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9. Becoming a Friend of God (Genesis 18)

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The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him… (Genesis 18)

What are characteristics of God’s friends? How can we grow in intimacy with our Lord?

In this text, God miraculously shows up at Abraham’s home in the form of a man, with two other men who were angels. Abraham prepares a feast for them, and God reaffirms his covenant with Abraham. He tells him that within a year’s time, Sarah would birth a child. When the three visitors are about to leave, God decides to share with Abraham his plan to visit Sodom and Gomorrah, confirm their sins, and then destroy the land. Then we see Abraham intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah and move God’s heart.

Several times in Scripture Abraham is called God’s friend. We see this in James 2:23, 2 Chronicles 20:7, and Isaiah 41:8. No doubt, this title refers to Abraham’s whole life, but it seems to have particular reference to this chapter. Listen to what God says about Abraham in Genesis 18:17–19:

Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

When verse 19 says, “I have chosen him,” it can literally be translated, “For I know him,” as in the KJV. God was intimate with Abraham and because of this, he shared his plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. This is true of our friendships as well. We share intimate secrets with those we know intimately.

In John 15, Christ called the disciples, and therefore us, friends as well. He said,

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:13–15)

Christ laid his life down for us and if we are people who obey him, then we are his friends. And because we are his friends, he shares his secrets with us through the Word. We are friends of God; however, not all friends have the same intimacy and closeness with one another. I am more intimate with my wife than with anybody else. And though I have many friends, she is my closest friend.

I think this is true with God. It is not that God didn’t have many friends in Scripture, he did. But there were some he was closer with. Abraham was one of them. In fact, one of the greatest forms of intimacy is going to somebody’s home. God visits Abraham’s home in physical form and shares intimate secrets about Sodom, that even the Sodomites and Lot, who lived there, were unaware of. God had a deep friendship with Abraham, which afforded him many great privileges. Psalm 25:14 says, “The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.”

How can we have a deeper friendship with God? How can we grow in intimacy with him, so that he reveals himself in such a way that we can more effectively worship him and serve others? That was a benefit of Abraham’s intimacy.

Some might declare, “There is nothing that we can do to be more intimate with God!” However, this would be illogical even from a practical stand point. Can one have friends without first showing himself friendly (Prov 18:24, KJV)? James even declared, “Draw near God and he will draw near you” (James 4:8). There is a greater intimacy and greater rewards from this intimacy that can be gained.

In this text, we will see characteristics of Abraham’s friendship with God. We will study this in the hope that we can similarly grow in intimacy with God.

Big Question: What are characteristics of friends of God as seen in Abraham’s interaction with God in Genesis 18? How can we grow in intimacy with God?

Friends of God Continually Worship Him

The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (Genesis 18:1–2)

In this narrative, we see Abraham sitting at the entrance to his tent, in the heat of the day, when the Lord appears to him. It seems like these three men appear out of nowhere. Abraham looks up, sees them, hurries to meet them, and then bows before them.

An important part of ancient Middle Eastern culture was being hospitable to foreigners. There were very few inns. Traveling long distances could be dangerous, and therefore people relied on hospitability. In fact, hospitality is still a significant aspect of Eastern culture.

There is some controversy over when Abraham became aware these three men were special, and that one of them was God. It certainly would have been clear when these strangers asked Abraham where Sarah was (v. 9). This was the name God gave Sarai not too long ago. If Abraham did not know then, certainly, it was clear when these men prophesied about her having a baby in old age (v. 10).

However, Abraham probably knew immediately that these visitors were from the Lord. God had appeared to Abraham before, and therefore, he had a greater familiarity with God’s presence and how he appeared. Also, we cannot but notice how respectful he was to these three men. The text says he bowed low to the ground. The word used for bow is typically translated “worship” when God is the object.1 We see this in Genesis 24:26 when Abraham’s servant worshiped the Lord. It says, “Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD.”

