Today's devotional is the last in a mini-series on Sodom and Gomorah.
"Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the LORD. 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." (Gen 19:27-28)
The setting is Canaan. The previous day, the Lord Himself appeared to Abraham and told him of His plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, distressed by this news, proceeded to intercede with God on behalf of any righteous who might still be found in the wicked cities, and at Abraham's request, the Lord promised: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." (Gen. 18:32).
Now it is the next day, and Abraham is looking down over Sodom and Gomorrah. But instead of the thriving cities that had been there the day before, all he sees is "dense smoke rising from the land". The Bible doesn't record what Abraham might have thought when He saw the smoke, but try to imagine for a moment what might have gone through his head by putting yourself into his shoes. Let's say that you have pursued a trust-based relationship with God for the past -- say -- 75 years, and this has just led you to boldly speak to the Lord Himself on behalf of the people of Sodom. And the promised made by the Lord still rings in your ears: "For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it." You believed those words. You put your faith in them! You trusted the One who spoke them. But right there, before your very eyes, you see smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace! The could mean only one of two things: Either Lot and his family have turned away from the Lord or the Lord didn't keep His promise! Ahhh. But could there also be a third explanation . . . Let's say you don't choose to believe that Lot turned from the Lord, and you certainly know the Lord well enough to know that He keeps all of His promises . . . Could this possibly mean then, that your prayers weren't strong enough to save Lot and his family? Maybe you were too bold? Or not bold enough? Perhaps you persisted too long. Or not long enough.
Many in Abraham's shoes would have believed the first explanation, and some would be tempted to believe the second. But I would have fallen into the third trap. I would have immediately started to doubt my own prayers! In Abraham's place I would be thinking: All that interceding on behalf of the people of Sodom and Gomorrah -- all that bold talk to the Lord Himself -- all of it -- for NOTHING!!!!! My prayers didn't work! My prayers weren't enough to save the lives of my family! What is wrong with my prayers????
Have you ever been in a similar situation? You've been praying for something, you've received a Word from the Lord confirming that your prayers have been answered, yet the circumstances before your eyes seem to indicate that your prayers haven't been answered after all? If this is the case, then you are suffering from the same thing Abraham suffered from: Lack of knowledge and understanding of what has just (or is just about to!) transpire! What Abraham didn't know was what happened in Gen. 19:1-26! He didn't know how the angels of the Lord came to Lot in Sodom, how they pleaded with Lot to assemble all of his family so that they would be saved, how Lot's family refused to believe, and in the end, how the angels had to literally "grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city . . ." (Gen 19:16)! Just as Abraham didn't know these things, many times we, also, don't know all the facts. What appears to be a total failure on God's part in answering our prayers, may, in fact, be an answer to our prayers! What we curse today, we often praise tomorrow, once all of the facts are made known to us!
So what do we do when we see "dense smoke rising from the land"? What do we do in the face of contradictory circumstances? Let's look to Abraham as our example: Though the Bible doesn't specifically record Abraham's response, it does drop a few hints . . . "Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6). True, this statement was made about a totally different issue, but I would like to suggest that our friend Abraham made it a habit to trust in the Lord, so much so, that of him, Paul wrote: "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed . . . he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. This is why 'it was credited to him as righteousness.'" (Rom 4:18, 20-23)
You see, Abraham made a habit of trust God, no matter what the circumstances! Because of this, I imagine that as he stood on top of that hill overlooking the plains of Sodom and Gomorrah, he must have said in his heart, "I praise you, almighty God, for what You have done, and I praise You for saving any and all of the righteous in the city!"
My friends, we, too, must look beyond the circumstances of the moment. We must place our faith totally and completely in the Faithful One, the One who keeps ALL of His promises. We must NOT for a moment doubt whether or not our prayers were good enough, or whether God hears us or not. All of these things are just deceptions of the enemy who "prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." (1 Peter 5:8). Don't be devoured, my friend! Remember that many times circumstances don't tell us the whole story. Instead of starting to doubt yourself, your request, or God Himself, follow in Abraham's footsteps: stand firm, against all hope, on the Word of God, not wavering through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but instead being strengthened in our faith and giving glory to God, being fully persuaded that God has the power to do what He has promised!