Genesis 18:32 Commentary - Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
ABRAHAM’S INTERCESSION FOR SODOM
Gen 18:32. And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
THE selection of this chapter as one of the Lessons for this day [Note: Trinity Sunday.] intimates, that the doctrine of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead derives some confirmation from it. That one of these strangers who visited Abraham in the likeness of men, was God, cannot admit of any doubt: for He is called The LORD, that is Jehovah, above ten times in this and the following chapter; and Abraham’s address to him clearly shews, that he knew him to be God. Moreover there is reason to think that it was the Second Person in the Trinity, who thus conversed with Abraham; because Abraham calls him “the Judge of all the earth.” Now “the Father judgeth no man; but hath committed all judgment to the Son [Note: Joh 5:22.]:” and therefore we conclude, that this was not God the Father, but God the Son. But it is by no means clear that the other two strangers were the other Persons in the Trinity. Many of the ancients indeed thought they were so; and there is some foundation for their opinion: for Lot addressed them in terms which seem more properly applicable to God than to angels; “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life [Note: Gen 19:18-19.].” And one of the angels (for so those two are called [Note: Gen 19:1.] ) answered him in language almost too exalted for a creature to use, “See, I have accepted thee concerning this thing [Note: Gen 19:21.].” But if we consider the peculiar nature and extent of their commission, we may account for the use of this language without supposing either of them to be God. And indeed there is clear evidence that they were only angels, attendant on the Son of God, and sent by him; for they themselves say, “The Lord hath sent us to destroy Sodom [Note: Gen 19:13.].” Nevertheless, if we admit, as we must, that the person who is here so frequently called Jehovah, was God the Son (for no man hath seen the Father at any time [Note: Joh 1:18.] ), the chapter clearly marks a plurality of persons in the Godhead; and therefore is properly read on this day, when the Trinity in Unity is the peculiar subject to which our attention is called.
To Him, even to our adorable Emmanuel, did Abraham address his intercession on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrha: an intercession the most instructive of all that are recorded in the sacred volume. When Abraham understood that this divine Person with his attendant angels was come to destroy those wicked cities, he entreated that, if fifty righteous persons could be found in them, the wicked might be spared for their sake. Having prevailed thus far, he in five successive petitions reduced the number to ten, and obtained a promise that if only ten could be found, the rest should be spared for their sake. What an astonishing idea does this give us of God’s regard for his people!
Let us observe,
How dear to Him are their persons!
We forbear to notice the honourable appellations which he gives them (as his jewels, his peculiar treasure, &c.) or the great and precious promises made to them, or the blessings of grace bestowed upon them: we shall confine our attention solely to the interpositions of his providence in their behalf: because it is in that view only that they are noticed in the text. But in marking God’s kindness to them, we shall notice it as manifested,
To them personally—
[We cannot conceive any thing so great, but God has actually done it for his people.
He has controlled the elements. The earth has opened at his command to maintain the authority of his chosen prophet, and to swallow up his insolent competitors [Note: Num 16:32.]. The air has raised itself into tempests, and shot forth its lightnings, and shaken the foundations of the earth, with its thunders, in order to punish the enemies of his people [Note: Exo 9:23-25.], or vindicate their injured honour [Note: 1Sa 12:16-18.]. Fire also has suspended its destructive energies, in order to defeat the persecuting rage of a tyrant, and rescue from his hands the children of oppression [Note: Dan 3:27.]. Nor has the water been backward to obey his will, when any signal benefit was to be conveyed to his favourite people. It has repeatedly stood as a wall, to open an avenue for them through the rivers [Note: Jos 3:15-16; 2Ki 2:8; 2Ki 2:14.], and through the sea [Note: Exo 14:21-22.].
God has compelled all classes of the brute creation also to consult their benefit. The birds, though of the most voracious kind, have served up the stated meals of bread and meat to his prophet in a time of dearth and necessity [Note: 1Ki 17:6.]. The beasts, though fierce and hunger-bitten, have shut their mouths before the saint, whom they were invited to destroy [Note: Dan 6:22.]. The fishes have swallowed up a drowning prophet, to discharge him again in safety upon the dry land [Note: Jon 2:10; Jon 3:10.] ; or taken into their mouth a bait unsuited to their appetite, that the Saviour in his humiliation might be enabled to pay his tax [Note: Mat 17:27.]. The insects too have united their irresistible efforts to punish a proud and cruel nation, and to assert the liberties of God’s oppressed people [Note: Exo 8:17; Exo 8:24.].