It seems clear that Abraham knows these visitors are special and that one of them is God. In fact, he calls one of them “my lord” in verse 3. One of the three was clearly prominent, as he was God incarnate. To further support this, Abraham said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by” (v. 3). The implication is that Abraham had a previous relationship with the prominent one; otherwise the comment wouldn’t make sense. He had just met these gentlemen. It seems like a fair conclusion that Abraham knew the man was God with two angelic guests.

Worship is a natural response for those who know God intimately. Worship comes from the fact that one recognizes how “worthy” an object or person is. Abraham had known God for over twenty years; he knew God’s beauty and his characteristics. Abraham, therefore, bowed in worship to the Lord and reverence towards the two angels.

When the Lord gave Isaiah a revelation of God in Isaiah 6:3, he saw the angels crying, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.” Angels cannot but continually worship God, as they consider his characteristics.

Worship is not only a characteristic of a friend of God, but it is also a way we grow in intimacy with him. How can we grow in worship?

Application Question: How can we grow in worship towards the Lord?

1. We grow in worship as we know God’s characteristics more and therefore his worthiness.

The more we know God, the more we will worship. As we know his characteristics—his love, sovereignty, wrath, goodness, and holiness—the more we will want to worship him. Theologians often call God’s characteristics, his perfections. His love, wisdom, wrath, and goodness are absolutely perfect and worthy of praise.

How do we come to know his characteristics more? We get to know God’s characteristics more by studying his Word and creation, through fellowship with the body of Christ, and by continually being intimate with him. Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”

As the readers considered the truths about God and his work in the previous eleven chapters of Romans, they should be drawn to worship God—drawn to offer him their bodies as living sacrifices. This is true for us as well. The more we know God, the more we will worship.

If we are not continually worshiping God, maybe we don’t really know him as we should.

2. We grow in worship by knowing our unworthiness before God.

We get a picture of this in the extreme respect Abraham gives to God. He not only bows, but the text says that he bowed low to the ground. This means that Abraham recognized that God and the visitors were greater than him. Whenever people see God in Scripture, they always humble themselves, as they recognize the depths of their sin. Isaiah cried out, “‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty’” (Isa 6:5). Similarly, when Peter became aware of Jesus’ Lordship, he cried, “Away from me Lord, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).

One of the reasons many of us don’t worship God, and therefore grow in intimacy with him, is because we don’t know the depths of our sin. A diamond’s beauty is best displayed against a black cloth. We cannot truly worship God unless we know how great our sin is. And yet, the paradox is that we can’t truly know our sin unless we see God. In comparison to this great light, our sin appears extremely dark.

Are you recognizing your sin and that of others so that you can worship God more? Friends of God know both their sin and God’s beauty, and therefore, they worship.

3. We grow in worship as we recognize God’s hand in everything.

In this narrative, Abraham recognizes God in human form and, therefore, bows down to worship. Many times our problem is that we simply don’t recognize God. Jesus talked to his disciples about how God provides clothing for the lilies of the field and food for the birds of the air (Matt 6). He saw God’s work and provision everywhere. Colossians 1:17 says that Christ holds all things together. Ephesians 1:11 says that he works all things according to the purpose of his will. Romans 8:28 says that God works all things to the good of those who love the Lord.

Our God is involved in everything. He is not a watchmaker who simply allows the earth to function on its own. His hand is everywhere, sustaining and guiding all things, and unless we recognize this, we will not continually worship. As with Christ’s resurrection and appearance to the disciples, it is very easy for us to receive ministry from the Lord and not recognize him (cf. Luke 24:15–16). It’s easy to forget that every good and perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). It’s also easy to forget that when disaster comes to a city the Lord caused it (Amos 3:6). Some only recognize God in the good and therefore don’t worship in the bad. However, Job cried, “The Lord gives and he takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). He lived in continual worship because he recognized God’s sovereignty both in the good and the bad.

Do you see God’s hand in everything? If you don’t, then you will not have sustained worship and, therefore, won’t grow in intimacy with him.

Application Question: How is God calling you to worship him more each day so you can grow in intimacy with him?

