June 7, 2023

Take it Personally

If I were to ask you what Abraham is known for in the Bible, I think I could guess the top three answers. He is the Father of Faith - honored for his obedience and righteousness, he is the man who led his son to the altar to be offered as a sacrifice to prove his faith in God, and he is “Father Abraham who had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham…“. And, I would agree with you. Abraham is all those things, but recently as I read through Genesis again, I noticed something that never caught my attention. Abraham was an intercessor! His conversation with God concerning the judgment of Sodom is the first recorded example of intercessory prayer.

Author
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Courtney Haggard

Connections & Community Pastor

Before we dig further into that, let’s get some context. In Genesis 13, Abram (before his name change) and his nephew Lot find themselves in the hill country between Bethel and Ai, where competition for pasture land quickly leads to issues among the herdsmen of each man. Looking to preserve the relationship, Abram graciously offers the younger man the choice of which way he wants to go. Lot looks around and sees that land near the Jordan Valley is “well watered,” so he chooses to go there, leaving Abram the less desirable-looking land.
And as the saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In Chapter 14, Lot soon finds himself held captive during an invasion into the Jordan Valley. After hearing of the abduction of his nephew, Abram mobilizes his small force to rescue Lot. You would think that after all that trouble, Lot might go to live somewhere else, but a few chapters later, we see, Lot has stayed put and is again in danger.

In Chapter 18, we find Abraham (formerly Abram) in a divine encounter where he is given specific details about the birth of his promised son Isaac. This moment demonstrates the intimacy between Abraham and the Lord. After an interesting encounter where his wife, Sarah, is called out for lying about her laughter and disbelief, the Lord considers hiding His plans for Sodom from Abraham but decides against it. God chooses to disclose to Abraham his plans to destroy Sodom.

Abraham’s response is to ask for mercy on behalf of the righteous:

Then Abraham drew near [to the Lord] and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Genesis 18:22-26 (ESV)

After seeing that his pleading worked, Abraham continues to petition God on behalf of the righteous; God, what about 45, 40, 30, 20, what about 10? Each time God meets Abraham’s increasing demands with the same response, I will spare the city if I find that many.

Why does Abraham care so much? Shouldn’t he want the sin and wickedness to stop if he is a righteous man? Wouldn’t he indeed seek justice to be served? I believe the reason he was so bold with the Lord concerning Sodom was not that he really liked Sodom and didn’t want to see it destroyed; instead, he cared because his nephew Lot whom he loved and preferred, lived there. To Abraham, the destruction of Sodom was personal because he had something to lose there.

Lot is the nephew who originally went with Abram when the Lord first called him; Lot is the man he let choose land first, he is the man he rescued once before, and Lot is why Abraham is willing to go toe-to-toe with the Lord concerning Sodom.

To Abraham, Sodom was a territory he felt a personal connection to. As I read that, I felt the conviction of the Lord. What areas of my life am I not taking personally enough? What parts of my territory should I be stepping into the gap and interceding on behalf of? Who’s life, salvation, or safety is of personal concern to me, but I am not standing up and saying, “Lord, would you?” Who’s story is waiting on the other side of my boldness?

Never mind that in Chapter 19, we see Lot lingering and needing to be dragged out of Sodom, the very city he was being rescued from…again.
What Lot did with his opportunities was never the point of Abraham’s love and intercession. Regardless of the outcome, he was willing to stand up for and take personally what mattered to him.

So excuses aside, whether you believe it will make a difference or not, regardless of the personal choices someone might make, I want to ask you: What territory are you not taking personally enough, and are you willing to be bold in your petition to the Lord as you step into intercessory prayer on behalf of someone else?

Reflection:

  1. Who have I avoided praying for because I assume they will not choose wisely?
  2. Who in my life (in my territory) could I be praying for more boldly?

Practice G.A.P.S. today. Gratitude (Thankfulness), Adoration (Worship), Petition (Intersession), and Silence (Contemplative Prayer).

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