Genesis 18 – Is Anything Too Hard for God?
“Father, I know nothing is too hard for you, but sometimes I really struggle to believe it. Please use today’s story to encourage my heart to believe you will keep your promises to me too!”
Take a few minutes to read Genesis 18. You will discover it’s two stories in one chapter.
Too Hard to Believe
Chapter 18 begins with Abraham sitting under the tree in front of his tent in the heat of the day. I can only imagine what is mulling around in his 99-year-old head. I picture him with a weathered hand over his face, mulling over how to tell Sarah she’s going to have a baby this time next year. That would be an interesting conversation to start out of the blue. “Oh, by the way, God appeared to me again and said you are going to have a baby next year.” (See last week’s study of Genesis 17.)
Maybe he already told her. If he did, I doubt the conversation went well. Why would she believe him? The waiting had been too hard for her.
But Abraham believed God. That’s why he was willing to circumcise everyone. He just didn’t know how it could be possible for them to have a baby now. He stared at his once strong hands and wondered if he can still teach a young pup how to hunt and fish.
I can’t imagine the wrestling in his heart between faith and disbelief. How can an old woman have a baby? What if she dies giving birth?
He looked up to see 3 men approaching. He jumped up to greet them with the normal hospitality of his culture – but when he recognized one as the Lord, he bowed low to the ground. I don’t know if he recognized the other two as angels, but the Bible clearly tells us their identity in Genesis 19:1.
It makes me smile a little to read in verse 7 that Abraham ran to the herd. Maybe he really can keep up with a toddler.
When the meal was prepared, Abraham brought it to his guests, and stood nearby, like a servant. Sarah huddled close to the tent doorway to listen to the conversation. Her ears pricked up when the men asked the whereabouts of Abraham’s wife. Nothing could have prepared her for the man’s next words, however.
“I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Sarah smiled. Yeah right. God promised me a baby a long time ago, but now I’m an old woman. It’s no longer possible for me to have a baby. That pleasure will never be mine. She laughed bitterly inside at the ridiculous image in her head of herself giving birth. Who was this guy?
But the guy kept talking. He repeated the words from her thoughts to Abraham! The he said these words: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
It scared her. Is this the LORD? Is this the man Abraham met so long ago? How else could he know her thoughts? Could it be possible? Is she going to have a baby??
Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord?
I love that the Lord returned to tell Abraham the same message again. In both Genesis 17:21 and again in Genesis 18:14, the Lord said Sarah will have a baby next year. Therefore, these two visits from the Lord were close together. Perhaps He returned because Abraham had not had the courage to tell Sarah, or perhaps He returned so that Sarah could hear it for herself.
And then maybe He returned because He knew the news was too hard for two old people to really absorb without hearing it again.
Nothing is too hard for the Lord.
Hebrews 11:11-12 says, “By faith Abraham, even though he was past age – and Sarah herself was barren – was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the starts in the sky…”
Abraham considered God a promise keeper. Do you?
The Lord Confides in Abraham
While Sarah’s thoughts swirled in circles out of her control, the men prepared to leave. Abraham walked along with them to bid them farewell.
Again, the unexpected happened.
The Lord chose to confide in Abraham where the angels were headed and why. An outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah had spurred the Lord into action. The angels were being sent to check out the report.
Immediately, Abraham’s heart panicked for his nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom.
Remember, Abraham fought for the city back in Genesis 14. He rescued Lot and Sodom’s people and returned their goods after several invading kings captured them. Even then, Abraham knew their reputation and made it very clear that his alignment was not with Sodom, but with God. But Lot stayed in the city.
Many years have passed, and the evil of the city had continued to escalate. Now, God planned to destroy it. What will happen to Lot?
Pleading for Mercy
Abraham began to plead for mercy for the city of Sodom. Although he did not mention Lot by name, we see his deep love and defense for his nephew as he begged God not to destroy the righteous along with the wicked. As the numbers got smaller and smaller, I wonder if Abraham was mentally counting the members of Lot’s family, hoping beyond hope that they were all righteous.
Although Abraham feared God’s anger, God did not chastise him for the repetitive prayer. Instead, he patiently answered each scenario request. No, He would not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if there were 10 righteous people living there.
If it weren’t for God’s great mercy, we would all be destroyed.
Why did God include Abraham in this decision? Genesis 18:17-19 tells us. Abraham will become a great and powerful nation. God wants him to lead his family to keep the way of the Lord and do what is right. So, God let Abraham see what happens when a group of people follow their own desires instead of God’s. The result is a community like Sodom, so full of sin that the righteous cry out for God to do something. He heard both – the cry for judgment from the righteous and the cry for mercy from a loving uncle Abraham.
And in His goodness, He responded to both cries. Because nothing is too hard for Him. We will see his answer next week in chapter 19.
Questions for thought:
- Group Discussion: It’s difficult for us to fully grasp both God’s judgment and his mercy. Sometimes we cry out for His judgment and sometimes we cry out for His mercy. How do you decide how to pray when you see evil winning around you?
- Application for your life: Is there a situation in your life that seems too hard for God to handle? When you are struggling to trust Him to do what is both merciful and just, remember that he hears your thoughts and fears, just like he heard Sarah in the tent. Talk to Him honestly, like Abraham did.
- For further study: Read Deuteronomy 31:30-32:47. Moses retells the story of the people of Israel (Abraham’s family). Here you can see both God’s judgment and his mercy for his people.