Theme: Faith (Part 10)
(Key verses: Gen 18:1-33)
We are discussing the foundational theme of faith as it is typified in the life of Abraham. As we develop spiritually through the faith of Christ working in us, the communication with God, especially our prayers, also grows in maturity. Prayer is basically a two-way communication with God which He works in totality – He always initiates prayer in our hearts, and also brings His conclusion or answer to that prayer according to His will (Mat 6:10; Jas 4:15; 1Jn 5:14). This means all prayers are indeed answered – according to His will and we must submit to that will!
1Jn 5:15 And if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
Php 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Abraham is not only our physical type of what the faith of Christ entails, but he is also our Old Testament example of a man of prayer:
Gen 13:4 Unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first: and there Abram called on the name of the LORD.
Gen 17:3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
In Chapter 18 of Genesis we see an interesting development in the life of Abraham which prepared his heart to be in a position to make petitions to the Lord, who personally appeared to him. Three things are recorded here which all combine to bring us the full picture of how a heart is prepared by God to pray fervently “without ceasing” and to see how God never forsakes the righteous (1Th 5:17; Psa 37:25):
Rom 1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers.
2Ti 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day.
Abraham’s meal with three visitors
Gen 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him [Abraham] in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
We already discussed the plains of Mamre in an earlier study (study #56) concerning Abraham’s connection to this place in Canaan (Gen 13:18; Gen 14:13). Mamre means vigour or strength as we grow stronger in the faith of Christ, even as we also “sit in the tent door in the heat of the day”. The heat of the day refers to the fiery trials we need to endure in the time of our flesh for the purpose of maturing the faith we received from God (Eph 2:8-9):
1Pe 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
1Pe 1:6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
The number three spiritually confirms this process in our spiritual growth and even in the three men who came to visit Abraham:
Gen 18:2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground,
Gen 18:3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant:
Gen 18:4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree:
Gen 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
Through the faith of Christ in us we also learn how to be servants of God to all people who God sends on our path (1Pe 4:8-11). If we serve others we can only present them with what we have been given to share. God loves a cheerful giver and we should not begrudge people afterwards – that only reveals the carnal selfish spirit in our hearts when we think things are our possessions and not gifts from God to share with others (Rom 12:6-21; 2Co 9:1-15). It is only those at the right hand of God who will have this cheerful spirit in them to share their gifts and they do not even seek recognition when they do good (Heb 13:2; Mat 25:34-40). Again the number three is emphasized in this event with Abraham when he asked Sarah to make cakes for these three visitors using three measures of fine meal:
Gen 18:6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.
It is only fine meal that is useful in the kingdom of heaven as the three measures is progressively leavened in us (Rev 6:6):
Mat 13:33 Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Leaven, like all things God is using in this creation through His Word, has a negative and positive application. The negative of leaven is connecting with unbelief and false doctrines in our hearts. But the positive leaven is the pure Word of faith which is hidden by the woman, the church of God, in those who are crushed to powder by the stone over which we first stumble (1Pe 2:8):
Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach.
Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
Mat 21:44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
The good leaven produces the faith of Christ in us and is continually increased as we are also increased in the measure of our sacrificing to God (Rom 12:1-2):
Gen 18:7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it.
Gen 18:8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
He took one of his best young calves – an offering of the herd which represents the highest offering one can make and gave it to a “young man” to dress it. Youth is used in the scriptures as pointing to immaturity, but here the positive application of youth is emphasized in this sacrifice of Abraham:
1Ti 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
This sacrifice also indicates that Abraham somehow recognised that his visitors were of a high order. Tender and good refer to our humility and meekness in our service to God and His people. The higher our sacrifice the clearer we hear the voice of the true shepherd and how we can be more precise or diligent in following that voice.
A clear announcement of the ordained time of the birth of Isaac
Gen 18:9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
Gen 18:10 And he [one of the three men] said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
Gen 18:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
Gen 18:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
On numerous occasions God promised Abraham an offspring, but now the time of the birth of this child is certain or fixed by the Lord as He also makes this announcement Himself:
Gen 18:13 And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
This person who brings this news to Abraham and Sarah is now revealed to us also as the Lord Himself as He also knew every word which Sarah said in her own heart. Our thoughts are known to God as He ordains all things to come to us, and nothing is hidden from His sight (Psa 139:1-6). Humans are fond of parading their ignorance in Godly matters in the form of knowledge or “science falsely so-called” (1Ti 6:20). In our carnal state of mind we cannot also see that nothing is too hard for God, even as we unashamedly protest against the Lord Himself in our self-righteous attitudes:
Gen 18:14 Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
Gen 18:15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
The intercession of Abraham for the righteous
These visitors ate with Abraham, and the announcement to Abraham and Sarah of the time of the birth of Isaac all coincides with the judgment that God was to bring on Sodom and Gomorrah. This brings to mind the meal Jesus had with His disciples when He also made the final announcement of his imminent death (His judgment) and resurrection of new life (Mat 26:17-35; Luk 22:7-38):
Gen 18:16 And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.