Friends of God Prioritize Time with Him

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” (Genesis 18:3–5)

Next, Abraham petitions the Lord to not pass by, but to instead stay a little while at his house. He doesn’t act asleep or busy when the Lord approaches; he stops everything and begins to petition him. He asks for them to stay in order to have a meal, wash up, and rest before continuing their travels.

Here we see the priority of God’s friends: they prioritize time with him. This is no different than any genuine friendship. Genuine friends continually spend time with one another because they enjoy each other. Abraham said, “If I have found favor in your eyes” please stay for a little while at my house.

Jesus said this in John 15:4–6:

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

The word “remain” can also be translated “abide.” Christ said, “Abide, make your home in me, and I will make my home in you.” Friends of God are intimate with the Lord. They make their home in God, and God makes his home in them. In fact, Christ described an unbeliever as one not remaining in him. He described him as a withered branch, eventually thrown into a fire. The person that doesn’t abide in the Lord is not really saved.

This may seem harsh, but this is exactly how Christ described false disciples in Matthew 7:21–23. They called him “Lord, Lord,” but Christ responded, “I never knew you.” They never had a relationship with him. Yes, they were doing ministry, but they were not in an abiding relationship with God.

Now, certainly, nobody is saved by spending time with God. They are saved by faith in the Son of God, who paid the penalty for their sins. However, the one who is truly saved will spend time with God. He will know God, and God will know him.

Are you spending time of God? This is proof of whether you really know him or not.

Application Question: How can we prioritize time with God?

1. To prioritize time with God, we need to put God first.

Again, Abraham stops whatever he was doing—he interrupts his plans to meet with God. We must do the same. He must be first. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of heaven and his righteousness.” Sometimes the best way to put something first is by doing it first in the day. That way nothing else can come before it. We must prioritize God by putting him first.

2. To prioritize time with God, we need to plan.

It has been said that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. This is a problem for many Christians. They really don’t have a plan for their spiritual life. They say, “I may read my Bible in the morning; I may not. I might do it later in the day.” They really don’t have a plan for their time with God. If I did this with my marriage, my marriage would die. My wife and I have to plan dates. Every Tuesday night is pretty much nonnegotiable. We have a date night. If for some reason we miss it, we reschedule for the same week. We make plans. We try to spend at least the last hour of every day together talking and praying. We learned early on in marriage that we needed to set dates daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, otherwise our intimacy will wane.

It’s the same with the Lord. It’s good to make short and long term plans to grow in intimacy with him. For example, “To cultivate my relationship with God, I will corporately worship him in small group and in church worship on Sunday and Wednesday. Every day, I will start and end my day with thirty minutes or more of time in the Word and prayer. Tuesday, I will fast half the day to give myself to extra prayer. In the summer, I will attend a mission trip to experience and serve God.”

We must plan to develop intimacy with God. Proverbs 21:5 says, “The plans of the diligent lead to profit.” James 4:8 says, “Draw near God and he will draw near you.”

What is your plan to draw near God?

3. To prioritize time with God, we must give less time to something else.

Ephesians 5:15–16 says: “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.”

“Making the most of every opportunity” can also be translated “redeeming the time” or “buying up the time.” When you purchase something, there is always a cost. To make the most of your time by spending it with God, you will have to let something else go. You might need to spend less time on social media, a hobby, work, or sleep to spend more time with God.

In business, we call this an opportunity cost. To take advantage of the opportunity to be with God, you will by necessity have to give something up. This is the opportunity cost. David said, “I will not offer the Lord something that cost me nothing” (2 Sam 24:24, paraphrase). What are you giving up to spend time with God?

Application Question: In what ways is God calling you to prioritize time with him? What is your spiritual plan? What are some opportunity costs of spending time with God? What are some of the benefits?

Friends of God Are Zealous in Serving Him

Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground…So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. (Genesis 18:2, 6–8)

After the three men agreed to stay, Abraham hurried to make preparations to serve them. One of the things that cannot but stand out is Abraham’s zeal. In verse 2, he hurried from the tent to greet the three men. In verse 6, he hurried to his wife and said, “Quick, get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” He then ran to select a calf. Abraham was zealous in serving the Lord.

