And the men turned their faces from there, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.…
I. THE FRIEND OF GOD CATCHES A GLEAM OF DIVINE PITY AND TENDERNESS. Communion with the very Source of all gentle love has softened his heart, and he yearns over the wicked and fated city. Where else than from his heavenly Friend could he have learned this sympathy? The friend of God must be the friend of men; and if they be wicked, and he sees the frightful doom which they do not see, these make his pity the deeper. Abraham does not contest the justice of the doom. He lives too near his friend not to know that sin must mean death. The effect of friendship with God is not to make men wish that there were no judgments for evil-doers, but to touch their hearts with pity, and to stir them to intercession and to effort for their deliverance.
II. THE FRIEND OF GOD HAS ABSOLUTE TRUST IN THE RECTITUDE OF HIS ACTS. Abraham's remonstrance, if we may call it so, embodies some thoughts about the government of God in the world which should be pondered. His first abrupt question, flung out without any reverential preface, assumes that the character of God requires that the fate of the righteous should be distinguished from that of the wicked. Another assumption in his prayer is that the righteous are sources of blessing and shields for the wicked. Has he there laid hold of a true principle? Certainly; it is indeed the law that "every man shall bear his own burden," but that law is modified by the operation of this other, of which God's providence is full. Many a drop of blessing trickles from the wet fleece to the dry ground. Many a stroke of judgment is carried off harmlessly by the lightning conductor. The truest "saviours of society" are the servants of God. A third principle is embodied in the solemn question, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? He is Judge of all the earth, and therefore bound by His very nature, as by His relations to men, to do nothing that cannot be pointed to as inflexibly right. But true as the principle is, it needs to be guarded. Abraham himself is an instance that men's conceptions of right do not completely correspond to the reality. His notion of "right" was, in some particulars, as his life shows, imperfect, rudimentary, and far beneath New Testament ideas. Conscience needs education. The best men's conceptions of what befits Divine justice are relative, progressive; and a shifting standard is no standard. It becomes us to be very cautious before we say to God, "This is the way: walk Thou in it"; or dismiss any doctrine as untrue on the ground of its contradicting our instincts of justice.
III. THE FRIEND OF GOD HAS POWER WITH GOD. "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" The Divine Friend recognizes the obligation of confidence. True friendship is frank, and cannot bear to hide its purposes. On the human side, we are here taught the great truth that God's friends are intercessors, whose voice has a mysterious but most real power with God. If it be true that, in general terms, the righteous are shields and sources of blessing to the unholy, it is still more distinctly true that they have access to God's secret place with petitions for others as well as for themselves. The desires which go up to God, like the vapours exhaled to heaven, fall in refreshing rain on spots far away from that whence they rose. In these days we need to keep fast hold of our belief in the efficacy of prayer for others and for ourselves. God knows Himself and the laws of His government a great deal better than anybody else does; and He has abundantly shown us in His Word, and by many experiences, that breath spent in intercession is not wasted. In these old times, when worship was mainly sacrificial, this wonderful instance of pure intercession meets us, an anticipation of later times. And from thence onwards there has never failed proof to those who will look for it, that God's friends are true priests, and help their brethren by their prayers. Our voices should "rise like a fountain night and day" for men. But there is a secret distrust of the power and a flagrantly plain neglect of the duty of intercession nowadays, which needs sorely the lesson that God "remembered Abraham" and delivered Lot. Luther, in his rough, strong way, says: "If I have a Christian who prays to God for me, I will be of good courage, and be afraid of nothing. If I have one who prays against me, I had rather have the Grand Turk for my enemy."
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And the men turned their faces from thence, and went toward Sodom: but Abraham stood yet before the LORD.