APPARENTLY FOR SODOM, ACTUALLY FOR LOT
When God revealed to Abraham what was on His heart, Abraham immediately understood what God meant. Apparently Abraham interceded for Sodom; actually he interceded for Lot. “Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23). Lot is implied here. Abraham seemed to be saying, “Lord, don’t You know that in Sodom, the wicked city which You are about to destroy, there is a righteous person? There might also be other righteous ones with him. Do You intend to destroy the righteous with the wicked?” God did not mention the name of Lot to Abraham, but Abraham understood. Likewise, Abraham did not mention Lot to God, but God knew. They spoke to one another in a mysterious way. None of the outsiders knew what they were talking about, but they understood each other because they were intimate friends. How can we prove that Abraham was actually interceding for Lot? The proof is in 19:29: “And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when he overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt.” We are not told that God remembered Lot but that He remembered Abraham. This verse tells us clearly that God answered Abraham’s intercession by rescuing Lot from Sodom. Thus, Abraham’s intercession in chapter eighteen actually was not for the city of Sodom but for Lot.
In principle, Abraham’s intercession for Lot was like the intercession in the church in the New Testament. In Abraham’s time, God’s people on earth were composed of two families, the families of Abraham and Lot. A part of God’s people, Lot’s family, had drifted into the wicked city of Sodom. In like manner, some of the church people have drifted into the world. Just as Abraham interceded for that part of God’s people who had drifted into Sodom, so we must intercede for the brothers and sisters who have drifted into the world. Abraham’s intercession was the first that resembles the intercession in the church life.
ACCORDING TO GOD’S HEART
Since all proper intercession is according to the revelation which is out of God’s heart, it must also be according to God’s heart. Intercession is not according to God’s word. As I have already pointed out, although God did not mention Lot by name, Abraham realized what was on God’s heart. Abraham did not intercede according to the outward word of God but according to the inward intention of God’s heart. Proper intercession must always touch the heart of God. While Abraham was interceding, God was happy and could say within Himself, “How good it is that I have found a man on earth who knows My heart!”
I say once again that proper intercession must always be initiated by God’s visitation on the human level. Whenever we have the deep sense that God has come to us on a human level, we shall realize that this is the time when God will initiate an intercession for us to carry out. For this we must learn to linger in the presence of God. If He would begin to walk away, we must stay in His presence and tell Him, “Lord, I don’t want to lose Your presence. I want to linger here with You.” Your lingering in His presence will open up His heart and draw out His desire. We have seen that Abraham did not abruptly say good-bye to the Lord but walked with Him for a certain distance. This reveals that, in a certain sense, God is very human. If we would linger in His presence, He would be so human as not to leave us. He would remain with us because of our lingering with Him. I have experienced this many times. I did not leave God’s presence and He did not leave mine. As a result of that lingering, God opened His heart to me and the proper intercession came forth.
Intercession is not merely prayer; it is an intimate conversation. In this chapter Abraham was not praying; he was talking to his intimate Friend on a human level, saying, “Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked?” Abraham seemed to be saying to God, “Is this Your way? Let me remind You that You should not do it this way. There might be fifty righteous people in the city. Will You not spare it for the fifty righteous people who might be there?” This was a conversation. Then Abraham continued, “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (18:25). This was a strong challenge to the Lord. Have you ever had such a challenging talk with God? Very few have ever done this. But when you have come into intimate fellowship with God on the human level and know His heart’s desire, you can challenge Him, saying, “Lord, is this Your way?” This is neither praying nor begging; it is challenging God in a very friendly conversation. The Lord answered Abraham, saying, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes” (18:26). A basic principle of intercession is that intercession is a challenging talk, not a praying or a begging. God wants us to challenge Him. When Abraham challenged God, God might have said, “I have found a man on earth who knows My heart so well that he does not pray, ask, or beg; He challenges Me. I must do what he says because I have been challenged by My dear friend. Now I am not as concerned for Lot as I am for Myself.” Have you ever experienced this kind of intercession, talking with God in a challenging way, saying, “Lord, is this Your way of doing things? Will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Is it Your way to slay the righteous with the wicked? Surely it isn’t!” This is real intercession.
In verses 27 through 32 we see that Abraham continued to talk to God about the number of righteous people it would take to spare the city. After the Lord had said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the city for their sakes,” Abraham asked if He would destroy the city if the number was five less than that. To this the Lord replied, “If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it.” The number forty-five was spoken by the Lord, not by Abraham. The Lord seemed to be saying, “The number forty-five is all right, but I can’t find that many there.” Then Abraham asked about forty, and the Lord said, “I will not do it for forty’s sake.” When Abraham proposed that thirty be the number, the Lord said that He would spare Sodom if thirty were found there. Then, on Abraham’s side, the number was reduced to twenty. Once again, the Lord said that He would not destroy the city for the sake of twenty. Finally, reaching the bottom number, Abraham made his sixth proposal, asking the Lord to spare the city if ten righteous people were found there. God said that even for the ten He would not destroy the city. Abraham made six proposals to the Lord, reducing the number from fifty to ten. After that, he did not have the burden to make a seventh proposal. He might have been led by God’s presence not to do so. When God told Abraham that He would not destroy the city for the sake of ten righteous persons (18:32), Abraham was disappointed. Lot had his wife, two unmarried daughters, and some married daughters with their husbands. According to Abraham’s figuration, there must have been at least ten people in Lot’s family, if all his sons-in-law were included. Abraham was surprised and disappointed to learn that there were not even ten righteous people in Sodom.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)