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For your personal edification and meditation on this Lord’s Day

Psalm 5:1-3

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
    consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
    my King and my God,
    for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
    in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.

Psalm 35:9-10

My soul will rejoice in the Lord,
    exulting in his salvation.
10 All my bones shall say,
    “O Lord, who is like you,
delivering the poor
    from him who is too strong for him,
    the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

Psalm 65:1-4

Praise is due to you, O God, in Zion,
    and to you shall vows be performed.
O you who hear prayer,
    to you shall all flesh come.
When iniquities prevail against me,
    you atone for our transgressions.
Blessed is the one you choose and bring near,
    to dwell in your courts!
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
    the holiness of your temple!

Psalm 95:1-7

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord;
    let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
    let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the Lord is a great God,
    and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
    the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.

Psalm 125

Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion,
    which cannot be moved, but abides forever.
As the mountains surround Jerusalem,
    so the Lord surrounds his people,
    from this time forth and forevermore.

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Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. – Genesis 19:12-14

Bright Yellow | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

Who would you warn? If you had moments to sound the alarm, who would you first call? Second? Third? And what if your warning went unheeded? Almost every parent has struggled with that last issue: What if your warnings go unheeded? Hopefully you have not failed to warn that special loved one of the dangers that are out there. Destruction. Deceit. Death. Damnation. Ugh…that last one: damnation. Must we talk of that?

Some people, for fear of rejection or other loss simply don’t speak up. They don’t want to look silly in the eyes of others. They don’t want to sacrifice relationships for the sake of a clear witness. They don’t want to sound extremist, or alarmist. Or fanatical. Maybe I’m one of those people. 

I haven’t always been. In college I took my Bible to a philosophy class and shared Jesus’ words from Matthew 5. I was jeered at and summarily dismissed. The girl I was really interested in dating told me, “Don’t be a fanatic, Dave.” That hurt. I’ve had other times when I’ve sounded the alarm, and it had short-term success. But it was short term, and I abandoned the clarion call – for reasons only God can ultimately judge. More recently Diane and I have had conversations with a family member or two about Jesus, faith, grace, and godly living. We’ve not been shown the fullest extent of our effectiveness. We do at least hold on to hope that we will see the impact of God’s word. 

But I’ll stand first in the line of those wiling to admit that I’ve not been as bold or challenging as I might have been in every situation. I’m thinking of friends in my photo club. I’m wondering about neighbors. Maybe the opportunity will someday come. 

And I think of my sister. She died 10 years ago. I wish I had known she was so close to death’s door. She was a believer. I have not worries about her eternal wellbeing. She believed in Jesus. She shared his grace and truth with her friends and family. She lit up the room when she smiled, or when she reminded me of a need for greater tenderness toward my wife. But she died too soon. And I didn’t have the opportunity simply to be with her as much as I wish I had. 

Not every missed opportunity is that of calling someone to repentance. Not every failure to speak up is a failure to speak truth to power. Or truth and grace to a friend, family member, or a loved-one. Even if they reject the message – the clarion call to repentance or the precious message of grace – we must take every opportunity to speak the truth in love to all with whom we have the opportunity to do so. 

That’s what God did 2000 years ago. In sending Jesus he spoke truth and grace in bold strokes. May I personally urge you to listen to his voice, and learn of his message? Read the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). And if you want a very personable interpretation of his message check out The Chosen, a remarkable TV series that brings the message of Jesus into real-life situations. Not everyone will hear and heed his word. But those who do are eternally blessed. Imagine your own joy as you see that word taking root!

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Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place.13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. – Genesis 19:12-14

Three Leaning Cone Flowers | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. It’s a line from one of my most favorite movies, Hunt for Red Okober. The Russian general is sorting through mail or talking with someone on the phone. He’s completely dismissive and unengaged. Whatever he’s reading or hearing is of no consequence to him. Until he opens a letter from his nephew and protégée, played by Sean Connery. Ramius is defecting with a newly-designed and highly-classified Soviet submarine as the story goes. As soon as he reads Ramius’ letter he spills his tea and yells for action! The hunt is on!

Lot’s sons-in-law are saying, yeah, yeah, yeah in the face of Lot’s warning. They should have known better. These visiting men had shown their power. They are angels in every sense of the word: messengers (that’s what the word means), and holy beings in service to God. They have extraordinary power as well. They not only save Lot, but will oversee the destruction of Sodom. Angels are not to be trifled with. They are no nonsense, powerful, purposeful, and dedicated servants of God. And they’ve come to deliver a message to Lot, and to deliver him from destruction.

