pull, the familiarity and the love of the world is strong. Satan will not let go easily. But Abraham had prayed so the angels took Lot by the hand and brought him out: If the righteous are scarcely saved what will become of the ungodly or the sinner (1 Peter4:18).

Question: Would Lot have been saved if Abraham had not prayed? We do not know. But we do know this: Abraham did pray and God gave Him what he requested. Here is encouragement for all of us who have loved ones living in Sodom - pray and do not stop praying until God delivers them: The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

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