Gen 18:17 And the LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do;
Gen 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
Gen 18:19 For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.
Abraham is a type of Christ who “will command His children and His household…to keep the way of the Lord”. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” is also emphasising that Jesus indeed reveals His secrets or mystery of His will to His elect (1Co 2:7: Eph 1:9)
Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.
God’s secret includes His sovereignty and few can see how God works all things after the counsel of His will, especially His salvation plan through “His servants the prophets”. His servants will indeed be informed by Him about His ultimate purpose with all in the generation of the first Adam. He determined before the creation of this world to “gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth” (Eph 1:3-12). However he does not reveal the future to His prophets because in the “is” the “was” and the “is to come” part of the revelation of Jesus Christ is settled (Mat 6:25-34; Jas 4:14):
Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
God only informs us that all He had written in our books before we were born, will happen on the earth as it has been ordained and determined in the heavens (Psa 139:16; Mat 4:4):
Mat 6:9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Mat 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
The distinction between the earth (represented by the evil in Sodom and Gomorrah) and the heaven (the righteous having the mind of Christ) is the focus of this conversation between Abraham and the Lord who stayed with Abraham, while the other two angels went to speak to Lot in Sodom and Gomorrah:
Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
Gen 18:21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.
Gen 18:22 And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.
Sodom (and Gomorrah) represents the evil city (or cities) of our own flesh which is also symbolized by that great city, the spiritual whore Babylon, which controls all the “waters” of humanity (Rev 11:8):
Rev 17:15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
The cry that came from Sodom (and Gomorrah) represents the prayers of the saints who still live under these evil worldly systems and who were at their appointed time also trading in its merchandise before they were dragged out by God (Eph 2:2-3). Lot was in this case the type of the righteous elect of God as Lot is also described as “just” and a “righteous man” in the scriptures for this purpose (2Pe 2:6-10). Lot cried to God concerning this city and all its evils, while he sat at the gate of Sodom. The Lord indeed knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, by taking them through the trails and temptations first before they are taken out:
Gen 19:1 And there came two angels to Sodom at even; and Lot sat in the gate of Sodom: and Lot seeing them rose up to meet them; and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground.
2Pe 2:7 And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:
2Pe 2:8 (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)
God’s elect are the ones who are “vexed…in seeing and hearing…the filthy conversation…[and]…unlawful deeds” in Sodom as they wait for the judgement of God on all evil. God already determined that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed, but these evil cities also serve the elect to understand the process of salvation inwardly first. This process is now revealed through Abraham as the Lord will drag him into making petition to the Lord for the sake of the righteous:
Gen 18:23 And Abraham drew near [Hebrew: “nâgash” = very intimate/something is “at hand” – Rev 1:3], and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?
Gen 18:24 Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein?
Making petition is a type of prayer where God brings to our heart the desire to “reason together” with Him while we are growing in the prayer of faith (Isa 1:18). But God wants Abraham and us to first see and concentrate on the needs of His elect. Abraham’s plea to the Lord for the salvation of the righteous is reflecting God’s goal of the salvation of His elect first and foremost. God is not saving the world at this time as He also does not pray for the world in that sense (Joh 17:9). Through the salvation of the elect will God cause the whole of the earth to be covered with the knowledge of the Lord at the appointed time (Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14):
Gen 18:25 That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?
Gen 18:26 And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.
At this point it is interesting to see how the number five and its multiples are constantly used in Abraham’s prayer as they apply to the righteous (or elect) first as that is also Abraham’s focus. The number five relates to the spiritual application of what “grace…through faith” is all about (Eph 2:8-10; Tit 2:11-12; Heb 11:6; Heb 12:6). In Abraham’s first plea to the Lord he starts with fifty – the number five joining in with the number ten as ten relates to the flesh – all those in Adam. All in the flesh will be saved through the faith and work of Christ. That is the macro spiritual picture God’s plan of salvation:
1Co 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.