We might think we can distance ourselves from this kind of attitude toward God. We might assume that we always pay attention to God’s warnings. We might even labor under the false idea that since God hasn’t done one of his direct and dramatic acts of retribution in our recent memory, he won’t deal summarily with us. We’ve skated this long. We’ve been able to bend God’s will to ours all this time. He won’t come down on us. If you know how this story unfolds, you’ll recall that the sons-in-law and Lots’s wife’s nonchalance will not be well-rewarded.

Sometimes a sailor goes rogue. Sometimes the boss catches wind of poor behavior. Sometimes warnings signal real danger. They’re not always like the pesky warnings to read user agreements when you install new software. They’re not always the irritating small print or fast talk we’ve learned to ignore on pharmaceutical commercials. Chicken Little isn’t always the only one sounding the alarm. 

As we see this story unfold, we’ll also see how God is true to his word and faithful to his grace. That’s a good combination, fully expressed in the Word Made Flesh, our Lord Jesus, who is filled with grace and truth (John 1:14). He is one we must never dismiss with any sort of yeah, yeah, yeah, but one rather we should fully embrace, with a resounding yes! For he is truly good, and faithful, and true. 

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But before [the men who came to Sodom and entered Lot’s house] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door.11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door. – Genesis 19:4-11

Cone Flowers | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

It was early summer. Not yet fully hot. But the corn was as high as an elephant’s eye in the rolling hills of Iowa. The transmission of our car had given out. We were parked on the side of Interstate 80. Chevy Chevelle and U-Haul trailer. Diane and our unborn son stood nearby while we hoped that someone would stop and rescue us. Thankfully someone did. Two days later we were on our way again in a new-to-us car. We had been rescued. 

Maybe you’ve been in a similar or even worse situation. Life threatening or peace-disturbing situations and dangerous predicaments are all around. Like the life-taking chaos of Afghanistan, the dangerous and destructive winds of Hurricane Ida, the earthquake in Haiti: these all put people in situations of rescue’s need. If no one comes to the rescue people can die. 

This is what unfolds outside Lot’s house in Sodom. The men of the city are threatening him and his family. He was in mortal danger. His pleas had been ignored. His life threatened. His situation was dire. And at just the right time, the men (angels) in Lot’s home reach out and pull him to safety. 

I wonder why they needed to do that? Couldn’t he just have come back into his home on his own? Was the door barred from the inside? Was he physically restrained by the mob? Or was he trying to plead with them? Trying to get them to be reasonable? It seems he went out to them to appease them. He tried to make a (very bad) deal with them. Maybe he thought he could reason his way out of the situation.

I wonder whether we’re a lot like Lot. We live in the midst of evil and we think we can reason with it. We imagine evil isn’t really that bad. We’ve been jaded by being immersed in the rotten culture of our day. We may even have a higher opinion of ourselves than we should. We might think we don’t need God’s rescue. We may not even really want it.

Thankfully that doesn’t stop God from acting. Like the angels reaching out and dragging Lot back into the safety of his house, God sometimes intervenes dramatically. Sometimes obliquely. And sometimes he waits for us to admit our need. In this case Lot didn’t admit his need. But God rescued him. 

Maybe you’ve seen or felt the rescuing hand of God. Maybe you’ve not. But the angels of God watch over his people. And sometimes circumstances unfold that can only be the providential care and rescue of a loving God who wishes none to be lost, for all to be found and be saved from eternal doom.

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But before [the men who came to Sodom and entered Lot’s house] lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down.
– Genesis 19:4-9

Butterfly on a Yellow Flower | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

“Don’t strike out on the first pitch,” he said. For some reason that resonated with me. It spoke to a tendency I sometimes must fight. If things don’t seem to be working, I give up. Not on everything. Not even on the most difficult things. But if I’m not really sold on an idea, I won’t push. I’ve been down the road, also, of winning at all costs, but learning much later that the real cost was no win at all. It’s true: A person convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. So I tend toward planting the seeds of truth, grace, and faith, and I hope for a harvest of righteousness. 

Evil, however, doesn’t give up so easily. The devil is a roaring lion (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). Our hope against this is two-fold. Evil will ultimately collapse under its own weight. It cannot sustain itself indefinitely. An even greater hope is that Jesus has come and destroyed the works of the devil. And his means of destroying is quite different from the ways of the world – or even this ensuing encounter with the angels and the people of Sodom. In fact, their intervention is more or less a fast forward of the self-destructive nature of evil. 

