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The Righteous and the Wicked July 28, 2013

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Genesis 18:20-33

 Proper 12

July 27-28, 2013

Focus: God is concerned about His creation.

Function: That the hearers live more fully as the disciples of the Lord.

Structure: Controlling metaphor.

 

JJ

The Righteous and the Wicked

“Far be it from You to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked,” (Gen. 18:25a)

            I don’t know about you, but I’m struggling. As each day passes, it gets harder and harder, I feel further and further removed.  And I’m not alone.  The NHL Lockout draws on.  It’s the third work stoppage in the last twenty years.  It doesn’t matter to us fans which side is right.  We just want hockey…I mean, the Blues were supposed to be good this year!

But as each day passes, more and more fans are disappearing.  They’ve stopped caring.  We’ve already been through this…last year it was the NFL and the NBA.  This year, it was the replacement refs.  These things are becoming too normal…will we ever see hockey again?  Will there be a sport left at all?  It’s beginning to feel like a lost cause.  We need a negotiator, now!!!

Alright, so what’s hockey got to do with Abraham?  You see, the situation was a lost cause.  Sodom and Gomorrah…who cares?  The people who lived there were nothing short of wicked and wretched.  Their sins were too numerous to count.  You can probably recall what the men tried to do to the angels who stayed with Lot that night.  Wicked people.

The oddest part is they didn’t even know it.  They had no clue what Yahweh was about to do to them.  They were blind to their sins, apathetic to their need for a savior.  Why would you need a savior if everything seemed status quo?  They had no idea what Yahweh was about to rain down on them.

The people of Sodom and Gomorrah needed a negotiator more than they could ever know.  And one came.  Abraham stood on their behalf.  He stood up to God, trying to save those cities despite their wickedness.  “Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will You indeed sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous who are in it?  Far be it from You to do such a thing!”

And he pleads God down all the way to just ten righteous people to save both those treacherous cities.  He doesn’t ask Yahweh to spare only the righteous.  He doesn’t ask God to remove the righteous from the judgment.    He tries to work out a deal for everyone.

That’s what negotiators do.  Generally speaking, they are neutral parties who try to find a middle ground.  They try to intercede and come up with a solution that works for everyone involved.

Genesis has other examples of negotiators, of people who are willing to intercede.  When Joseph’s brothers were seeking to kill him, how did he survive?  Was it his own doing?  No, but rather his brother Reuben stepped in on his behalf.  Granted, Reuben had some selfish motivations.  And what about when the brothers visit Joseph in Egypt to acquire food to survive the famine?  Judah finds himself negotiating between Joseph and his father Jacob.

Think back to the last time you went on a vacation.  We all need those times away to recuperate, rest, and reenergize.  Vacations are supposed to be fun!  But the planning isn’t always enjoyable.  I have searched around for plane tickets, hotel rooms, you name it.  When you start adding up all the costs of that relaxing trip, the dollar figures can easily become astronomical!  It begins to feel like a lost cause.

And then, in steps William Shatner???  The “Negotiator?”  In he steps to save you money.  He negotiates the rates for you, lowering the price you pay and helping hotels and airlines fill rooms and seats that may have been empty otherwise.  The deal is a win for both sides.

Unfortunately, Abraham didn’t save anyone money.  He didn’t save anyone.  His attempts to negotiate failed to save Sodom and Gomorrah.  Yahweh came to the table, He had the discussion, but in the end, there was nothing there to be saved.  Just that small little remnant.  Just Lot, his wife, and two daughters.  Abraham had negotiated God all the way down to ten righteous people needed to save both of the cities.  But only four survive.  Only a select few were seen as righteous.  Sodom and Gomorrah were a lost cause.

God’s judgment of the wicked often escapes our minds.  We don’t bother thinking about it.  For many of us, we have become comfortable in the lives we are living.  We have found normal and we like it.

Life has its rough sides.  Busyness seems inevitable.  We develop routines and strategies to live our lives.  We schedule ourselves so tight there’s hardly room to breathe.  Slowly, but surely, we become blind and apathetic.  We lose sight of who God calls us to be.  Like Sodom and Gomorrah, the idea of being God’s people, living a life pleasing to Him, isn’t even on the radar six days a week.

Whether it’s Yahweh’s covenant with Abraham that we’d be His people or the covenant with Moses, complete with the Ten Commandments, we come up short.  We’re a lost cause.  We enjoy the sexual promiscuity and greed of our culture.  We are quick to gossip, lie and cheat.  And we’re even quicker to put things like work, food, and entertainment in front of God.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  We are wicked.

There are certainly times when you and I are wicked, when we fall short.  There are days when we give in to temptation and get trapped in our sins.  There are moments where we get so caught up in it all, that we stop caring.  We become apathetic, blinded to the law and the things God uses to protect us.  Like Sodom and Gomorrah, we fail to even realize that we need a negotiator!

But, just as Abraham negotiated on behalf of a people who didn’t even know what was coming, we also have a negotiator.  Paul tells as much in his first letter to Timothy: “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”  Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, stepped in on our behalf.

Jesus, the Righteous One, went to the cross.  There was no wickedness in Him.  And certainly no apathy.  He cared for us so much that He went to the table.  In His bleeding, suffering, and dying on the cross, He struck a deal between God and us.  He died for you, so that you would be restored, that you would be made righteous before the eyes of God.  So that you would live.

And even more, through His resurrection, our negotiator lives!  The author of the letter to the Hebrews proclaims: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant.”  His work as our negotiator is ongoing.  Right up through the Last Day, that point of final judgment, Jesus Christ will be acting on our behalf, continuing to restore and redeem the relationship we have with Yahweh.

Our negotiator gave up everything for us.  But in doing so, He also left us with a short list of things to do.  First, love the Lord your God.  In other words, stay in the relationship that Jesus just restored.  And second, love your neighbor as yourself.  We are asked to share God’s love, to share this spectacular deal with everyone around us.  Because, like Abraham, Jesus didn’t just negotiate for the righteous, but for everyone.  A deal has been struck.  You are saved.  Now share the good news!

SDG

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