And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the Lord. And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? (Genesis 18:22-23)
In Genesis 18, Abraham is met by three men in Mamre. Some believe that since verse 1 tells us that the LORD appeared to Abraham and since three men are seen that Abraham saw each member of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, however, is an absurd notion. God the Father is a spirit (John 4:24) and does not take on the shape of man or have a body or parts (Deut 4:15-16). God the Son took on flesh uniquely in the person of Christ. What then appeared to Abraham? It is much more proper to see that these men were three angels who were acting as messengers on behalf of the LORD (18:22;19:1). The angels standing in as representatives of the LORD, there is nothing improper in referring to the LORD as Abraham spoke with the angels so that the reader may understand that the angels in and of themselves do not act apart from the will of God; so that when the angels act they are doing only that which God has commanded them to do. Nor do they make judgments regarding the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah but only speak the judgments that God has given.
In this chapter, we learn the importance of hospitality in the life of a Christian. We are to entertain guests, treating them as Abraham treated these angels. One of the marks of the regenerate heart is the willingness to allow others into your life and home, especially those who are in need of comfort or refreshment. A good way to cultivate this practice is to begin especially with your brothers and sisters in Christ by inviting them for meals on the Lord’s Day; to provide what is an act of mercy and necessity and to learn hospitality in ordinary ways. Thus, you may find that you are called by God to extraordinary forms of hospitality amongst the poor and destitute which God empowers some to do for the sake of His Kingdom.
Finally, we see Abraham interceding on behalf of the righteous of Sodom and Gomorrah. A few things to note about this. First, the manner in which Abraham approaches God is with such humility that it is an example for us. Do you come before the throne of God in prayer where Christ intercedes for us, asking him humbly for all that you need? Asking him to intercede on behalf of friends and family who are outside of Christ? Understanding your own sinfulness, that you are but dust and ashes (v.27)?
Second, we must understand that Abraham is not interceding on behalf of the wicked but the righteous. Some see this passage as being type of Christ interceding on behalf of those who are outside of Christ. That is a false interpretation. Look closely. Abraham is interceding to God and asking him to not utterly destroy all of the city – both the righteous and the wicked – because of the sin of the wicked. He is not asking God to withdraw His judgment from the wicked. He is asking that God remember His righteous in whatever punishment He exacts upon Sodom and Gomorrah and not let them perish as the wicked. When understood in this way, then we can see a shadow of Christ’s intercession; not that we are righteous on our own account but righteous on account of the obedience of Christ. Being counted among the righteous, Christ intercedes for us before the Father. Christ, indeed, comes to judge the wicked (Acts 17:31) and to resurrect to eternal life His righteous ones. May we look to that day so that we may be deterred from all sin and be consoled in our adversities (see Westminster Confession of Faith 33.3).
I’ll conclude with the words of Calvin on this chapter:
For if the husband man knows how to separate the grains of wheat in his barn, which with the chaff are trodden under the feet of the oxen, or are struck out with the flail; much better does God know how to gather together his faithful people, — when he has chastised them for a time, — from among the wicked, (who are like worthless refuse,) that they may not perish together; yea, by the very event, he will, at length, prove that he would not permit those whom he was healing by his chastisements to perish.