But evil does not go down easily. When the men of the city seize upon Lot’s house and demand the men he had hosted be brought out to them it was amazingly audacious. It was not only audacious, it was also only the first play in their effort to satisfy their evil desires. They were bold and relentless in their pursuit of their lustful desires. “Bring those visitors out to us!” When Lot refuses they threaten him and were going to break down the door to his house in search of their prey. And they were focused. Lot’s scandalous offering of his daughters to these debaucherous men does not satisfy their wanton greed.

Somehow it must be stopped. And sometimes God steps in. Dramatically. Decisively. Ending it all. Mafia wars can be an example of evil caving in on itself. STDs can be another. Sodom will stand as a prime example of God’s decisive move. Ananias and Sapphira’s deaths (Acts 5) are another. It’s dangerous to draw too many conclusions today. They can often be misunderstood. 

But let no one misunderstand what Jesus did when he died on the cross. He stood the devil down. He did not give in – even when forsaken by his Father. He did not let their jeers, taunts, and torture dissuade him from his perfect love for God and lost sinners reaching its pinnacle. He died in faith, sacrificing himself for the sake of sinners. And he destroyed the power of the devil. We may wish for a more obvious and dramatic show of God’s judgment. But when it does not come we must remember why God seems slow. He is waiting for us to repent. And in that moment he shows his complete defeat of the evil one. For repentance robs Satan of his power. It overthrows his reign. It severs the cords of death. For God is relentless in his pursuit of sinners so that he can show his merciful lovingkindness and give us the riches of his grace. 

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The two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed himself with his face to the earth and said, “My lords, please turn aside to your servant’s house and spend the night and wash your feet. Then you may rise up early and go on your way.” They said, “No; we will spend the night in the town square.” But he pressed them strongly; so they turned aside to him and entered his house. And he made them a feast and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.

But before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both young and old, all the people to the last man, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us, that we may know them.” Lot went out to the men at the entrance, shut the door after him, and said, “I beg you, my brothers, do not act so wickedly. Behold, I have two daughters who have not known any man. Let me bring them out to you, and do to them as you please. Only do nothing to these men, for they have come under the shelter of my roof.” But they said, “Stand back!” And they said, “This fellow came to sojourn, and he has become the judge! Now we will deal worse with you than with them.” Then they pressed hard against the man Lot, and drew near to break the door down. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them and shut the door. 11 And they struck with blindness the men who were at the entrance of the house, both small and great, so that they wore themselves out groping for the door.

12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone you have in the city, bring them out of the place. 13 For we are about to destroy this place, because the outcry against its people has become great before the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and said to his sons-in-law, who were to marry his daughters, “Up! Get out of this place, for the Lord is about to destroy the city.” But he seemed to his sons-in-law to be jesting. – Genesis 19:1-14

Busy Bee | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

I’ve gotten myself into trouble on more than one occasion by making a comment in jest that was not understood or received as a light-hearted or in jest. I offended some brothers by a cavalier and insensitive comment to them when they were in a vulnerable place. I once also spoke too quickly about a somewhat controversial issue only to be trapped by one of the people who was party to the controversy. Words can have powerful impact – even when spoken in jest. I even did that to my granddaughter today! Needless to say we patched things up, and I learned a lesson. Kind words spoken in a fitting moment are like golden apples in silver baskets (Cf. Proverbs 25:11). 

The words of this section of Genesis are sometimes golden, sometimes rotten to the core, and sometimes rejected out of hand by those who ought to hear them. 

The words of gold are those spoken by Lot to the angel visitors. He invites them to come into his home and stay. He also speaks words rotten to the core when he invites the men of the city to take his daughters and have their way with them in place of the visitors. Thankfully the angels rescue Lot and inflict blindness upon the men who are menacing Lot and his family. But when the time comes for the angels to leave, and they warn Lot of the impending doom of Sodom, those Lot warns dismiss Lot’s warnings a so much jesting. They understood sincere words of warning as exaggerated hyperbole. They were so wrong in doing so. 

Lot and his family (who dismiss Lot’s and the angels’ warnings) were submerged in an atmosphere of sin. No doubt – as shown here – the obvious sin was that of a flagrant and petulant homosexual lifestyle. But in Ezekiel 16, Israel is called the sister of Sodom and the sins of Sodom that made them targets of judgment were the sins of pride, idleness, injustice to the poor, and such. Leave aside the homosexual sin, the wanton and unbridled desire of a person for sexual pleasure at all costs betrays a brokenness far deeper. 

