Sunday, January 8, 2012

Justice or Mercy - Genesis 18:16-33

James 5:16 says to confess your sins to each so I’ll start and then we can go around the room. I got a ticket the other day. I was heading home and had just turned off of 380 where the speed limit is 65 and got onto 1658 where the speed is 45 for a while and then goes down to 35. Long story short, I got a ticket for doing 44 in a 35. I was slowing down but hadn’t gotten there yet.
Instead of just paying the ticket I decided to go to court to see if a judge might cut me some slack. The woman judge finally called me to stand up and she said, “I guess you want justice.” I said, “No ma’am, I want mercy.” The last thing I wanted was justice.
I knew that she had the right to fine me. I knew she legally could punish me for my sin but I was hoping to appeal to her grace and mercy. Not that I deserved it, but only because she might have compassion. Does that sound familiar to you? Have you ever had to do that? I hope you have. I don’t hope that you did it before a judge in court, but I hope you have done that before the great Judge and we are going to talk a little bit about that.
It’s hard not to go through this life and sometimes think that we have been given a raw deal. It’s hard not to say, “God, why would you do this to me? I didn’t deserve this!” But I want you to think about the day that you will finally stand before the real Creator and Sustainer, when you stand before Holy God. Are you going to demand justice or are you going to beg for mercy?
Let’s think about it this way. If you are standing before God at the end of your life and he asks you why He should let you into His Heaven, what are you going to say? “God, I want you to weigh all my good deeds and all my bad and see which weighs more. Then I want you to factor in all the pain I have been through, all the problems I’ve had, the disease, death, divorce, despair and see if I don’t deserve Heaven.”
I saw an advertisement the other day for some new game show on TV. I haven’t seen it and don’t plan to but evidently if you answer the question wrong they push a button and you fall through the floor and you’re done. I picture God with a button like that and when you come to Him and say judge me for what I’ve been through, He pushes the button.
We have taken a break from the book of Genesis for the holidays but let’s get right back to it. We left off about midway through the book so turn to Genesis 18:16-33 and we will see a God of both justice and mercy. This is an interesting passage because Abraham has a theophany. Now some of you might be thinking, “Yea, I had a theophany once but the doctor gave me a shot and it cleared right up.” No, a theophany is when God reveals Himself to man and in Genesis 18 God reveals Himself to Abraham and has a conversation with him and even shares a meal with him.
In the first part of 18, God shows up with 2 angels and Abraham doesn’t realize who it is at first but shows them great hospitality. God tells Abe he and Sarah are going to have a baby and then God says He is going to go down to Sodom and Gomorrah and destroy it. Let’s pick up in verse 16. Read.
It’s a fascinating passage where God shows up bodily and talks to Abe like a friend. Isaiah 41:8 says that Abe was a friend of God and here they have a conversation that makes me believe it. I wonder at what point Abe finally figured out that it was God. Maybe it was when God said He was going to destroy the cities. I don’t know but Abe went from “Hey pal, let me fix you something to eat” in verse 5 to “Please don’t destroy the city” really quick.
I want us to see two things in this passage. First, I want us to see what the problem was with Sodom and Gomorrah and then I want us to look at Abe’s response to it and hopefully we will see what God wants us to see for our own application today.
1) The problem with Sodom
You know you are living in a sinful place when the name of your town is forever associated with a vile and repugnant sin. Not that all sin isn’t vile and repugnant to God but sexual sin is especially so and has even worse consequences than other sin. Paul says in I Corinthians 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.” There are physical consequences, mental consequences and spiritual consequences when we pervert God’s gift of physical intimacy.
The next chapter of Genesis is a horrific, PG-13 tale of what the men of Sodom wanted to do to the two angels who came to destroy the city. There was no shame, no remorse, no hiding or skulking around. It was not only out in the open but it was widespread. They completely indulged in every physical aberration they could think of and got mad when anybody objected.
But it doesn’t end there. Ezekiel 16:49-50 says, “Now this was the sin of Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.”
