Abraham is known as a faithful man. Even as far as the book of Hebrews, deep into the New Testament, the people of God praise Abraham for his faith. We know well the stories of how he left home and went to the land that God had showed him, how he climbed a mountain with his only promised son and prepared to sacrifice him on the altar, how at every turn, Abraham believed God and trusted Him, and this trust was counted to Him as faith.
We even know that at one point, Abraham argued with God, reasoned with Him, and seemed to have talked Him into a compromise. This happened when God revealed what He was going to do to the wicked cities, and Abraham immediately came to the defense of any who may have been righteous among them. If there are 50 righteous persons, how can You destroy a whole city, Lord? And by the end of the conversation, he's talked God down to just a handful of righteous persons.
It's this conversation that tells us something about Abraham's and God's relationship that is crucial for our own, if we're paying attention. Something that we generally miss, but that promises to revolutionize how we, as a people of God, believe.
And it has nothing to do with what Abraham did.
Most of us think that faith is a personal journey, a private endeavor, that our faith depends upon what God is doing in us and what we are doing for God. It's a one-on-one interaction, an intimate relationship that doesn't concern the rest of the world and isn't really concerned with it, either.
So we spend our entire lives of faith trying to figure out what God is doing in us and what God wants us to do. We spend our lives preparing to travel to new lands, preparing to offer our sacrifices, preparing to climb mountains. We wait for God to tell us which lands, which sacrifices, which mountains, and we believe that this is the heart of our Christian faith. Do this well, and we will know all that we need to know about, well, anything?
But this conversation that Abraham has with God about the wicked cities - ready? - has nothing to do with Abraham. Nothing. He doesn't live in the wicked cities. He's not trying to preserve his own life. He doesn't even travel or frequent there, from what we can gather. God has revealed to this man what He's planning to do, not in Abraham's life, but in the world. And Abraham listens with every bit the same intensity as he does when he is called to the mountain.
This is important. Because it's what we so often lose sight of. We spend so much of our time figuring out our own lives of faith, praying for our own healing, focused on our own redemption, that we miss what God is doing in the world around us. We're too busy trying to determine what He's doing in our lives, and a lot of the time, let's be honest, it looks like "nothing." And we've started to think that God is nothing except what He is to us.
If we would broaden our vision, however, and let God show us new things - things that He's always wanted to share with His faithful - we would start to see in a new way. We would start to see how the God that we depend upon for our healing...is healing the world. How the God we wait on for redemption...is redeeming the world. How the God who calls us to the mountain...dwells on the mountain.
We think God is hiding from us what He's up to, we think it's some big mystery He's protecting, but the truth is that God wants to tell us more than we are often willing to hear. He wants to share with us more than we often think we care about. He didn't hide from Abraham what He was doing in the wicked cities; what makes us think He's hiding from us what He's doing in our world?
We can learn so much about who God is and how God loves if we let Him tell us about things He's doing that have nothing to do with us.
And, if we're righteous, we learn how to speak righteousness into a fallen world. Even when it doesn't seem to matter, at least not personally.
These are valuable encounters with God, tremendously valuable. They can change our entire faith, for we get to see God in all His glory and not just in our own. We get to see Him as He is, not just as He is in personal relationship with us. We get to remind ourselves how deeply God loves the world, and this reminds us, even in our darkest moments, how deeply God loves us.