Abraham and Sarah weren’t expecting company. They certainly weren’t expecting a visit from God. But he came their way one afternoon, uninvited, unannounced, and disguised in the form of a man. Two other men, angels incognito, were with him. We aren’t told at what point Abraham realized he was in the presence of God, but it must have been early in the encounter. The patriarch rolled out the red carpet. Bread was baked. A calf was slain. A feast was prepared and offered.
Abraham looked at Sarah. The question, if not on their lips, was all over their faces: Why is God here, and what on earth is he up to? After the feast the divine trio walked away from the camp, heading toward Sodom, the home of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Abraham walked with them for a short distance to send them on their way. At a certain point God paused, wondering to himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing?” (Gen. 18:17). “No, I will not,” he decided. And he told Abraham that “the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see” (Gen. 18:20–21).
Abraham stood stone-statue still. He knew what God would find in Sodom. He knew the stench of the streets and the wickedness of the people. Yet he believed there were some worth saving. He had family in the city. Maybe that is why he did what he did. “Abraham still stood before the LORD” (Gen. 18:22).
Like a lone tree on the prairie, the father of the faith had enough faith in his Father to position himself between the people who needed mercy and the One who could give it. And he spoke on their behalf. “Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?’” (Gen. 18:23–24).
Gutsy move. He was just a bedouin shepherd. Hair to his shoulders. Bristly beard reaching his chest. Scruffy and wind bent. Missing a tooth or two. Still, he stood there.
Just as you did. That day at the courthouse. That night in the ER. That time when your colleague confided in you. “I’ve made a mess of things,” he admitted. And you did what Abraham did. You placed yourself between the one who needed help and the One who could give it.
For soldiers. For senators. For prodigals and preachers and prodigal preachers. You dropped a coin in the beggar’s cup with a prayer. You ran your hand over the head of your child with a prayer. You read the news of yet another war, divorce, or scandal, and you prayed, God, have mercy.
You’ve done what Abraham did. You’ve stood where Abraham stood. In between them and him. And you’ve wondered, Does God listen?
Abraham’s story gives us reason to hope.
Max Lucado, How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019).
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