1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end [Greek: “telos” = “the final point aimed at”], when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
Although “they that are Christ’s at His [first] coming” will be raised in the first resurrection, this salvation process is not yet concluded at that time. The rest of humanity (described here as “the end” or “telos” in the Greek) will be the conclusion of the salvation process. This conclusion is when the “kingdoms of this world” (all in Adam) will be in the kingdom of God and delivered to the Father in spiritual perfection by Jesus. This is also symbolised by the fiftieth year when “liberty [is given] throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” in the Old Testament (Rev 11:15-19; Lev 25:8-10).
But the number fifty also indicates the feast of weeks (“pentecost”) which is fifty days after the first feast of the harvest which is the feast of unleavened bread in the calendar of the physical Jews (Lev 23:9-44; Exo 23:14-16). The feast of unleavened bread was fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ as the “firstfruit of them that slept” in death (1Co 15:20). The feast of weeks is fulfilled in the elect who is the “kind of firstfruits” who will be given spirit life at the first resurrection (Jas 1:18). This is why Abraham starts with fifty as referring to the righteous chosen ones specifically. We are not saved only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of all in the generation of the first Adam. These few elected ones will be used to bring in the rest of humanity in what the scriptures called “the lake of fire” or second death where this second group will come to see their own spiritual death state:
Rev 20:14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Rev 20:15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
Now Abraham is caused by God to enquire further from the Lord to help us to get a deeper understanding of this salvation process by using another multiple of the number five (all related to faith and its growth in us):
Gen 18:27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes:
Gen 18:28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.
In the number forty-five, the number nine joins with the number five now. Nine relates to judgment in the scriptures. Though painful and filled with anguish, the elect experience judgment as something positive because it is only through judgment that we are taught the righteousness of God (Isa 26:9; Mat 26:38-39). The elect does not escape the judgment and wrath of God, but it is first on them as the house of God before it comes on the rest of humanity (Isa 54:7-8; Mat 24:34-35; 1Co 10:11; Eph 2:2-3; Rev 1:3; Rev 15:5-8):
1Pe 4:17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?
Now Abraham is moved in his petition in prayer to the Lord to help us understand that the new spirit man is indeed ordained for all through faith in another multiple of five:
Gen 18:29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake.
The number forty is also formed by a combination of numbers eight and five in their spiritual meanings. The number eight is the number for the new spirit man in the scriptures which will come through the completion (number 7) of judgment and destruction of the kingdom of the beast in us:
Rev 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
The righteous will indeed be covered and protected by God (2Sa 22:3-4; Psa 121:1-8; 2Th 3:3).
Gen 18:30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there.
The number thirty includes the number six as it joins with the number five. Although the number six in its negative application symbolizes the carnal man in us, in its positive application it represents the covering and protection which comes through the Word of God. This new covering destroys our old tent of fleshly dependence as Boaz (typifying Christ) gave Ruth (typifying the elect) six measures of barley which started her new life with him:
Rth 3:15 Also, he [Boaz] said, Bring the veil on you, and hold it. And when she [Ruth] held it, he measured six measures of barley and laid it on her. And she went to the city.
Jdg 7:13 And when Gideon had come, behold, a man told a dream to his fellow, and said, Behold, I dreamed a dream, and lo, a cake of barley bread tumbled into the host of Midian, and came to a tent, and struck it so that it fell, and overturned it, so that the tent lay along.
Abraham in his petition to the Lord for the righteous in Sodom is again caused to realise that it is indeed a very small number who were chosen to be in that holy and blessed first resurrection when another multiple of five is mentioned (Mat 22:14):
Gen 18:31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake.
Twenty is the number four combining with the number five. The number four spiritually points to the whole of something and in this prayer of Abraham the whole of the elect will be kept faithful by God until the end (1Sa 22:1-2; Mat 24:24; Rev 17:14):
Mat 24:31 And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
The last multiple of five which Abraham used in his petition to the Lord for the righteous, is the number ten:
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 number ten has the number two joined with five and the number two represents the true witness of the elect as in their mouth the Word shall be established:
2Co 13:1 This is the third time I am coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.
The reason why Abraham did not go lower than ten is found in the following verse:
Gen 18:33 And the LORD went his way, as soon as he had left communing with Abraham: and Abraham returned unto his place.
The Lord ended this conversation by going “His way”. God initiates everything in this life, including our prayers to Him, and He brings an end to everything according to His own counsel – He is indeed the beginning and the end:
Rev 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.