Genesis 19-21; Psalm 6
So far in Genesis we read through the creation and fall of humanity. Time and time again humanity chose its own way and continued to pollute all that God had created. God tries wiping everything out and starting again, but even that doesn’t work.
So God comes up with a new plan. Leave humanity to its own devices for now and train up one family to live how he initially designed. Then that family can help lead others back to living according to God’s purpose.
The family God chooses are an elderly couple, Abraham and Sarah, but as we see these guys are as flawed as everyone else. They lie and cheat, and yesterday we read how they chose their own way and oppressed a young Egyptian woman in an attempt to achieve God’s purposes themselves.
But despite all this God has committed himself to this family, and continues to work with them to achieve his purposes. We finished yesterday reading through Abraham partnering with God on how lenient he is going to be with Sodom, a particularly corrupt city. That’s where we pick up today.
God sends his angels to Sodom to see what kind of people they are and Lot, concerned for their welfare, invites them to stay with him. The men of Sodom show their hand. “All the people, to the last man” (Genesis 19:4) come out to rape the ‘men’ that were visiting Lot.
It’s unclear whether the men of Sodom new that these were spiritual beings or not, but either intentionally or unintentionally their actions remind us of when spiritual beings slept with human women in Genesis 6:1-5. That acts was part of the evidence for God that humanity had become so wicked he needed to wipe them out. Now, after the flood, the men of Sodom have already returned to this same level of wickedness and rebellion.
Lot, being a good host, tries to dissuade the men from doing this, and then makes the horrendous offer of his two daughters. The angels decide this is evidence enough, there’s no one decent in Sodom. They get Lot and his daughters out. His wife was either too slow or too caught up in the life she’d got accustomed to. And finally, they destroy Sodom. The wickedness has been removed. God’s justice reigns.
We then get a horrific story of Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and sleeping with him so that they can get pregnant. It’s unclear what message this story is meant to convey, but the ironic twist is that Lot had offered his virgin daughters for other men to force themselves on to. Now his virgin daughters are forcing themselves on him.
The very last mention we get of Lot is him being so drunk his daughters are able to sleep with him. We see some echoes of Genesis 9:18-28 here. Just as Noah got drunk and was abused by his son, now Lot has got drunk and is abused by his daughters. From Ham’s son Canaan will come the Canaanite people. From Lot’s daughter’s sons, Moab and Ben-ammi, will come the Moabites and the Ammonites. As we will come to see, all three of these people groups will come to be the enemies of Abraham’s descendants, even though from these stories we see they are actually all part of one large family.
Then once again Abraham pulls a deception on a local king, almost tricking them to take his wife Sarah. Rather than being disciplined by God, Abraham instead gets money, cattle and land and is the one that gets to pray for Abimelech. Why does God not deal justly with Abraham?
I believe it’s because God is choosing to lean into mercy over justice here. His relationship and covenant with Abraham and his family is fairly new here, and so he chooses to focus on the fact that he is fully committed to them rather than pull Abraham up on all his mistakes.
After this God visits Sarah and she becomes pregnant. A full 25 years after God first spoke to Abraham and promised to make him a nation (see Genesis 12:1-4), Abraham and Sarah are now having their own child. They name him Isaac, which means ‘he laughs’, just as God had told them to (Genesis 17:19). God took the cynical laughter of Abraham and Sarah and turned into in to joy filled laughter (Genesis 17:17; 18:12).
But the consequences of their previous actions raise their heads again. This is a familiar theme of the Bible, particularly in Genesis. We see God’s people behave wickedly, and God never seems to rebuke them. But the Bible is often much more subtle than that. Rather than directly telling you that a person’s actions are wrong, often it will simply show you the consequences of those actions, so you can see for yourself.
As a legitimate son, Ishmael is Abraham’s firstborn. He deserves the lion’s share of Abraham’s inheritance. Sarah can’t stand the idea and demands that Hagar and Ishmael be cast away. God persuades Abraham to listen to Sarah. His plan was always for Isaac to be the firstborn. But Abraham isn’t to worry. God will also bless Ishmael and make him great. And so once again we see this oppressed foreigner cast out, but still cared for by God.
This psalm is attributed to king David, and fits into the category of Lament Psalms, specifically a psalm of sickness. We see many of the familiar themes with lament psalms; turning to God, bringing the complaint, making a request of God, and then declaring trust in God. Though in this psalm many of the steps are blended together.
Psalm 6:1-3 - A cry for mercy, asking God to be gracious as the psalmist is wasting away
Psalm 6:4-5 - Appeal to God’s love and glory
Psalm 6:6-7 - Further mention of the psalmist’s struggles
Psalm 6:8-10 - Declaration of trust in God
The psalm opens with a cry out to God. This person is wasting away and they feel like they can’t take it any more. They beg God to stop what feels like rebuke and discipline, and ask him to be gracious to them instead. They ask the common question ‘how long?’ How long must we suffer before God answers us?
Then the psalmist makes an appeal to who God is. First to his steadfast love. Our God is a faithful and loving God, and so the psalmist asks God to be true to his character and save them because of this love. Secondly, he appeals to God’s glory. God’s glory deserves our praise, but how can the psalmist praise God if he’s dead? The psalm reminds us of the importance of focusing on who God is in our prayers. We then let that truth shape what we pray for.
The psalmist then lapses back into their suffering. They are struggling with real loss, grief, and mourning. All too often we can skip over this section in our own prayers. Yes, God is bigger than our problems, but we don’t need to diminish our problems to make God seem even bigger. When we properly accept the difficulty and the magnitude of what we’re going through, it actually exalts God even more when we then declare that God is greater.
Which is where the psalmist ends up. Having taken time to grieve with God, the psalm now allows us to be lifted back up in the confidence of God’s deliverance. As they finished mentioning that their opponents are making them weak, the psalmist then tells those same foes where to go. Our God hears and responds to his people. One day he will come and turn the boasting of the wicked into shame. The contrast we are meant to pick up is that he will also turn the shame of those who call out to him in to boasting. In Psalm 6:2-3 it was the psalmist’s bones and soul that were greatly troubled. Now in Psalm 6:10 it is his enemies that are greatly troubled.
Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.