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Our Promise-keeping God who is Personal, Merciful and Holy

Date: 12 May 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Daniel Tan Sermon Text: Genesis 18:1–19:38 CLICK HERE to join in our Livestream service on Youtube


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TRANSCRIPT
Introduction

Blessed Sunday everyone. And a blessed mother’s day to all, both biological and spiritual parents.


Through the past week, did you think about what it means for us to be a FAT Christian? A disciple who is Faithful, Available and Teachable?


I see some puzzled looks. Maybe you are searching through your memory now, did the speaker last week touch on F.A.T? Did I fall asleep when the speaker used that acronym?


I do see some knowing nods here as well. For those of us who nodded, you were those who listened to the testimony of our sister Lai Har as she shared her prayer item during our tea fellowship.


May I attempt to connect it with what Ps Vernon preached from Revelations.


From Revelations 12 & 13, Scripture describes 2 beasts. The first one is a ferocious beast that stands out unmistakably and the call is to have enduring faith.


And I submit that we can remember how to confront such a beast when we pray to be Faithful and Available.


Being faithful to God and available for Him will look like enduring faith in the face of overt persecution.


But remember there was also the 2nd beast, Revelations 13 says it looked like the lamb with 2 horns but spoke like a dragon. This is the beast we are told that Singaporeans face most often.


Here is where deception is great. It’s a wolf in sheep skin. And we are told then, our response is to have wisdom, be discerning.


To this I submit we should pray to be Teachable. Always be in a learner’s mode, always being vigilant, never thinking we already know everything. Never letting our guard down.


I was truly blessed by both the sermon and the testimony last Sunday and I pray that has been the same for all of us too.


The implication of the sermon to me was so appropriately applied in the prayer request of our sister.   


So, from the last book of the bible last Sunday where we were instructed on the character of the devil. We turn this week, back to the first book of the bible and may I share regarding the character of the God that we worship.


Our promise-keeping God who is Personal, Merciful and Holy.


Knowing the devil and his tactics will keep us from falling into his trap. Knowing God and His character, will keep us trusting Him and His word.


Personal (Gen 18: 1-15) God condescend to help us in our doubts.

God’s promise to Abraham we noted came in Genesis 12. Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah was barren.


In the chapters between Gensis 12 to 18, we see how God has been keeping the promise alive. Protected Sarah when they were in Egypt, protected Abraham when he went to rescue Lot from captivity.


10 years later, still no heir and so Sarah tried to then move the hand of God by giving Hagar to Abraham and Ishmael was born when Abraham was 86 years old.


Another 13 years went by and still Abraham and Sarah were childless.


God then appeared to Abraham and gave him the covenant of circumcision. Repeating His promise that God will multiply the line of Abraham.


It’s been 23 years since God’s initial promise, yet nothing has happened.


Gen 17:17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Gen 17 says, Abraham laughed. What kind of laughter was that?


I don’t think it was the laughter of unbelief, for Gen 15:6 says


Gen 15:6 And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

It was a laughter of the incredible, that God needs to do what is humanly impossible.


Abraham’s laughter is in Gen 17 and in today’s passage we will also see the laughter but this time from Sarah.


Gen 18:12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

I submit that Gen 18 is not so much about God and Abraham, but it is about God and Sarah. God who has been personal with Abraham is now also personal with Sarah.


Church, we have a God who condescend and comes to each one of us. He does it to everyone regardless of gender, regardless of race and regardless of status.


If we take Genesis 17 and 18 together, it looks like God wants to make sure that both Abraham and Sarah are cleared of their doubts that God can do the impossible.


The reason why I’m offering the idea that Genesis 18 is about God and Sarah is because of verses 9-10.


Gen 18:9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.

In the custom of that day, the men and the women do not sit down and eat together. And usually the women would be in a separate adjoining area, sealed off but yet closed enough to listen to the conversations of the men.


It was also not polite to call on the name of the wife of your host by her personal name.


Yet these 3 visitors did exactly that. They called Sarah directly by her name knowing that she was listening.


They indicated they were not just ordinary visitors for the Lord knew that Sarah laughed in her heart. And Scripture records that the Lord addressed Sarah directly in v15.


God didn’t have to personally address Sarah but he did. God showed concern for both Abraham and Sarah.


They both laughed, they both couldn’t comprehend the outworking of God’s promises. Yet God felt it was important that their doubts and fears were addressed.


I’ve shared previously about my faith journey towards full-time ministry. But not sure if you know about Dawn’s journey.


One of my prayer points was that Dawn will also feel God’s call, for God was not calling me to ministry but calling us to ministry.


So, as I wrestled with the call to the ministry in 2005 and 2006, God in His grace, reached out to Dawn as well.


During that time she was attending BSF and they were going through Gensis. God spoke to her through Gensis 12. God answered my prayer that He will speak to Dawn and that she too will feel the call into the ministry.


Our journey through Genesis 18 today, is a reminder again for me that God is a personal God. He will meet each of us where we are.