This is common of God’s friends. Typically, they are noted for their zeal. Paul is probably the greatest Christian that ever lived. He wrote almost half of the New Testament, traveled on many great missionary journeys to reach Gentiles, and suffered a great deal for Christ. His life was noted for its great zeal. Consider these verses written by the apostle Paul:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. (Romans 12:11 )

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58 )

He said, “Never be lacking in zeal” and “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” This is what we saw with Abraham who hurried to meet the Lord and hurried to serve him.

Are you still zealous for God? Are you still zealous to see his kingdom come and people saved? Or have you lost your zeal?

Application Question: How can we grow in zeal, as we serve the Lord?

1. We grow in zeal by growing in love for God and others.

Paul said this about his ministry, “For Christ's love compels us” (2 Cor 5:14). He was compelled by the love of Christ—meaning his love for Christ and Christ’s love for him. These compelled him to work hard in serving God and others. Love made him zealous. One of the reasons we lack zeal in serving God and others is because we lack love.

Love is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. It is one of his many fruits, as seen in Galatians 5:22. The way we bear the fruit of the Spirit is by walking in the Spirit (Gal 5:16). As we live in prayer, the Word, fellowship, and service, the fruit of love will naturally grow in us, and we will find apathy slowly, if not quickly, drifting away, as we walk in submission to the Spirit.

2. We grow in zeal by being around others who are zealous to serve God.

Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

The more we are around others with zeal for God, the more our zeal will grow. Their zeal will challenge our apathy. However, when we are constantly around spiritually apathetic people, our zeal will diminish as well. Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

Application Question: When were you most zealous in your service of the Lord? What led to the growth of your zeal? What led to times of apathy in your spiritual life?

Friends of God Are Generous in Offerings to Him

Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.” So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Genesis 18:5–8)

As we consider Abraham’s serving, we notice that he initially only offered a little snack. When it says “something to eat,” it literally can be translated to have “a morsel of bread” (Gen 18:5, ESV); however, he immediately leaves and prepares a large feast! His wife prepared three seahs of flour into bread, which is roughly five gallons.2 Maybe Abraham was going to feed his whole camp, including his servants, or he was planning to send them off well supplied. He prepared a tender calf, with milk and curds (yoghurt). He was generous in his offering to the Lord.

I think this is also a common characteristic of God’s friends. They are extremely generous. We have seen this with Abraham before. When he met the high priest, Melchizedek, he gave the Lord a tenth of all he owned (Gen 14:20). Abraham was extremely generous with his offerings to the Lord.

This is true of most good friends. They are generous with their time, thoughts, emotions, and money. Why are they this way? It’s because they are friends. Good friends are generous with one another, and it’s the same with God’s friends.

I would also add that generosity is necessary to grow in intimacy with God. Consider the conclusion to the Parable of the Unjust Servant in Luke 16:1–8. In the story, a master told his servant that he would soon be fired. When the servant considered this, he went to those who owed his master a debt and cut the price. To the one who owed 800 gallons of oil, he had him pay only 400. To the one who owed 1,000 bushels of wheat, he had him pay only 800. He did this so that when he was fired, these people would welcome him into their homes because of his generosity. Certainly, there are some complications with this parable, but listen to Christ’s application of it. He says,

I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? (Luke 16:9–11)

He tells us to use our money to make friends in heaven. We do this by supporting missions and the work of the gospel, so that we, similarly, will be welcomed by those affected into eternal dwellings. However, Christ amplifies this by saying, “‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?’”

What does Christ mean by this, especially the last question, “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (v. 11). He seems to mean this: If we are unfaithful with our money, then God cannot give us more blessings. He cannot give us true riches. However, if we are faithful with our money, he can give us true riches.

What are true riches? This, no doubt, refers to many divine blessings, but none more important than himself. If we are faithful with our money, he will give us more of himself. Those who are very intimate with God are very generous with their money. Instead of being a reservoir, they are a channel. God gives to them, and they give it right back to God by using it for ministry. And because of this, God continually gives them more.

