It it time to once again dive deeper into last weeks sermon. Mark started out last week talking about how we were going to be looking at a difficult passage. We were reminded that no matter how difficult the passage: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I just wanted to start this off by reminding us all just how precious the Bible is. John Piper says: “The very God of the universe speaks on every page into my mind―and your mind. We hear his very words. God himself has multiplied his wondrous deeds and thoughts towards us; none can compare with him!…O, how precious is the Bible. It is the very word of God. In it God speaks in the twenty-first century. This is the very voice of God. By this voice, he speaks with absolute truth and personal force. By this voice, he reveals his all-surpassing beauty. By this voice, he reveals the deepest secrets of our hearts. No voice anywhere anytime can reach as deep or lift as high or carry as far as the voice of God that we hear in the Bible.”
You may have been like me and grown up in a Christian home, where a Bible was always close at hand. To my shame I neglected the Bible until my conversion in my early 20’s. Someone who had a profound impact on me in the early days after my conversion was Jonathan Edwards. What I saw in Edwards was a man who had a thorough knowledge of the Bible. The picture I included at the top of this post is Jonathan Edwards Bible. Edwards said: “What a precious treasure God has committed into our hands in that he has given us the Bible. How little do most persons consider, how much they enjoy, in that they have the possession of that holy book, the Bible, which they have in their hands, and may converse with as they please. What an excellent book is this, and how far exceeding all human writings!” I hope that all of us will treasure this wonderful book, the Bible!
I want to talk about two people briefly before I dive into Genesis 18, and their love for the Bible. The first person is George Mueller who I have mentioned multiple times on this blog. Mueller loved the Bible. I hope his words will encourage us all to treasure the Bible more, whether we have been Christians for 50 years or just 6 months. Mueller, when he was 71 years old gave a talk to younger Christians and talked to them about the Bible. He said: “Now in brotherly love and affection I would give a few hints to my younger fellow-believers as to the way in which to keep up spiritual enjoyment. It is absolutely needful in order that happiness in the Lord may continue, that the Scriptures be regularly read. These are God’s appointed means for the nourishment of the inner man. . . . Consider it, and ponder over it. . . . Especially we should read regularly through the Scriptures, consecutively, and not pick out here and there a chapter…I tell you so affectionately. For the first four years after my conversion I made no progress, because I neglected the Bible. But when I regularly read on through the whole with reference to my own heart and soul, I directly made progress. Then my peace and joy continued more and more. Now I have been doing this for 47 years. I have read through the whole Bible about 100 times and I always find it fresh when I begin again. Thus my peace and joy have increased more and more.”
Mueller lived to be 92, so he continued this same pattern for another 21 years after he gave that talk. I love how after 100 times through the Bible he said “I always find it fresh when I begin again.” The second person I will mention is my Dad. My Dad didn’t grow up in a Christian home and he never really read the Bible. He was converted while he was in the Navy in February 1967. All he had at that time was a little New Testament Bible. He read the entire New Testament cover to cover 7 times in just two weeks after his conversion. He said he just couldn’t get enough of it. He has been a Christian for almost 50 years now and he still can’t get enough of the Bible. He has read the entire Bible at least once every year since 1967. So, this year he is on his 49th trip through the entire Bible. My Dad loves the Bible, and I hope his faithfulness and the faithfulness of George Mueller will inspire us all to treasure and love our Bible’s.
If you are not reading your Bible very often and hearing about George Mueller and my Dad just make you feel discouraged, that was not my intention. However, if you are feeling discouraged I would encourage you just to get a Bible reading plan of some kind. It could be just a chapter a day. Just start with Philippians or another small book and just read a chapter a day. Another thing you could do would be to find a friend and ask them if they would like to read through a small book of the Bible with you for the next week, and then you guys could discuss it as you go.
In Genesis 18 Abraham is visited by Jesus in preincarnate form, along with two angels. Abraham shows great hospitality to them and gives them bread and meat to eat. Which meat was a delicacy at that time. He also stands by them and waits on them as they eat. Matthew Henry commenting on this passage says that:”Abraham and his wife were both of them very attentive and busy, in accommodating their guests with the best they had. Sarah herself is cook and baker; Abraham runs to fetch the calf, brings out the milk and butter, and thinks it not below him to wait at table, that he might show how heartily welcome his guests were.” In this passage we not only see Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality, but we also see the condescension and humility of the Lord Jesus. We have a God who condescends and comes near to us. John Gill commenting on Genesis 18 says: “It is great and wonderful condescension for God to commune with a creature.” Jesus says in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Staggering and amazing condescension from the Lord. We have a God who is not only transcendent, but he also comes near to broken sinners and dies in our place.
