The Sodom Series, #1
Abraham is the father of three faiths: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity (see Rom. 4:16; Gal. 3:7-9). The root of Abraham’s faith is belief in one God—a God who speaks.
The expression of this faith is hearing, believing, and doing God’s word, personally revealed.
22 You see that [Abraham’s] faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
–James 2:22-24 NIV
To be God’s friend, we must believe what God speaks to us. And then follow this faith with actions that befit the revelation. This is righteousness.
The Bible provides an example of this in Abraham’s reception of the three divine messengers in Genesis 18.
The Lord arrives at Abraham’s tent with two angels in the heat of the day. Abraham runs to them, bows low, and prepares a feast in a lavish show of hospitality (18:1-8).
The elaborate and generous hospitality of the Near and Middle East is known the world over, according to the Rev. Paul-Gordon Chandler: “For the guest, nothing is too good and nothing too bothersome or difficult.” John Calvin wrote, this is “the hospitality of the holy man.”
Being hospitable to strangers is one way to demonstrate righteousness.
Hebrews 13:2 admonishes us, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (NRSV). It specifically says strangers—not family or relatives or friends or other believers.
Promoting righteousness and justice ensures blessings
Abraham did in fact entertain divine messengers.
Because of Abraham’s righteous ministry of hospitality, one of the visitors promises Abraham that his barren wife Sarah—now far past menopause at age 90—will bear him a son, the start of a nation of descendants. This one, called the Lord, takes Abraham into His confidence as a friend.
17 The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
18 seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
19 No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
–Genesis 18:16-19 ESV
To ensure we may receive what God promises, we must promote righteousness and justice.
The blessings of God—prosperity, growth, and expansion—are for those who promote righteousness and justice for everyone else, especially strangers*.
* For further study about strangers, see 1 Chronicles 29:15; Job 29:16, 31:32; Matthew 25:35.
Hospitality, righteousness, justice defined
Let’s define these words.
Hospitality: Webster defines hospitality as “Reception and entertainment of strangers or guests without reward, or with kind and generous liberality.” We see this in Abraham’s treatment of his divine visitors.
Righteousness: Being in right relationship to God by faith. (See Rom. 3:22; 4:5,9,11,13,22; 9:30; 10:6.) It means believing what God communicates to you and acting on it. Abraham believed what God told him and obeyed, and God counted this as righteousness: see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:9; Gal. 3:6; Jas. 2:21–22.
Justice: Easton’s Bible Dictionary briefly defines justice as “rendering to every one that which is his due.” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia explains it like this: “Justice has primarily to do with conduct in relation to others, especially with regard to the rights of others. In a larger sense justice is not only giving to others their rights, but involves the active duty of establishing their rights.”
If you want to be righteous, make it your duty to establish rights for those who don’t have them.
Righteousness and justice are closely related* and are summed up in what Jesus calls the two greatest commandments: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt. 22:37–39 NIV).
*For further study about righteousness and justice, see 1 Kings 10:9; 2 Chronicles 9:8; Job 29:14; 37:23; Psalm 33:5; 72:2; 97:2; 106:3; Proverbs 2:9; 8:20; 21:3; Isaiah 1:27; 5:16; 9:7; 28:17; 32:1,16; 33:5; Jeremiah 9:24; 22:3,15; 23:5; 33:15; Hosea 2:19; Amos 5:24; Wisdom 5:18; 8:7.
Abraham’s lesson to us
What have we learned from Abraham in this encounter?
- The importance of hospitality to strangers
- The requirement of being righteous and doing justice to ensure the blessing of a family, nation, city, or any group of people
Who are the strangers in your midst? Look around; they could be the people you never really see.
Strangers could include your enemies. Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? … But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Luke 6:32a; Matt. 5:44-45 NIV).
Pick somebody you consider to be a stranger—outside your circle of friends and family—someone unlike you in social status, intelligence, faith, sexual orientation, political beliefs.
Then show them some love through a friendly smile, a word of encouragement, an expression of acceptance and understanding. For, in showing them righteous hospitality, you are being a friend to God.
Jesus said, “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me'” (Matt. 25:40 NIV).
This post was adapted from a portion of my book, The Sin of Sodom: What the Bible Really Says About Why God Destroyed the Cities of the Plain, for Kindle and in trade paperback.