We see this promise throughout Scripture. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul says this about the cheerful giver: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” God promises that through his grace the cheerful giver will never lack (having all that you need), and also that he will abound in every good work. The greatest work is knowing God. Generosity leads to a deeper relationship with our generous God.

Sadly, one of the common hindrances to growing in generosity is a misunderstanding of the tithe. In the New Testament, we are not under the tithe (cf. Rom 6:15). However, because many people think we are, their thought process is, “As long as I have given my ten percent, I am alright with God.” Giving a tithe is great, but really that is just a starting point for our giving. Second Corinthians 8:7 says, “But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.”

We are called to excel in giving in the same way that we seek to excel in faith, speech, knowledge, earnestness, and love. We should constantly be praying about and setting goals to give more. And those who practice such giving will find great intimacy with God—all grace will abound towards them as God gives them true riches.

Are you excelling in giving? It is clear that Abraham was. He asked if they wanted a morsel of bread and then gave them a feast. No doubt, as God watched Abraham, he said, “Look at my son! Look at my son! He is just like me!” John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…” Abraham was generous just like God is, and this brought great intimacy with God.

Application Question: What is your view on the necessity of the tithe in the New Covenant? How can we grow in the practice of grace giving? How have you experienced more of God because of your giving?

Friends of God Inspire Faith in Others

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:9–15)

In the next part of the narrative, the visitors ask about Abraham’s wife; the LORD, then, tells Abraham that she will have a child around the same time next year. Sarah is at the entrance of the tent behind Abraham and she hears this conversation. She laughs in her heart and thinks, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (v. 12). The Hebrew term for “worn out” was used of shabby clothes.3 She essentially says, “My body is like shabby clothes that have been destroyed by the wilderness. How can I have a child?” The LORD responds to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?... Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Sarah denied laughing and God rebuked her, “Yes, you did laugh.” The implication from Sarah’s unbelief is that Abraham, at this point, has failed to convince her of God’s promise.4 In Genesis 17, God promises Abraham that the seed would come through Sarah; however, Sarah did not yet believe. Clearly, Abraham’s original sharing of the promise with Sarah, Abraham’s current conversation with the Lord, and the Lord’s rebuke was all part of helping her grow in faith. From what we know, God had never appeared to Sarah before, but because she was in relationship with Abraham, God’s friend, her faith was challenged.

This is important to notice because Scripture says part of the reason God gave Abraham and Sarah a child in their old age is because of Sarah’s faith. Hebrews 11:11 says, “And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise” (NIV 2011). Sarah is placed in the “Heroes of Faith” chapter. It was because she considered God faithful that God enabled her to bear a child.

Yes, God promised to give her a child, but she also needed to believe the promise to receive it. And it was Abraham’s relationship with God that helped her believe.

This is certainly important for husbands as spiritual leaders of their homes; they are called to wash their wives with the Word, so they can become pure and blameless brides (Eph 5:25–27). With that said, this is necessary for Christians in general. Our relationship with the Lord should inspire and challenge others. Sometimes, we might not even be able to use words, for whatever reason, but hopefully our relationship and walk with God will provoke others to faith (cf. 1 Pet 3:1–6).

Matthew 5:16 says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Proverbs 13:20 says, “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Our lifestyle and friendship with God should always inspire faith in others.

Application Question: How can we more affectively inspire faith in others?

1. We inspire faith in others by living godly lives before them.

Just the fact that Abraham faithfully worshiped and served God opened the door for God to challenge his wife. This is true for us as well. First Peter 2:12 says, “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” By living godly lives before others, it will draw them to Christ and possibly even salvation.

Are you living a godly life before others?

2. We inspire faith in others by sharing God’s Word with them.

Romans 10:17 says, “So then faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” (KJV). The Word of God is the root of faith and, therefore, if we are going to inspire faith in others, we must use the Word of God. We must preach, teach, and live it.