A life of gluttonous indulgence of any kind certainly does not honor God. And pride in any sort of lifestyle that does not honor God is idolatry of the worst kind. I have no doubt that the most obvious sin of Sodom seen here is a lustful homosexual desire. But I know from my own heart that sin too easily deceives. And warnings that we might dismiss as excessive and unnecessary ought not to be taken lightly, nor spoken in jest. 

For your personal meditation and edification on this Lord’s Day

Psalm 29:1-2

Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lordglory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lordthe glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.

Psalm 59:9-10, 16-17

O my Strength, I will watch for you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress.
10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me;
    God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.

16 But I will sing of your strength;
    I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning.
For you have been to me a fortress
    and a refuge in the day of my distress.
17 O my Strength, I will sing praises to you,
    for you, O God, are my fortress,
    the God who shows me steadfast love.

Psalm 89:1-2, 15-16

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
    with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever;
    in the heavens you will establish your faithfulness.”

15 Blessed are the people who know the festal shout,
    who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face,
16 who exult in your name all the day
    and in your righteousness are exalted.

Psalm 149:1-4

Praise the Lord!
Sing to the Lord a new song,
    his praise in the assembly of the godly!
Let Israel be glad in his Maker;
    let the children of Zion rejoice in their King!
Let them praise his name with dancing,
    making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!
For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
    he adorns the humble with salvation.

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From there the men turned and went on toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing in front of the Lord. 23 Abraham came closer and asked, “Are you really going to sweep away the innocent with the guilty? 24 What if there are 50 innocent people in the city? Are you really going to sweep them away? Won’t you spare that place for the sake of the 50 innocent people who are in it? 25 It would be unthinkable for you to do such a thing, to treat the innocent and the guilty alike and to kill the innocent with the guilty. That would be unthinkable! Won’t the judge of the whole earth do what is fair?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find 50 innocent people inside the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham asked, “Consider now, if I may be so bold as to ask you, although I’m ⌞only⌟ dust and ashes, 28 what if there are 45 innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of 5 fewer people?”

The Lord answered, “I will not destroy it if I find 45 there.”

29 Abraham asked him again, “What if 40 are found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of the 40 I will not do it.”

30 “Please don’t be angry if I speak again,” Abraham said. “What if 30 are found there?”

He answered, “If I find 30 there, I will not do it.”

31 “Look now, if I may be so bold as to ask you,” Abraham said. “What if 20 are found there?”

He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 20.”

32 “Please don’t be angry if I speak only one more time,” Abraham said. “What if 10 are found there?”

He answered, “I will not destroy it for the sake of the 10.” 33 When the Lordfinished speaking to Abraham, he left. Abraham returned home. – Genesis 18:22-33

Cone Flower | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

In a recent email exchange a colleague urged a disgruntled person to be salt and light in the situation the man was complaining about. In other words, be part of the solution, not just one who calls attention to the problem. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis is credited with writing that “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” 

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says. “You are the light of the world.” Salt is meant to be used. Light is meant to be shed. They have a positive impact on life. They bring spice and reveal truth. 

And while I’ve cut way back on using salt, it does accomplish three things. I creates thirst. It adds flavor. And it preserves. It may not be the best preservative, but it is one of two images Jesus used in speaking about his followers. 

Abraham is laying out a case before God that Sodom and Gomorrah is redeemable if there are but 10 righteous people there. They would surely preserve that community. They would bring light into darkness. They would make things better. 

But if there are not even 10, what can you do?

There was a time when the people of God were so decimated, dispirited, and discouraged that Elijah came to the conclusion: “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). God reminded him, “There are 7000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal. Jesus encouraged his followers: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). 

We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We can have a positive impact in the world. We can enlighten people about the reign and rule of God. And in the process, perhaps we can prevent the catastrophic consequences of sin from having free reign and destroying our communities and us. 

There are times we need to stand in the gap for loved ones and difficult situations. Abraham, Moses, Elijah, and others have done this. Maybe you have too. Thanks be to God for Jesus who stood in the gap for us, and by whom we are saved, preserved, and enlightened. As his followers we must do all we can to be salt and light in a world that is rapidly decaying, and in the grip of darkness. 

