Lately I’ve been in a place where I’m just desiring to hear from the Lord. But to be honest, I’ve been getting stuck in a religious, legalistic mindset. Have you ever been there? Have you ever been in the place where you’re trying to do everything just right to earn the grace of God? It’s a dangerous place to be in because it takes us away from focusing on loving the Lord and growing in relationship with him. Instead we end up in a place where we fear punishment or fear that He will withhold His love from us if we mess up or don’t do everything exactly right every single time. And that’s just not true.
Legalism takes us from a place of trusting in God to trusting in our own goodness.
When I was praying and asking the Lord how I should use my personal Bible study time more effectively he spoke two things to me. 1. Journal while you go, and 2. Study the men and women of God who had deep, personal relationships with Me. Considering this, I felt compelled to start with Abraham, the friend of God.
Side note: If you don’t already journal while you read, I DEFINITELY recommend it. I’ve only been doing it for about a week, but I already feel like the Word is more real to me and that I’m better able to make connections between topics. Better yet, it forces me to ask myself, how does this part of the Bible speak into my life today.
Anyways. Abraham, as it turns out, is an excellent example of God using all things for the good of those who love him and an example of a man who continually walked with the Lord. Just in the story of the destruction of Sodom it is overwhelmingly clear that the Lord can only help us as much as we are willing to walk with him. Let’s take a look.
The thing is, the story of Sodom, as it relates to Abraham really begins a few chapters before God destroys the city. In Genesis chapter 18 the Lord and two angels visit Abraham to tell him that he will have a son. When the guests leave, Abraham follows. Now, my study Bible explains that this was a custom at the time and a way to show special honor to a guest. According to bible-history.com, the host would travel with the guest until the guest urged him to go back to his home. It also suggests that this may have lasted an hour or more. There is no way to know how far Abraham walked with God, but the action showed his honor for and his commitment to the Lord.
I think we’ve all been in a place like this. We feel the Lord calling us to spend time with him, so we give him 15 minutes, or 30 minutes, maybe an hour. But how many times do we stay with the Lord until he releases us to go back to the other things we need to do? And I’m not saying this necessarily means that we need to dedicate every waking hour to prayer each day (though I’m sure the Lord would love spending that much time with us!) I’m saying we need to walk with the Lord and when we dedicate time to him, we need to patiently wait for him to speak everything to us that he wishes to speak. Let’s read on.
After walking for a while, the Lord says in verses 17 and 18, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?” He goes on to tell Abraham of what he plans to do to Sodom if it is judged to be evil. You can bet the Lord would not have told Abraham this if he had not gone with him! The benefit of walking continually with the Lord is that it gives him the opportunity to speak to you. If you fail to show him the honor of continually walking with him, he can’t commune with you.
And this isn’t legalism, this is just fact. Imagine if you hung out with someone you wanted to get to know, but you only hung out with them for a few minutes a day. You wouldn’t be able to get to know the way they think! You wouldn’t be able to build the kind of trust it takes to have open, honest conversations about your plans and desires.
So after the Lord tells Abraham what he plans to do, Abraham responds by asking the Lord to save the city for the sake of the righteous people in it, even if there are only 10 of them. The Lord agrees and departs from Abraham. Then and only then does Abraham return home.
In the following chapter we see the angles of the Lord being welcomed into Lot’s home. While Lot acted evilly and offered his daughters to the angry men who came to try to attack the angels, the angels of the Lord still warned Lot to leave with his family so they would escape destruction. Genesis 19:29 reads: “Thus it came about, when God destroyed the cities of the valley, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot lived.” Abraham’s intercession for the city ultimately appears to have lead to the life of his brother and his daughters being spared, despite Lot’s hesitation to leave and decision to not immediately flee to the mountains as he was instructed. If that doesn’t show the power of intercessory prayer and God’s genuine care for his people, then I don’t know what does. And again, the bottom line is that none of this could have happened if Abraham had not chosen to continue with God until He had spoken all that he desired to share with Abraham.
Now, lest you try to be legalistic with this, Abraham was at this time by no means perfect in his walk with the Lord. Recall in chapter 16 Abraham chooses to try to fulfill God’s promise to him by sleeping with his servant Hagar even though God had promised him a son in chapter 15. In chapter 20 Abraham withholds the truth that Sarah is his wife from Abimelech and almost causes him to sin. In verse 11 we learn that this was because Abraham was afraid Abimelech would kill him because of his wife, even though the Lord had promised that he would make him into a great nation. It’s not that Abraham got it right every single time, but rather because he sought God continually. In fact, you can see a great deal of growth with Abraham. The man who tried to do things his own way in chapters 16 and 20 is the same man who chose to follow the Lord to the point of raising his knife above his only son to sacrifice him to the Lord in chapter 22! Talk about faith!
It may seem like the story of God walking with and talking to Abraham is an impossibility for today’s age, but you have to remember that as a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives on the inside of you (1 Corinthians 6:13). That means you constantly are walking with God, you just have to make your own spirit open to listening to him. Furthermore, the Bible is the direct word of God. Abraham was living at a time when there were no scriptures to provide guidance. We have that advantage, praise the Lord! Learning to hear from God requires us to get to know his character. Abraham did that by walking with him, and we can do that too! But, we can also hear from God by reading the Bible, his true word revealed to us.
So maybe you’re like me and you’re facing a spiritual problem you just don’t know how to overcome. I think the key to growing in spiritual areas is moving away from legalism and learning to hear from God and walk with him a relationship. I urge you, dear friend, seek the Lord’s presence in prayer and in the word. Strive to know him better than you know anyone else. And just like Abraham, when you learn to walk with the Lord, you will trust him with your life. You will trust him enough to be obedient no matter what the world would tell you. And that? That’s a real relationship.
I pray you reach a greater understanding of the Lord today as you seek his presence!