Is there anything more exciting than a new start? When the new year begins we all make resolutions. When a new semester begins at school, we buy new planners and carefully put our schedules together. It’s so fun to imagine the new and improved versions of ourselves, but a lot of times our improvements last about as long as those daydreams. It’s hard to make lasting change. But why? And how do we push past the difficulty and do it anyway?
These questions are even more urgent when the change we are trying to make is to give our lives to God. When our new slate is a new relationship with God, what does it take to stay the course and not falter? Maybe Abraham had some of these same questions soon after renewing his covenant with God. In this chapter, you can already see the change God has wrought in him. When three travelers pass by his house, he leaps into action, serving them how he can. He insists that they rest a while at his home, wash up, and enjoy a meal. I don’t know about you, but if some strange people were walking by my house, my first thought wouldn’t be to try and hook them up with my food that I paid for. But Abraham and Sarah prepare and cook an entire calf! That took work!
Abraham quickly learns that these are no ordinary guests when they calmly predict that his wife will give birth to a son in about a year. Abraham seems to have no comment, but Sarah straight up laughs because duh, it’s over for her. God responds to her laughter, and you almost don’t notice that the Bible switches from using the phrase “one of them” (verse 10) to straight up describing the speaker as “the Lord” (verse 13). The Lord asks why Sarah laughed when He is powerful enough to give her a child. Sarah tries to play like she didn’t laugh, but God calls her bluff.
Prophecies of the near future aren’t over yet, because God decides to tell Abraham His destination – He’s going to Sodom and Gomorrah. God explains that He’s going to see how grievous the city’s sin is before deciding what to do with it. Abraham immediately begins thinking of his nephew and frantically asks God if He plans on sparing Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of the good people within it. What follows is a back and forth – Abraham desperately quizzing God on whether He’ll spare the city for smaller and smaller numbers of righteous people and God continuously saying that He will. Finally, once God promises to spare the city even if only ten righteous people are found in it, Abraham is satisfied. God follows after His angels to Sodom and Gomorrah and Abraham returns home. His new commitment to God had begun so promisingly. Now with the threat of death hanging over his only nephew, would his faith win out?
The Treasures Within:
How To Fight Doubt
Abraham is a changed man. He has recommitted his life to God and it shows. But this does not mean that Abraham no longer has to deal with fear or doubt. When he heard that His good, loving Savior was preparing to take the lives of hundreds of people, he must have been shaken. You can hear it in his voice in verse 25 as he anxiously repeats “far be it from you to do such a thing!”. It didn’t make sense to Abraham. Something wasn’t right. There was a pit in the bottom of his stomach. He was uncomfortable.
But Abraham did not decide to sit on his discomfort and hope it would go away. Nor did he fly into a frenzy, get angry at God, or decide to end his relationship with God. He asked God questions. With honesty, earnestness and faith, Abraham unburdened his heart before God. He let God see his fear, his uncertainty and his doubt. This was an act of faith in and of itself – it is only when you trust someone that you are vulnerable with them like that! And Abraham kept questioning how a righteous God would kill innocent people, showing that he had faith enough to trust that there was an explanation.
It is with this kind of honest, open, and yet trusting heart that we should come to God with our questions. The doubts that crept into Abraham’s mind are not foreign to us – not a day goes by without news of some disaster somewhere, causing too many people to lose their lives. It hurts us. It scares us. But we do not need to face these emotions alone. Abraham, truly a blessing to all nations (verse 18), shows us that we can approach God no matter what we’re feeling. Just as patiently and tenderly as God listened to and answered Abraham’s fears, He will do ours.
God is so good to us, especially when we don’t deserve it, and this chapter has so many examples of that. When Sarah didn’t believe God, He had mercy. When Sarah lied to God, He had mercy and did not punish her. Even with Sodom and Gomorrah, God was willing to show mercy for the sake of the righteous people living there. For all the fears and stereotypes of a fire and brimstone God, a small peek into the Bible will show just how tender and merciful He really is.
Not only is God merciful, but He is personal. He came in the flesh to visit Abraham, and I bet one of the main reasons He did so was so that He could personally calm Abraham’s fears about what was going to happen to Sodom. That’s the kind of God we serve. When we see God’s mercy and when we realize just how intimate He wishes to be with us, it should help us trust Him. If we keep God’s character in mind, then even when we don’t understand why He is causing something to happen, we can trust Him. Because He is good, merciful and personal. And He loves us.
God’s Message To Us:
“No matter what you see Me do, I am good, just, and perfect.” Two complimentary truths are coupled together in this chapter of the Bible: God is merciful to His children because He loves them and we can question God when we have doubts. When we encounter doubts and fears, we can be reminded of how good God is. And because we know God is merciful, we can trust Him with our questions. These truths are so important to keep in mind because it is extremely easy for us to doubt God, to misread the Bible, or to get angry at Him when things don’t go perfectly. God knows how we are, so He uses this chapter and many more to come to remind us of who He is. His perfect wisdom and His perfect love can be trusted. We will be alright. We can rest in faith while God works on us and on our world. When He comes back we will see that it was all worth it.
What do you think? Do you like how Abraham handled his fears and doubts? How do you handle doubt? What do you think God’s message was to you with this chapter?