Genesis 18:27, “Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.”
Genesis 18-19 recount the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Now the climax of this story is quite familiar to many of us, namely, God’s raining fire from heaven to destroy the wicked cities. But what is less familiar, I would venture to guess, is the remarkable scene that takes place before the destruction of the cities. In 18:1-5, the Lord and two angels appear to Abraham as he is sitting by the door of his tent by the oaks of Mamre (v. 1). Abraham shows the visitors hospitality (vv. 1-8), and the Lord reaffirms that Abraham and Sarah will have a son (vv. 10, 14). The Lord then reveals to Abraham his intention to destroy the wicked cities (vv. 16-21); and what follows the Lord’s revelation to Abraham is both stunning and instructive! Abraham prays for the city. More specifically, Abraham intercedes for the city.
As a friend of God (James 2:23), Abraham ‘draws near to God’ to plead for and to intercede on behalf of the city (vv. 22-33). And notice that God did not ask Abraham to pray, but rather Abraham’s prayer was the spontaneous cry of a heart burdened for others and in close communion with his Lord. There are several things we should note regarding Abraham’s prayer: first, Abraham’s perseverance. Six times Abraham intercedes for the city! The point to take is that Abraham’s petition was not a one-time, trite request; but rather Abraham persevered before the Lord! Second, we should note Abraham’s humility. Yes, he is bold and persevered, but Abraham also knows he is but a sinner in the presence of a holy God. He is ‘but dust and ashes.’ This is the response we find throughout the Bible of sinners when confronted with the presence of holiness (cf. Is 6:1-5; Luke 5:1-11). Finally, we should note the grounds of Abraham’s pleas. Abraham grounds his intercession in the character of God. Abraham says, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked … Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just.” In other words, Abraham is pleading that God would act according to his holy character!
There are two thoughts that we should take with us from this passage:
First, may Abraham be an example to us in persevering prayer. May we be bold and persevere in our prayers for others. May we be like the persistent widow in Jesus’ parable who was heard because of her ‘continual coming’ (Luke 18:5).
Second, may we see Abraham as a pointer to our great intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ always lives to make intercession for his people (Heb 7:25; Luke 22:31-32). Christ prays for his children; he intercedes for his people (John 17:20-26). And his prayer his always heard!!
– Rev. Robert Arendale