God reveals His righteousness
Torah Portion: Vayera (He Appeared) B’resheet/Genesis18:1-22:24
Haftorah Reading: II Kings 4:1-37
This week we read a very challenging portion, In my question for the week I used the word challenge to frame the meeting between G-d and Avraham. My purpose was to get us all to consider those times when we have an encounter with the Father concerning some issue we may be facing. I got some good responses to my question and appreciate them very much.
I would like to begin by looking at verses in Genesis 18:23-25. In these verses we read of the interaction between G-d and Avraham. In verse 23 we read where Avraham came close to the L-rd and asked, “Will you also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” Here, for the first time someone is asking G-d about a matter of justice.
In the following verses we read Avraham, in effect, questioning G-d about His decision to destroy Sodom. In these verses Avraham said, “Far be it from You to do such a thing as this; to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Again, this is the first time in scripture we read of such a thing as this, a dialogue between G-d and man in the name of justice. However, it is not the last. We can see in Exodus 5:22 a similar exchange between Moshe and G-d. Also other places this type of dialogue appears would be in Numbers 16:22 in Korah’s rebellion, Jeremiah 12:1-3 and Habakkuk 1:2-3. In all these cases it seems these people sought clarification from G-d on how we are to live. In each of these questions the answer can be found in Genesis 18:17-19.
In Genesis 18:17-19 G-d is in effect urging or inviting Avraham to speak, to have a discussion about the way of the L-rd. He wants him to raise his children and teach them about the righteous way to live, the just way to live. In fact, these very words appear in these verses.
To fully understand the way of the L-rd, to come to that understanding, Avraham, and also us, must have a firm grip on what it means to do justly and how to live righteously before G-d. Of course G-d knows all things. He knew there was not 50 or even 10 righteous people in Sodom. But for Avraham’s sake G-d had this discussion so Avraham would also know that G-d is a just G-d and a righteous G-d. Avraham could then pass this wisdom on to his children. Deut. 32:4 encapsulates these truths clearly for the descendants of Avraham and for us. Our faith should be clear on what we read in the verses mention above. “He is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful G-d Who does no wrong, upright and just is He.”
This whole occurrence of Sodom was to make clear that Avraham’s G-d and our G-d was just in His actions and as such we His people are to be just in ours. So later when Avraham saw the smoke rising over Sodom he knew that the city was judged and found guilty of their sin. For that to be clear to Avraham and to us as well this verdict was based on truth not on rumor or feelings. In fact, G-d allowed Avraham to be the defense lawyer for the people of Sodom. The verdict was arrived at justly and fairly. This was quite a revolution in how people should see others, how we are to live justly.
Our view of civil and moral judgement today must be built on the same G-d given example. Justice depends on each side’s view being fairly considered. This biblical view requires certain things from us as believers. It requires us to not jump to a quick judgement of people or situations. It requires us to truly know the facts and what is written in scripture. I would encourage us to look closely at statements or actions we see around us. Is it based on truth or someone’s opinion?
Lastly, as we look at Lot and his family in Genesis 19:1-29 would you say they lived out last week’s Torah portion of “go to yourself?” How did they end up where they were, living in Sodom, neighbors at their door demanding Lot to send out his guests? Was that who G-d created them to be? Did they assimilate with the neighborhood or did they give a G-dly example to sinful people around them? You will notice even after the angels told them they were going to destroy the place Lot continued to linger. In Genesis 19:14 the son-in-laws thought it was a joke. In verse 16 the angels had to take them by the hand and escort them out The wife, even though the angels told them not to, turned to look back at what she was leaving behind. Where do you think they were spiritually in this experience? Had they affected the people around them or had the people around them affected Lot and his family?