This is a continuation of last week’s story. Three travelers appeared at Abraham’s camp. As was the custom of the day, he fed them, and provided shelter from the desert heat. But these were no ordinary travelers; they were from God.
- They tell Abraham that they are on a reconnaissance mission; they’ve heard how bad things were in the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. If they are as bad as they had heard, they were to destroy those cities. The text literally says that “the Lord” said these words. In fact, the Lord stays behind, while the other two continue on the mission. More on that in the takeaway. (vv. 20-22)
- Abraham and the Lord engage in an interesting discussion. Abraham asks the Lord if He really would destroy entire cities, the good along with the bad. (v. 23)
- Abraham gets bolder, and asks if the Lord would do this if there were fifty good people living there. He is even so bold as to say “Far be it from you to do such a thing…” That takes nerve! The Lord says if 50, then no. (vv. 24-26)
- In the following verses, Abraham bargains the Lord down to ten! (vv. 27-32)
- If you read further, you will discover that they did not even find ten righteous people living there. Only Lot’s family was spared.
The astonishing thing to me is that the Lord is one of the three who met Abraham near the oaks of Mamre. Not only that, but they had a candid conversation! Tradition has it that if you see God’s face, you would be struck dead. So, how did this discussion take place? This makes me wanting for details, and finding very few. So, rather than focus on the “how”, let’s focus on the discussion.
Abraham essentially gets God to change his mind. Abraham appeals to His sense of decency and fairness. Now, keep in mind that Abraham’s brother Lot lives in Sodom, so Abraham knows that there is at least one good family there. But the point is that Abraham changes God’s mind.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
There was a rock band in the 60’s named the Moody Blues. In one of their recordings, the lead singer shouts out “YOU CANNOT PETETION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!” According to this story above, is appears that we can.
Paul wrote this letter to a church that a fellow disciple established. In his letter, Paul has been talking about Jesus being present at the creation of the world. He has reminded them that they are reconciled with God through Jesus’ death on the cross. He encouraged them to remain steadfast in their faith. Now, he focuses in on giving them some sound advice about their faith-walk.
- He encourages them to strengthen their faith by being “rooted” and “built up” in Jesus. A tree receives its nutrients from the soil through its roots. Likewise, being rooted in Jesus means that all our “nutrients” and strength should come from Jesus. This strength will cause us to be built up in faith—we grow. (vv. 6-7)
- He cautions them against being persuaded by other influences, such as philosophy, deceit, or believing in “elemental spirits” rather than being rooted in Jesus. That last one has puzzled scholars for centuries. Here’s one possible explanation. Back then, it was thought that everything was made from four elements—earth, wind, fire, and water. Some even revered these elements to the point of worship. This could be what Paul was referring to, but maybe not. The point is that we should be rooted in Jesus, and not influenced by other distractions. Since Jesus is the head of everything, we should focus on him, and nothing else. (vv. 8-10)
- Paul reminds them of the full meaning of their baptism. He even calls it a spiritual circumcision. Through baptism, they (and we) have died with Jesus on the cross, are buried and are raised with him. We are his and he is ours. (vv. 11-12)
- The next paragraph reminds us of what life would be like without Jesus—we would be dead because of our trespasses. But because of Jesus, we are alive together. Our sins are nailed on Jesus’ cross, and we are forgiven! (vv. 13-15)
Even today, we can be lured away from being rooted in Jesus. It is easy to pin our hopes on the stock market, our savings, or on a political leader. This passage encourages us to forget about all that other stuff, and pin our hopes on Jesus.
Today’s gospel lesson follows last week’s lesson. Last week, Jesus had dinner at Mary’s house, while her sister Martha listened to Jesus rather than serve the men. They are on the road again, and Jesus has stopped to pray.
- After Jesus finishes praying, a disciple asks him to teach them how to pray. So he taught them the prayer we call The Lord’s Prayer. You may notice that “for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory” is absent. Jesus did not teach them this. This doxology was added soon after, in the early years of the church. Some churches omit this, because Jesus did not teach it. Others include it, because it is a fitting praise ending to the prayer. (vv. 1-4)
- He then teaches them about prayer through two parables. The first is about a man asking his friend for bread in the middle of the night. At first, it doesn’t look like he’s going to get any bread. But because of his persistence, he does. This is completely in line with this week’s passage about Abraham. Persistence will change God’s mind. (vv. 5-8)
- Jesus encourages us to ask, search, and knock; if we do, we will receive an answer. (vv. 9-10)
- Finally, Jesus likens our prayers to a child asking their father for something. A good, loving father gives his child food when the child asks. It is the same with our father in heaven. (vv. 11-13)
Remember that in the opening line of the prayer in verse 2 we call God our father. This is something that we are very used to. Paul says that some even called God “Daddy” when they prayed! But to the faithful of Jesus’ day, this was a radical idea. God was an almighty being, far off. To call him father or daddy was a new concept. It signaled a change in our relationship with God to a more intimate, loving one. It is not only right to call Him Father, but to expect that He will lovingly answer our prayers as well.