We think of Sodom as being involved only in sexual sin but that wasn’t all they did. That’s not even mentioned in Ezekiel. The passage in Ezekiel is concerned about some other things: arrogant, overfed, unconcerned. Didn’t help with the poor and needy. Whew! Aren’t you glad you don’t live in Sodom? Aren’t you glad they’re not talking about us? God, thank you that we are not like the other men. (Luke 18:11)
I don’t have time nor is it necessary to expound on all the ways the United States is the spitting image of Sodom. All you have to do is watch the news or open a newspaper. Gay marriage is becoming more and more accepted. Marriage is no longer one man and one woman. Pretty soon it’s going to include 2 men and a rock or a man, a woman and a squid. How long do you think God is going to put up with that? How long before God says the outcry against the United States is so great and their sin is so grievous that I’m going to do a Sodom and Gomorrah on them?
Planned Parenthood’s Annual Report: They got $487 million dollars in tax money and performed 329,445 abortions. Tell me some other way to read that than our government is financing infanticide. Am I blowing this out of proportion to say that? Tell me how I am. And tell me how that does not make you sick to your stomach. Now tell me how long do you think Holy God is going to allow that to continue? If it makes your stomach hurt, think how it hurts God. The real question is though, what are we going to do about it? Let’s look at what Abe did.
2) The pleading of Abraham
There was a pastor who had a parrot. All the parrot would say was, “Let’s pray, let’s pray.” The pastor tried to teach him to say other things but to no avail. He learned that one of his deacons had a parrot. The parrot would only say, “Let’s kiss. Let’s kiss.” So the pastor decided to invite the deacon and his parrot over to his house. When the deacon arrived they put the parrots into the same cage to see what would happen. The deacon’s parrot said, “Let’s kiss, let’s kiss.” The pastor’s parrot said, “Thank you, Lord. My prayers have been answered.” There’s great power in persistent prayer.
Abraham knew the value of persistent prayer. He knew what James 5:16 says: that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. But you say he’s not praying. He’s just having a conversation with God. That’s exactly right. That’s what prayer is. You say that you couldn’t do that because Abe was obviously a lot closer to God than you are. Well, John 15 says, “You are my friends when you do the things I command you.”
It’s interesting to think about what Abe didn’t do. He didn’t picket. He didn’t write letters. He didn’t pass the buck. He didn’t assume somebody else would pray. He did everything he could and he did it immediately and he kept doing it. That’s what we need to do today. We have the same opportunity to converse with the same God that Abe did. He’s just as powerful today as he was back then which means he has the same power to destroy and the same power to be merciful. He is the same God of mercy and of justice.
The good news to all of this is that we have the answer. Do you know what the answer is to 329 thousand abortions? It’s the same answer to the problem of gay marriage. It’s the same answer to a 50% divorce rate. The same answer to child abuse. I’ll tell you what the answer is.
A little boy was in Sunday School and they were talking about animals. The teacher asked him what was the name of the furry brown animal that climbed trees, had a bushy tail and ate pecans. The boy said, “Well, I would say it’s a squirrel but since this is SS I’m going to have to say the answer is “Jesus”.
That boy was on to something. He may not be the right answer to every question but Jesus is the answer for our world today. He’s the answer for your weird neighbor, the desperate person in the prison up the road and for the poor person in Nicaragua. And He is the answer to the problem you have today. Now, I’m not saying and you know that a relationship with Jesus makes all your troubles go away but while He is a God of justice, He is also a God of great mercy.
I know some of you have realized that when studying end times in the Bible, that the U.S. is not mentioned. There is no reference to America in eschatology so we have to assume that by that time America is gone. There is a time limit on our country and only God knows the date. Now, that may not concern you because you are a Christian and you are ready for all that but it matters to your kids and your grandkids. I ache thinking about my niece and nephew growing up in this culture and we have the answer. The question is, what are you going to do about it? Petition? March? Complain? Assume somebody else is praying? Or are you going to beg God for more time and for boldness and opportunities to show Jesus to a world headed for a literal hell? Let’s do that now…

No comments:

Post a Comment