We may add also, that even the heavenly bodies have been overruled by God for the purpose of aiding, or comforting, or honouring those who were dear to him. The sun and moon stood still for the space of a whole day, to witness the triumphs of his chosen servants [Note: Jos 10:13.]. “The stars in their courses fought against Sisera [Note: Jdg 5:20.].” And the shadow on the sun-dial of Ahaz returned ten degrees, that a pious and afflicted monarch might be assured of the deliverance which his soul desired [Note: Isa 38:6-8.].
How dear to God must they be to whom the whole creation is thus made subservient, and for whose benefit the government of the universe is administered!]
To others for their sake—
[For their sakes blessings have been imparted to the undeserving, and judgments averted from the wicked. For Jacob’s sake God multiplied the flocks of Laban [Note: Gen 30:27.] ; and from respect to Joseph he prospered the house of Potiphar [Note: Gen 39:5.]. If ten righteous could have been found in Sodom, the impending destruction would have been turned from all the cities of the plain [Note: The text.]: and notwithstanding the extreme wickedness of its inhabitants, the city of Zoar was exempted from the common fate, at the intercession of Lot [Note: Gen 19:21.] ; nor could the storm be poured out upon Sodom, till Lot was placed beyond its reach [Note: Gen 19:22.]. The mercy shewn to a whole ship’s company on account of Paul, deserves peculiar notice. There were 276 souls on board: the storm was so violent that there was no hope left for their preservation; they were just ready to be swallowed up in the tempestuous waves. But there was one saint on board; a saint, hated of men, but beloved of God: and for his sake the whole were preserved from death, and not a hair of their heads suffered to perish [Note: Act 27:24; Act 27:34.]. When God was about to send the Jews into captivity, he told them, that if they could find one righteous man in Jerusalem, he would spare them all [Note: Jer 5:1.]: and after he had inflicted his judgments upon them, he assigned as his reason for it, that not one had been found to stand in the gap, and to intercede for them [Note: Eze 22:30-31.]. After the murder of the Messiah, the Jewish nation was devoted to utter destruction: but when the days of vengeance came, “they were shortened for the elect’s sake;” yea, it was out of respect to them alone that there was not an utter excision of the whole human race [Note: Mat 24:22.].
What stronger proofs can be given of God’s love to his chosen people?]
But we shall have a further insight into this subject, if we consider,
How acceptable are their prayers!
Who can contemplate one single individual interceding, as Abraham did, for all the cities of the plain, and not admire the condescension of God to his praying people? He has heard and answered them, for whomsoever they made their supplications; whether,
[No limits whatever, except those which were necessarily fixed by a concern for his own honour, have been assigned by God to the exercise of his own grace in answer to his people’s prayers. God has said to them, “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it:” “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Agreeably to these promises he has done for them not only what they have asked, but exceeding abundantly above their most sanguine hopes. The prayer of Jonah ascended up even from the bottom of the sea, and brought him a deliverance unprecedented in the annals of the world. The situation of the Canaanitish woman may be considered in some respects still more desperate, because her request had been repeatedly refused: but by persisting in her supplications she obtained the desire of her heart [Note: Mat 15:22-28.]. No kind of blessing has ever been denied to the prayer of faith. David sought information whether the men of Keliah would betray him; and God told him that they would [Note: 1Sa 23:11-12.]. He desired direction, when and in what manner he should attack the Philistine armies: and God pointed out to him the precise time and place for making his attack successfully [Note: 2Sa 5:19; 2Sa 5:23-24.]. Thus also when they have implored mercy after the most heinous transgressions, God has shewn the same readiness to hear and answer their requests [Note: Psa 32:5; 2Ch 33:12-13.]. “He has never said to any of them, Seek ye my face in vain.”
For each other—
[Mutual intercession is a duty which has been expressly enjoined, and to which we have been encouraged by the most signal tokens of God’s acceptance. The deliverance vouchsafed to Peter deserves particular attention. He was secured in prison with all the care that human foresight could devise.