3. We inspire faith in others by challenging them when they are in sin.

Sarah didn’t believe, and, therefore, God rebuked her. What is the big deal? She hadn’t even verbalized it; however, her heart was very important. Her belief in the promise would affect the coming of the Seed and, therefore, generations after her. It was through faith that she gave birth to Isaac (cf. Heb 11:11).

Yes, sometimes sin doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but when somebody is living in sin, it affects everybody around them, even when unaware of it. Paul said, “a little leaven, leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:6). Sin spreads—even affecting future generations. If God did not challenge Abraham’s wife, maybe she would have never believed and, therefore, never received the promise.

Abraham’s relationship with God inspired Sarah’s faith, and ultimately affected eternity. And it’s the same for us. When we inspire faith in others, it will affect not only them, but people around them, and even people in the future. Friends of God inspire the faith of others.

Application Question: Whose faith had the greatest impact on your Christian life? Who do you feel God is calling you to inspire in their spiritual life?

Friends of God Are Growing in the Knowledge of God’s Will

When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.” The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD. (Genesis 18:16–22)

As the three men were about to leave for Sodom, the LORD said to himself, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him”. God decided to share with Abraham his plan to confirm how wicked Sodom really was and then destroy it. God had heard the “outcry” caused by their great sins. Kent Hughes said this about the word “outcry”:

The Hebrew word for “outcry” is used in Scripture to describe the cries of the oppressed and brutalized. It is used for the cry of the oppressed widow or orphan (cf. Exod 22:22, 23), the cry of the oppressed servant (cf. Deut 24:15), and the cries of the Israelites in Egypt (cf. Exod 2:23; 3:7, 9).5

Not only was Sodom practicing homosexuality but its people also neglected and oppressed the poor and the needy. Ezekiel says, “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (16:49). We certainly see this in how they treated the two visiting angels in Genesis 19. No doubt, the poor and needy were commonly oppressed in these cities.

Because of this, God sent two angels to confirm their sins before judgment. He shares this with Abraham because he had “chosen him,” also translated “known him.”

One of the characteristics of those who are really intimate with God is that he shares his secrets with them. Consider these verses,

Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets. (Amos 3:7)

The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. (Psalm 25:14)

The Lord makes his will known to his servants.

Interpretation Question: In what ways does God make his will known to his servants—his friends?

This knowledge may come in charismatic ways like strong impressions, dreams, or even a small still voice, but his primary way of revealing himself is through the Word of God and prayer.

Those who are friends of God constantly receive revelation from the Lord through his Word. Isaiah 66:2 says, “‘This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” God esteems and favors those who reverence his Word. Job declared that he treasured God’s Word more than his daily bread (Job 23:12). David was a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote the longest chapter in the Bible about the Word of God in Psalm 119. In it he heaps praises on the Word of God. “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day long” (119:97). He was God’s friend.

Those who are God’s friends meditate on his Word and receive revelation from it. It is while in the Word that they receive a strong sense of God’s displeasure for a sinful act, a person, or a nation. It is while in the Word that they sense God’s great love, concern, and compassion.

But not only does God reveal his will in response to time in the Word, he also reveals it in response to prayer. Consider Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Paul continually prayed for the Colossians to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. We must do the same. We must intercede to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and for God to reveal it to others. In response to prayer, God makes himself and his will known.

A great example of this is Paul’s call to missions. Consider Acts 13:1–3,

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

After prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit revealed God’s plans to send Barnabas and Saul on missionary journeys. In response to prayer, God revealed his will.

Are you willing to pray to know God’s will? Are you willing to abide in his Word to know it?

God reveals his covenant to his friends. He ministers to them in a special way. Many do not know God’s will because they don’t spend time in God’s Word and prayer.

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced God’s direction or concern for a person, a situation, or even a country while being intimate with God? In what other ways has God revealed his heart to you?

Friends of God Are Intercessors

Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:23–25)

After the Lord shared this revelation, Abraham approached God (v. 23). The Hebrew word “approached” means “to come to court to argue a case.”6 Abraham was burdened for the lost in Sodom and Gomorrah and also for Lot and his family. He said to God, “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? What if the number is five less than fifty? What if only thirty can be found there?” Abraham’s last petition was, “What if only ten can be found there?” Each time God said that if that specific number of righteous people were in Sodom he would save it.

