Abraham: A Model for Intercession

(Based on Genesis 18: 16-33)

When we think of intercessory prayer, we usually think of praying for loved ones in need, or for friends who may need a fresh touch from Christ, or who may even need to come to salvation through Him. We don’t usually think of praying for God to not overthrow a city or country. But this is what Abraham found himself doing when he was met by a human manifestation of God, (who many scholars believe was actually Jesus in a pre-incarnate appearance.) They came to his place where his tents were pitched, to speak to him and Sarah his wife about the son they would be holding in a year, a son born to them miraculously in their old age.

Then, in Verse 16, the men rise up and look down toward the plain to the east, where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were. Abraham recognized that God had decreed disaster upon those cities, and he was naturally concerned about his nephew Lot, who had settled in Sodom with his family. In Verses 17-18, we read that the Lord speaks to the two angels with Him in Abraham’s presence, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do…?” Abraham developed a strong, close bond with God over the years, and trusted Him deeply. But Abraham’s trust in God was about to be tested, even as the Lord says in Verse 20, “The outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah is indeed great, and their sin is exceedingly grave. (Verse 21) I will go down now, and see if they have done entirely according to its outcry, which has come to me: and if not, I will know.” Abraham listens to this, and understands the doom and destruction that is impending for Sodom and Gomorrah. He thinks of Lot, but he thinks of more than him.

Abraham proceeds to approach the three visitors and address the One he recognizes as divine. He asks this difficult question in Verse 23, “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” This is a question placed by Abraham not out of disrespect or presumption, but out of his deep faith and love for God, and the close friendship he formed with God. Abraham continues in Verse 24, “Suppose there are fifty righteous in the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the righteous who are in it? (Verse 25) Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous and the wicked are treated alike. Far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” This twenty-fifth verse is really key to this passage, because in it Abraham lays out his case for God’s mercy and compassion to be shown to some extremely evil people in several cities. Abraham appeals to God’s justice and goodness in not annihilating His own creations in the person of his fellow human beings just because of their sin. In essence, Abraham is saying, “God, You’re too good for that! You’re too fair and just to wipe out the righteous with the wicked.” He then proceeds to reduce the number of potentially righteous people in Sodom in his appeal for mercy down to just ten, all in an effort to get God to spare the city of Sodom from destruction. Abraham, throughout his appeal, acknowledges he is addressing the Almighty God of the universe, but still pours out his heart to Him as one friend to another.

A key question comes in here concerning the matter of intercession: Is it right to ask God to go against His holy nature and character by not punishing people for sin when a situation calls for it? That’s really not what Abraham is doing here. While he is certainly appealing for the sparing of Sodom from destruction for the sake of his nephew Lot and his family, he is also appealing for the deliverance of any and all people in Sodom. Abraham does this because he can’t imagine God being cruel and heartless in killing off righteous people who follow Him in faith with those who are evil. Abraham is not telling God , “Lay aside Your holy character and not punish those who refuse to stop doing evil.” He is saying, “Just don’t destroy Your faithful ones along with those who are wicked.”

This gives us some important lessons when it comes to intercession. We’re living in a day when we have people from the LGBTQ rights movement who want to push homosexuality and other immoral practices to the extent that even perceived thinking in an adverse way toward them would be labeled a “hate crime.” This appears to be the low to which Sodom and Gomorrah sank in the days of Abraham and Lot, as we read on in Genesis 19. But for Abraham, interceding for the lives of very evil people as well as his nephew, serves as a reminder to us Bible-believing Christians here in America today that we need to pray for the salvation of people involved in this whole LGBTQ rights movement and their political backers. We need to pray that God will reveal His truth and love to them, turning their hearts and minds away from this Satanic delusion concerning human sexuality.

This does not mean that we should accuse God of being unfair, unloving, and unjust, should He choose to bring His wrath and judgement against this movement. God’s holy nature and character will never allow Him to wink at sin. But even if God brings destruction on this movement and its supporters, we must still recognize that God is always good and does what it right. So, the point of all this is: remembering our own need for God’s grace and mercy to save us from sin and eternal destruction should drive us to pray for the salvation of even the most evil people we may know or know about. It is not for us to determine where other people should end up for eternity, but only up to God in His holy wisdom. When God brings disaster and destruction on evil people, we must remember it is because they were unrepentant in their attitude, determined to do nothing but evil, and God reached a point where He would tolerate their wickedness no longer. But if they do repent, then we need to be joyful and thankful about it, giving God praise and glory for their salvation, and embrace them as new brothers and sisters in Christ, even if they have hurt us. Which way will it be for you?

(Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible, 1995 edition.)