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So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” – Genesis 17:22-26

Yellow Daisy III | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

We were watching a baseball game. “That umpire’s got a crazy strike zone,” I said. “Yes. Completely inconsistent,” she replied. “That makes it really hard to know how to pitch or whether to take a ball or not.” 

I’m reading a book by Ken Follett. He’s a very good story-teller, and several of his books are historical fiction. They give a good picture of certain periods of history. One of the things we take for granted these days has to do with money. You give me a quarter, and I know its worth. But in the last part of the first millennium an English penny was 90% silver and 10% copper. It weighed a certain amount. In one incident a gambler was taken advantage of by forgers who used a 50/50 combination of copper and silver. He was found out by the weight of the coins. Weighed and caught lacking (cf. Daniel 5:27).

As far as human enterprise goes, many tend toward a policy of judging a person on the basis of the totality of their life. One little misstep won’t put someone out of favor. You don’t lose a job in most cases because you were late once. But make a habit of it, and… 

You might think that is what God is willing to do in regard to Sodom and Gomorra. Abraham will stand before the Lord and argue for leniency for the sake of 50, then 40, then 30, then 20 and even 10 righteous people. In the end, God agrees: “I will not destroy the city for the sake of 10 righteous people.” Ten righteous people will redeem a city. Ten righteous people will prevent a catastrophic judgment. God will withhold brutal judgment for the sake of 10. 

But that is a moot point in this case. For there will not be 10 righteous people found there. Judgment will come. Destruction will be swift and decisive. 

It seems, however, that nothing less than 100% purity is sufficient for our standing before God. James 2:10 tells us clearly that, “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And Paul tells us, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10). Jesus himself tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20). 

So what are we to do? I don’t know anyone who is 100% without sin. I’m not sure I know anyone who is 90% without sin. (Sorry, Dear Reader, not even you!). Well, that’s not actually true…the 100% without sin part. I do know someone like that. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. And those who repent of their sins and believe in him are clothed with his righteousness. 

Remember how Abraham believed in the Lord and he was reckoned righteous by God (Genesis 15:6)? That same faith, now focused on Jesus will avail before God. God reckons the one who believes in Jesus as righteous. When we put the righteousness of Christ on the scale, we will not be found lacking. And that is our only hope.

Click here for an audio version of this blog post.

Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. 17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, 18 seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? 19 For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” 20 Then the Lord said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, 21 I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.  – Genesis 17:16-22

Yellow Daisy II | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

I don’t like to think of myself as a gossip. But I really do lean in when I hear of someone I know in an interesting situation. Interesting as in troubled, challenging, exciting, or newly-relieved. A family dynamic that is worthy of Jerry Springer. A challenge worthy of three episodes of the Intervention TV program. A financial crisis that would make the top ten list of Dave Ramsey’s dire situations. Or maybe even hints at these.

Quite honestly, I don’t seek these out. And I really don’t hear that many. Sometimes, moreover, it is important to know what you’re walking into when you try to help out a church. If the chairman of the congregation wants to do things by the book and there are some folks who want to do an end run, it will be helpful for me to know if I’m going to visit that congregation. If a pastor is really struggling with his health, it will be good to take that into consideration as I talk with him about the challenges his church is facing. It’s not just my desire to be in the know. It’s so that I may be more helpful. 

Abraham will have some inside information about God’s plans because he will become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him. With blessing comes responsibility. With great blessing becomes great responsibility. So Abraham, who has been blessed, will have a responsibility toward the news God is about to reveal to him. I’m not certain Abraham undertook his conversation with God because he felt responsible for the wellbeing of all people, but it would certainly add up. 

Abraham will be the one through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That leverages this encounter with God in a very powerful way. There is a distant connection between the word for blessing and the idea of a weight. I love the image of laying hands on someone to give a blessing as being a time when the hands are laid heavily on the one being blessed. The weight in this case is knowing what God is going to do in Sodom. This is nothing to be taken lightly. 

We have been told by God of his intent for the future of the whole world. We’ve learned of this through his word. This is no trivial factoid. There is a weight that goes with this knowledge. As we think on that, it might even shape our desire to know of our neighbor’s latest bit of gossip. Knowing of our neighbor’s need brings the weight of acting in love toward that neighbor. Helping him. Praying for her. Listening to their stories. Walking with her through the dark valleys. Rejoicing with him on the mountaintops. 

Has God revealed something to you that you can leverage for his kingdom’s purposes? Maybe this is a good time to pray about that.