We can learn many things from this. We learn something of what it means to be the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13). It is because of the few righteous in the land that God does not destroy nations, cities, and communities. Though these people are often hated and persecuted, it is their presence and righteous life that keeps back God’s wrath. When believers compromise with the world by their lifestyles, they usher in God’s destruction. They fail to serve their purpose.

But, the primary thing we can learn from this passage is how God’s friends are intercessors. I believe this is the very reason God shared this with Abraham. Ezekiel 22:30 says, “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.” God looks for people who will intercede and pray so that he will not destroy the land. The problem is that so few share his heart and his burdens, therefore nations, cities, families, and individuals are destroyed because so few intercede.

God shares his burdens with his friends, and they intercede. Christ said, “Blessed are the mourners for they shall be comforted” (Matt 5:4). The mourners bear the pain from their own sin but also the pain from the sins of their friends, churches, cities, and nations. In their mourning, they cry out for God’s mercy.

We see a similar story to Abraham’s with the prophet Amos. God revealed to Amos several judgments coming against Israel, and for each, Amos prays for God’s mercy and God removes the judgment. Consider the story below:

This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: He was preparing swarms of locusts after the king's share had been harvested and just as the second crop was coming up. When they had stripped the land clean, I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, forgive! How can Jacob survive? He is so small! So the LORD relented. “This will not happen,” the LORD said. This is what the Sovereign LORD showed me: The Sovereign LORD was calling for judgment by fire; it dried up the great deep and devoured the land. Then I cried out, “Sovereign LORD, I beg you, stop! How can Jacob survive? He is so small!” So the LORD relented. “This will not happen either,” the Sovereign LORD said. (Amos 7:1–6)

Are you a friend of God? God’s friends care about his concerns. They bear his burdens and intercede for them. Moses interceded for Israel (Exod 32:9–14). Samuel promised Israel that he would not sin against the Lord by ceasing to intercede for them (1 Sam 12:23). Friends of God intercede.

In fact, Scripture commands us to intercede for everyone because God desires that none should perish. First Timothy 2:1–4 says:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Paul also commands us to intercede for all saints in the context of spiritual warfare. Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

In fact, when interceding, we participate in the ministry of Christ. One of his current ministries as High Priest is praying for saints. Hebrews 7:25 says, “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” He constantly intercedes for his people, and we should as well. Friends carry the burdens of one another.

Are you willing to carry God’s burden for individuals, families, churches, and nations? God is looking for those who will intercede. He desires that none should perish but that all would come to repentance.

Will you intercede? Sometimes, it’s the only thing we can do, and at the same time, the only thing needed.

Application Question: In what ways has God been challenging you to grow in intercession? What burdens has God put on your heart?

Conclusion

How can we grow in intimacy and friendship with God, as seen in God’s relationship with Abraham?

  1. Friends of God Continually Worship Him
  2. Friends of God Prioritize Time with Him
  3. Friends of God Are Zealous in Serving Him
  4. Friends of God Are Generous in Offerings to Him
  5. Friends of God Inspire Faith in Others
  6. Friends of God Are Growing in the Knowledge of God’s Will
  7. Friends of God Are Intercessors

Copyright © 2017 Gregory Brown

The primary Scriptures used are New International Version (1984) unless otherwise noted. Other versions include English Standard Version, New Living Translation, New American Standard Bible, and King James Version.

Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NASB) are taken from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, and 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are from the King James Version of the Bible.

All emphases in Scripture quotations have been added.


1 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 254). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

2 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 1507–1508). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

3 Swindoll, Charles R. (2014-07-16). Abraham: One Nomad's Amazing Journey of Faith (Kindle Locations 1531–1533). Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

4 Kidner, D. (1967). Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (Vol. 1, p. 143). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

5 Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: Beginning and Blessing (p. 263). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

6 Wiersbe, W. W. (1991). Be Obedient (p. 77). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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