He was chained between two soldiers, and guarded by many others. Prayer was made for him by the church; but apparently to no purpose. The day appointed for his execution was almost arrived. But at midnight God returned an answer; an answer which as much surprised the suppliants, as it confounded their enemies: his chains fell off, the iron gates opened to him of their own accord, and his adversaries were put to shame [Note: Act 12:4-19.]. It was from a full persuasion of the efficacy of intercession, that St. Paul was so earnest in requesting the prayers of others for him [Note: Rom 15:30.], and that he was so unwearied in his prayers for them [Note: 1Th 3:10; Php 1:4; Col 4:12.]. And it is particularly in reference to intercession for the saints, that St. James says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much [Note: Jam 5:16.].”]
For the ungodly—
[The iniquities of a nation may indeed arrive at such a height, that if Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, those holy men should not prevail, except for the preservation of themselves [Note: Eze 14:14.]. But the instances wherein God has heard prayer on behalf of the ungodly are very numerous, and very encouraging. How speedily did the supplications of Amos remove the threatened judgment from his country [Note: Amo 7:1-6.] ! And how irresistible, if we may so speak, were the intercessions of Moses! God had determined to execute vengeance on his people for making and worshipping the golden calf. He therefore, fearing, as it were, that Moses would interpose in their behalf, and prevent the execution of his purpose, said to him, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them;” that is, ‘If thou intercedest for them, thou wilt bind my hands; therefore let me alone, that I may inflict upon them the judgments they have deserved.’ But Moses would not “let him alone:” he instantly “besought the Lord,” and, as it were, prevailed against him: for “the Lord repented of the evil which he had thought to do unto his people [Note: Exo 32:10-11; Exo 32:14.].”
While in such instances as these we contemplate the condescension of our God, we cannot fail to notice the love which he bears to his chosen people, and the peculiar delight which he feels in hearing and answering their prayers.]
What blessings are God’s people in the places where they live!
[Our blessed Lord represents them as “the lights of the world,” and “the salt of the earth;” because, without them, the world would be immersed in total darkness, and speedily become one mass of corruption. Little do the world think how much they are indebted to the saints. They are ready to traduce the characters of God’s people, and to represent them as “the troublers of Israel:” but, were they viewed aright, they would be considered rather as “the shields of the earth,” who ward off from it the judgments of the Almighty. Only let us duly notice the tokens which God has given them of his regard, and the mercy he has shewn to others for their sake, and we shall know how to appreciate their value, and ardently pray for their increase in the earth.]
What encouragement have the ungodly to pray for themselves!
[Has God shewn himself so willing to hear the prayers of a single individual in the behalf of populous cities, and will he not hear the prayers of individuals for themselves? Never from the foundation of the world has he rejected the petitions of a real penitent: nor, as we have before observed, has he prescribed any limits to our petitions for spiritual blessings. “The Lord will not be angry,” however frequently we renew, or however largely we extend, our supplications: “If we ask, we shall have; if we seek, we shall find;” yea, if we ask for all the glory of heaven, it shall be given to us. O that men were duly sensible of the privilege of prayer! and that they would plead for mercy while yet a throne of grace is open to them!]
How diligently should the godly improve their interest in the behalf of others!
[We can scarcely conceive a person so obdurate, but that if, by speaking to another, he could obtain health for the sick, and relief for the indigent, he would avail himself of such an opportunity to benefit his fellow-creatures. Yet is there amongst us a lamentable backwardness to the work of intercession, notwithstanding our almighty Friend is at all times accessible, and the blessings which he will bestow are infinitely greater than words can express. O let all of us stir up ourselves to this blessed work! Let us consider how much we ourselves need the prayers of others; and let a sense of our own necessities stimulate us to “labour fervently in prayer” for others. We are sure at least that, if we prevail not for them, we shall bring down a blessing upon our souls, and “our prayer shall return into our own bosoms.” Let us consider also that to neglect to pray for others, is to sin against our God [Note: 1Sa 12:23.] ; and that, if we have no heart to sigh and cry for the abominations or the miseries of others, we have great reason to fear and tremble for ourselves [Note: Eze 9:4 with Amo 6:6-7.].]
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Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae (Old and New Testaments)
Charles Simeon (1759 - 1836) was an English evangelical Anglican cleric.
Horae Homileticae reflects the rich source of Biblical understanding of Simeon, a towering figure in the history of evangelical theology.