As I was thinking about the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah and the condescension of the Lord Jesus in this passage I thought I would try and tie both of these together and apply it to us today. Paul tells us in Romans 12:13 that we should: “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” John Piper says that: “Romans 12 is a description of how we live when we know and feel the truth that we deserve nothing but misery forever, but instead, because of Christ, we have the promise that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to glory that will be revealed to us (Romans 8:18). Romans 12 is the way you live when you have been broken because of your sin—when you have said with the apostle Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)—and then, after being broken, you have discovered that in Christ God is for you and not against you, and that neither tribulation, nor distress, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor danger, nor sword can separate you from the love of Christ and from everlasting joy. Romans 12 is how you live when you know this Christ-bought, broken-hearted joy.”
Then Piper says: “This is the way people live who know and feel that moment by moment the sheer, undeserved, lavish mercy of God sustains them and brings them home to glory. I appeal to you by the mercies of God—by the lavish “contribution” of God to your need, by the inexhaustible “hospitality” of God to bring you into his house not as a guest but as an adopted child—I appeal to you by these mercies of God, “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.” So, we live our lives in light of the gospel and we are compelled to ‘contribute to the needs of the saints’ and we ‘seek to show hospitality.’ We live in light of the ‘inexhaustible “hospitality” of God’ who brings us into his house not as a guest but as an adopted child! Piper then challenges us and says: “giving lavishly and loving guests is near the heart of what it means to walk as a Christian. I appeal to you by the mercies of God, give generously and open your homes to the saints.”
So, let me jump back into Genesis 18. As Abraham talks with his guests he soon realized that one of them is the Lord. Jesus asked Abraham about his wife Sarah and then he tells him: “At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” Then the Lord tells Abraham that he plans on destroying the wicked city of Sodom and Gomorrah. The two angels take off to Sodom and Gomorrah, but the Lord Jesus stays back. Abraham then approaches the Lord and gives us the first example of intercessory prayer in the Bible. As Mark said Sunday, this is a powerful portion of Scripture. The love of Abraham for Sodom and Gomorrah just oozes out of him. Mark challenged us this Sunday by asking if we are praying for the city of Athens like Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. Are we praying for mass conversions in the city of Athens and the cities around Athens? Are we praying for friends, coworkers, and family members who do not know the Lord?
Matthew Henry says: “Come and learn from Abraham what compassion we should feel for sinners, and how earnestly we should pray for them.” This text really convicted me of how far short I am falling in this area. John Piper said: “Is not our most painful failure…the inability to weep over the unbelievers in our neighborhoods…” Why don’t we weep over and pray more often for our unconverted friends, coworkers, family members and neighbors in our lives? One of the reasons why I am not praying as I ought, is because I am not living in light of eternity like I ought to live. John Piper said very powerfully: “that the brief little life that you and I live and that everybody in our churches lives, will issue very quickly into everlasting joy or everlasting pain. This has got to grip us!” Everyone in our churches, everyone at our jobs, everyone we pass on the street, or share the road with on our way to work, every single person in the world is living a brief little life. And our brief little lives are going to issue very quickly into either everlasting joy or everlasting pain. We must feel the weight of that one word, everlasting.
I worked a job in Atlanta soon after my wife and I got married and I worked with a wonderful diverse group of people. There were about 50 of us there. Of that 50, I don’t think there were very many genuine Christians. I didn’t pray for my coworkers like I should have that is for sure, but the times that I felt greater compassion for them and prayed the most for them were the times that I thought about eternity. I remember thinking one day how I could not imagine just one of my coworkers dying and actually going to hell. The reality though was that at least 90% of my coworkers were a heartbeat away from everlasting pain. The few times that I thought about my coworkers actually going to everlasting pain, I would almost break with sadness and compassion for them. It is in those moments that I have felt something of what Paul felt when he said this in Romans 9: “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart…for the sake of my brothers,…”
Let us live our lives in light of the gospel and eternity. Let us realize that we also at one time were just a heartbeat away from everlasting pain. Piper again: “I must believe that just as a rock climber, having slipped, hangs over the deadly cliff by his fingertips, so I once hung over hell and was a heartbeat away from eternal torment. I say it slowly, eternal torment! We must realize that the same wrath of God that fell on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 should have also fallen upon us. The cup of God’s wrath that David describes in Psalm 11 should have been our cup: “Fire and brimstone and burning wind will be the portion of their cup.” This awful cup of fire and brimstone should have been ours to drink, but the Lord Jesus stepped in and took this awful cup and drank it dry. As Jesus drank this cup of God’s wrath it burned ‘itself out in the heart of Jesus.’
Now we get to drink of the cup of God’s love. John Newton said: “Whoever…has tasted of the love of Christ, and has known, by his own experience, the need and the worth of redemption, is enabled, Yea, he is constrained, to love his fellow creatures. He loves them at first sight;…” May we all be more compassionate, hospitable, godly people, who have tasted deeply of the love of Christ.