When our doubts and fears arise, He knows!


We can laugh, we can cry, we can be sacred or angry in our hearts, yet He knows and He will come and fellowship with us.


Our God is a personal God. Genesis 18 records that He visited Abraham and had a meal with Abraham for the sake of Sarah.


God wanted to strengthen Sarah’s faith. 


In a Patriarchal society, God saw Sarah as Abraham’s equal and through His actions, showed Sarah she was precious in God’s sight.  


And we see that this visit by God did indeed strengthen Sarah’s faith because the writer of Hebrews records for us -


Heb 11:11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.

Sarah considered God faithful to His promises. Sarah took to heart what the Lord said to her at that meal fellowship – Gen 18:14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”


Nothing is impossible with God. This church, is the essence of our faith.


Adam and Eve were casted out from Eden because of sin. Mankind, born in sin, are enemies of God and objects of His wrath.


Luke 18:25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Even Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.


But thanks be to God, what is impossible with man is possible with God.


Ps Luwin reminded us, the sign of God’s promise of His covenant today is Holy Communion.


The Lord’s Supper symbolizes the impossible made possible.


While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Now by the blood shed at Calvary we are considered righteous. The fierce anger of God has been turned away.


By faith in Jesus Christ, we can now enter into God’s Kingdom.


Holy Communion reminds us of that. Holy Communion is therefore an essential sacrament for our faith community.


Holy Communion is thus not to be missed. It is God’s means of grace to us personally and corporately.


Church in your doubts and fears, God will meet you personally as you partake of Holy Communion with your spiritual family.


He will remind you, I love you because I died for you. As your Lord, I will sustain you through my body, the church here in Hermon.  


Merciful (Gen 18:16-21) – God is patience, willing that none should perish.

The visit of the 3 had 2 purposes. The first was to encourage Sarah and the next was to ascertain the wickedness of man.


James 2:23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.

In Genesis 18 we see why Abraham was called a friend of God.


Firstly, we see that God discloses to him what he is going to do. It is a fact that God looked carefully and saw the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah.


Secondly, we see that God allows Abraham to witness it because Abraham needs to remember this as a negative example.


Why, because in v19, it says of Abraham:


Gen 18:19 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.

In God’s mercy, God’ reveals His plans and at the same time, gives Abraham a very vivid illustration of how he should live.


God continues to be merciful to us as well. He reveals the end game and does instructs us on how we should live.


2 Peter 2:6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly …. 11 what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.

We went through 2 Peter a few years ago. And the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were held up as examples so that believers will not be led astray by false prophets.


The day of the Lord will surely come and Apostle Peter exhorts, in the light of the final judgement, we are to live lives of holiness and godliness.


What a friend we have in Jesus, He knows our every weakness. And so our merciful Saviour warns and exhorts.


Understanding the heart of God, Abraham intercedes asking God for His mercy (18:25)


Gen 18:25 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?”

God by revealing His punishment on Sodom and Gomorrah, was opening up a conversation with Abraham.


To this we see Abraham responding according to God’s nature. He appeals to God’s justice that the righteous are not destroyed with the wicked.


Abraham appeals to God’s mercy. Would you spare the wicked if there are 50 righteous?


When God shows His mercy, Abraham, continues to intercede. How about if there are only 45, how about if there are 30, 20, then how about if there are 10 righteous.


Our merciful God answers, ‘For the sake of 10, I will not destroy it.’


Let’s ask the question, why would Abraham intercede for Sodom? He did not stay there and the king of Sodom tried to trick Abraham after he rescued Lot in Gen 14.


Yes, Lot, Abraham’s nephew was in Sodom, but why did Abraham pray for the city and not just for Lot?


I submit, Abraham knew God and God’s character is merciful and just.


Abraham understood the heart of God. Apostle Peter echoes it:


2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

How different is the society today from Sodom and Gomorrah? Do we see glimpses of the towel of Babel, the time of Noah too in the 21st Century?


I sure you would agree with me we are no different.  Apostle Paul says:


Gal 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

As the angels were sent by God to ascertain the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah, so too the wickedness of our society is clearly known to God.


Does God have sufficient reasons to destroy civilization now as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah, yes He has!


Thus, we need to heed what Apostle Peter says again – 2 Peter 3:15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation.


As we wait for the 2nd coming of Jesus, can we be like Abraham and have the heart of mercy for the lost?


I submit we can only be like Abraham and intercede for others if we are convinced that there will be a final judgement.


Abraham believed that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, thus he pleaded.


Today, we need to believe that God will come as Judge and everything will be destroyed as well.


Only when we believe in that, will the desire in us build towards intercession.


Abraham believed too that God will spare the righteous as He has promised. May we believe this too.  


Jesus speaking about the Kingdom of God, shares in the parable of the Weeds, the final judgement is liken to the harvest. 


Believers of Christ are the wheat while those that belong to the devil are the weeds.


