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A Journey through the book of Genesiswith Willow Creek Community Church

Read Genesis

Week 3/Day 3: Nothing is Too Hard for God

Willow Creek Community Church

Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 

– Genesis 18:14

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Genesis 18 records one of the many times that Sarah and Abraham doubted God’s promise to provide a child for them. Sarah “laughs” when she hears someone say that within a year, she would have a son. At one time, this laugh might have been a laugh of joy, as God was finally fulfilling His promise! However, at this stage in Sarah’s life, when she is “past the age of childbearing,” it is more like a laugh at a cruel joke or a ridiculous statement. How could she possibly have a child now? 

In response to her pained and desperate laugh, God asks Sarah a rhetorical question, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” This is an interesting question for God to ask Sarah. The question assumes that Sarah would know that the obvious answer is no, of course nothing is too hard for the Lord. After all, God does all sorts of “hard” things in Scripture. The word translated here as “hard” is used over 70 times in the Old Testament to refer to various wonders or marvelous acts that God performed, like the mighty wonders in Egypt during the Exodus (Exodus 3:20).

What makes this such a unique question for Sarah is that it is the very first time the word is used in this way in Scripture. Sarah didn’t have the gift of answering this question with knowledge of all the wondrous things God did in the Bible. She had no prior data or experience that would help her believe that God could do anything like this. Sarah had to take God at His word. 

Fortunately for us, we have the gift of hindsight. We can look back at how God worked in Sarah’s life and the lives of so many others in the Bible, and we can be confident that nothing is too hard for God. God has provided children for barren women, He has freed people from slavery, and He has even raised the dead to life. This means, that if God chooses, he is capable of performing wonders in our lives as well, because nothing is too hard for God.


Genesis 18–19

18

The Three Visitors

1 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way — ow that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Abraham Pleads for Sodom

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing — o kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

19

Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed

1 The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

3 But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate. 4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom — oth young and old — urrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

6 Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.”

9 “Get out of our way,” they replied. “This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.

10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here — ons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

18 But Lot said to them, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it — t is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.”

21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. 22 But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.” (That is why the town was called Zoar.)

23 By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah — rom the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities — nd also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

27 Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace.

29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

Lot and His Daughters

30 Lot and his two daughters left Zoar and settled in the mountains, for he was afraid to stay in Zoar. He and his two daughters lived in a cave. 31 One day the older daughter said to the younger, “Our father is old, and there is no man around here to give us children — s is the custom all over the earth. 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

33 That night they got their father to drink wine, and the older daughter went in and slept with him. He was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

34 The next day the older daughter said to the younger, “Last night I slept with my father. Let’s get him to drink wine again tonight, and you go in and sleep with him so we can preserve our family line through our father.” 35 So they got their father to drink wine that night also, and the younger daughter went in and slept with him. Again he was not aware of it when she lay down or when she got up.

36 So both of Lot’s daughters became pregnant by their father. 37 The older daughter had a son, and she named him Moab; he is the father of the Moabites of today. 38 The younger daughter also had a son, and she named him Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the Ammonites of today.


Exploring the Text

1. In Genesis 18 & 19, Abraham and Lot both show hospitality to a group of visitors. Both greet their visitors, and both provide food for their visitors. How does their hospitality contrast with the way that the city of Sodom treated these same visitors?

Reflection Question

2. In Genesis 18:22-32, we see an example of petitionary prayer. In this passage, Abraham shows a deep respect for God and a confidence in God’s power and justice. But that doesn’t stop Abraham from persistently asking God to spare the city of Sodom, due to his compassionate concern for his nephew Lot and the other inhabitants of the city. After reading this passage, we might wonder why Abraham cared so much for such an evil place, but he believed that good could still be found. Oftentimes, it’s hard for us to see the potential good in someone or something when we can clearly see the bad. While we don’t condone sin, we are reminded that Jesus makes Himself available to everyone. How can you have compassion for and see the “good” in someone who is evil or bad? Think of the person that you find impossible to love or even like. How does God feel about that person? What might you need to pray for today?

3. It’s easy to wonder, as we read about Sodom and Gomorrah, how someplace or someone could be so corrupt. In a world without God, people can easily lose sight of their morality and fall prey to Satan’s temptations. Despite the evil depicted, a common theme of Genesis 18 & 19 is a lack of hospitality and injustice. The extreme juxtaposition is most obvious in the comparison of Abraham’s hospitality to his guests with the treatment of guests in Sodom. In Luke 10:10-12, Jesus references Sodom when he is teaching His disciples about how to handle inhospitality as they travel spreading the Good News. Why does God care so much about hospitality? Do you care about hospitality? In what ways does inhospitality breed injustice?