Jesus’ prophesy is thus:


Mt 13:30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Since our merciful God is a promise keeping God, may we be faithful intercessors.  


Holy (Genesis 19)  – God has judged the wicked and will judge them.

A bible commentor remarked that when you put Genesis 18 and 19 side by side, it is really like light and darkness.


The noonday brightness of the tea fellowship with Abraham verses the evening darkness of unnatural relationships in Sodom.


Abraham had pleaded for God to spare Sodom if there were 10 righteous people.


Scripture says, there was only 1 family that was righteous. When all the town’s men, both young and old had gathered at Lot’s home …


Gen 18:4 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 the kind of relationship they desired, were that of the undesirable kind.


As we have seen from 2 Peter, this destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is given as examples for the disciples regarding the wrath of God upon sinful humanity.


It is to help us appreciate the holiness of God and how much He hates sin. Sin deserves God’s fierce anger.


When His justice is not melted out, it’s not because He is tolerant or accepting, no He is graciously patient.


Jesus, told His disciples, when you preach the Good News, if they reject you this is the consequence for them:


Mt 10:14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.

To reject the Gospel of Jesus Christ is to suffer the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah.


And we see that Lot and his family escaped by the skin of their teeth.


Lot we know from Gen 13, chose to live in Sodom because it was beautiful and prosperous.


Gen 13:10 And Lot lifted up his eyes and saw that the Jordan Valley was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt, in the direction of Zoar. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 So Lot chose for himself all the Jordan Valley, and Lot journeyed east. Thus they separated from each other.

The fact that he was sitting at the gate of Sodom when the 2 angels visited means that he was of a certain standing in the society.


The picture painted of Lot is not a positive one. In a sense he is contrasted with Abraham. Abraham intercedes for Sodom, while Lot is integrating himself with Sodom.


Lot is a picture of moral ambiguity. He is accommodating to the charms of society. To many he is seen as a hypocrite.


Yes, he hosted the angels and tries to protect them from being sodomised. Yet he offers the men his virgin daughters in exchange (v5-8)


To his sons-in-law, he seems not to be serious about the threat of destruction. They think his warnings are just jesting. (v14) Did Lot really believe it?


Could it be that based on Lot’s lifestyle, its always do as I say and not do as I do? Thus, they were not so convinced?


If you were a citizen of Hiroshima in 1945, if you knew that on 6 Aug 1945, the atomic bomb will drop, would you continue to spend nights there? I’m sure you would escape as immediately as you could right?


Why didn’t Lot ask the angels that night, get us out of the city? Why wait till the morning has dawned, why linger (v15)


After being saved, why did Lot allow himself to get drunk? So intoxicated that he did not know what his 2 daughters were scheming.


This last part of Lot’s family story, reminds us that you can get them out of Sodom, but it is harder to get Sodom out of them.


And to add to the contrast between Abraham and Lot, we have Lot’s wife. She is the tipping point that Lot is exposing himself to.


Jesus warns -


Lk 17:30 so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day, let the one who is on the housetop, with his goods in the house, not come down to take them away, and likewise let the one who is in the field not turn back. 32 Remember Lot’s wife. 33 Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.

Lot’s wife turned back to look, for her heart had been captivated by the beautiful city of Sodom.


The final contrast between Abraham and Lot is the consequence of Abraham’s intercession. Scripture affirms that Lot was saved due to the prayers of Abraham.


Gen 19:29 So it was that, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, God remembered Abraham and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow when he overthrew the cities in which Lot had lived.

God remembered Abraham and so sent Lot out of the Sodom. A rescue that Lot participated in with some hesitation.


Earlier I shared from 2 Peter 2. In Apostle Peter using Sodom as an example, he is emphasizing that our Holy God has punished the ungodly.


2 Peter 2:6 if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly …. 11 what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.

And because He has melted out his punishment in the past, God’s promise to punish the ungodly in the future will also come to past.


The holiness of God reminds us that He cannot tolerate sin and the mother of all punishments will happen when He comes again.


If you are not a believer this morning, if you have not placed your trust in Jesus Christ, I urged you to consider seriously God’s gift of salvation.


God’s judgment is coming on all who do not believe.


For the rest of us who are His disciples, may Lot and his family be our warning. Let us not play with fire like they did.


There will be a reckoning for us too, when Christ comes again.


For in His mercy, He has told us already how we should live. Our lives are to exhibit that of holiness and godliness with a sense of anticipation for His return.


Church, because our promise-keeping God is holy, let us live circumspectly.


Conclusion

God’s promise right at the beginning of creation was :


Gen 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

This is fulfilled at the Cross of Calvary. There the wrath of a Holy God meets with the Love of God.


There Jesus the Lamb of God was slain for the sin of the world.


In contrast to Lot’s wife, because we believe in God’s character, let us turn our eyes instead upon Jesus. Affirming that


His Word shall not fail us, for His promises are true

Affirming that when we Believe Him, all will be well;

Desiring then, to go to a world that is dying, His perfect salvation to tell!


Amen.

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