ďOur High PriestĒ†††† Genesis 18:16-33††††††† July 5, 2009
SI:† We are studying the life of Abraham.
Heís called the father of those who believe in Jesus Christ.
†† His life demonstrates the fundamental truths and experiences of the Christian life.†
Since itís been two weeks, let me set the stage for this story.
You remember the Lord and two angels had come to visit Abraham
†† in the form of three travelers.† Abraham and Sarah entertained them.
†† The Lord once again promised a son and Sarah laughed.
The Lord saidóthe son will be born this time next year, will name him Isaac,
†† which means laughter.†
Then the Lord got up to leave and Abraham went along with him . . .
INTRO:† A number of years ago I got a call from a woman I didnít know.
She had gotten the church name out of the phone book.
†† My husband is dying, will you please come to my house?†
So I went to her house and she met me at the dooró
†† and she said in a matter of fact way:
†† ďHeís in the bedroom.† Heís unconscious.† Go in there do your thing.Ē
And I thought:† Do my thing?†
†† It was as if she was expecting me to do some kind of strange ritual.
So I went back to see the man and ďdid my thing.Ē
†† Then I came out and sat down with this woman and talked to her.
I found she was lost spiritually.† She didnít know the Lord.
But she had this interesting notion.
†† She knew she needed somebody to be bridge or intercessor between
†† her husband and herself and God.† Thatís why she had called me.
Unlike most lost people who think that getting in touch with God is no big deal.
†† She somehow understoodóitís not like that.
†† I need somebody who has a connection to God who can come here and
†† do his thing, whatever that is, and bridge the gap between me and God.
She knew she needed a priest.† She didnít use that word, but thatís what she meant.
So I had this amazing opening to say:† I appreciate you calling me,
†† but I canít really do anything.† Let me tell you about the man who has.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God.† He died to make a way for us to know God.
If you trust Jesus, he prays for you, and you can go to God through him
†† on behalf of your husband and yourself.†
I challenged her to pray to Jesus as her High Priest.†
As important as it was in that setting to sayóitís not me, itís Jesusó
†† in a very real sense I am a priest.† And you are a priest.
All Christians are priests.† Bible calls us a royal priesthood, a kingdom of priests.
† †Even where the word is not used, we are called to do priestly thingsó
†† to intercede for the world, to stand as a bridge between lost people and God.
This was one of the great doctrines recovered by the Protestant Reformation.
The Medieval church had taught for centuries that the only Christians who
†† are priests are ordained ministers.†
They alone, by doing their thing, bridge the gap between people and God.
Martin Luther and John Calvin and others reformers said:
†† The Bible teaches that all Christians are priests.
†† All have access to God through Jesus Christ and can intercede for people,
†† and lead them to God, show them how to be reconciled to him.
Yes, the Bible teaches that the church is to have an ordained pastoral office
†† with special roles and duties and honorsóand there is a priestly aspect
†† to the pastoral ministry, but all Christians are priests.
The priesthood of believers:† That was the name given to this doctrine.
And low and behold if we donít see it in seed form in this story of Abraham.
Whatís Abraham doing in this story?†
†† There are lots of sermons on how this story is a model for prayer.
It shows how we must go to the Lord boldly and humbly and ask for great things.
†† Thatís certainly true.
But the great thing Abraham is doing in this story is not just prayingóhe priesting.
†† He is standing in the gap.†
Heís pleading the case for God to show mercy to the must undeserving peopleó
†† the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah.†
As you look at Abrahamís priesting, as you look at him doing his thingó
†† it points forward to our great high priest Jesus.
†† Jesusí priestly work comes into sharper focus.
And it points to you.† It shows more clearly what it means for you to be a priest.†
†† How you are called to be a bridge between needy people and the Lord.
Letís look at this story under three points.† Three things about Abraham priesting
†† Going to see that Abraham the priest
†† 1.† loved people,
†† 2.† knew God,
†† 3.† failed completely.
That last point sounds like a downerófailed completely.
†† It does take you down, but I promise, it will then raise you up.
MP#1† First, Abraham the priest loved people.
His love wasnít limited to the people in his family,
†† the people he knew and was comfortable withóit was for all his neighbors.
The Lord and the angels began to walk toward Sodom, and Abraham with them.
Then God said:† ďShall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?Ē
When you say:† I donít know whether I should tell you this or notó
†† then youíve already decided to tell the person.
Itís just a way of saying:† Iím about to tell you something really big, get ready!
Then the Lord tells Abraham that heís going down to Sodom to see its
†† wickedness and to bring judgment on it.†
At that point the two angels walk on ahead, but Abraham stands before
†† the Lord and approaches him.† He comes forward with a case.
And what follows is remarkable.† Abraham begins to plead for the city.
†† This city that was known for wickedness of every kind.
Remember Lot lived in Sodom.† Abrahamís nephew.
†† Abraham was certainly concerned about Lot, but he didnít say:
†† Lord, just get Lot and his family out then nuke the pagans!
Instead, over and over he argued and pleaded spare the place,
†† spare the city of Sodom.
Abraham was praying for Canaanites.† They were bad people.
†† Their way of life went against everything Abraham believed in and stood for.
†† Because of their values he had to live outside their cities in the desolate places.
And yet there he was, standing as a priest between them and God,
†† interceding for them on behalf of a judgment they did not even know was coming.
Who does this remind you of?† Who does this foreshadow?† Jesus Christ.
†† Yes, Jesus often prayed for his own.† Prayed for his disciples and family.
But there were many times he pleaded with God for his enemies.
Think of him standing on the hill, looking down on Jerusalemó
†† ďO Jerusalem, Jerusalem.† You who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you.
†† How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers
†† her chicks under her wings.Ē
He looked down on the city that would reject and kill him, and the longing that
†† came out of his heart and up to God is for the blessing of the city.
And you remember his first word from the cross:
†† ďFather, forgive them, for they know not what they do.Ē
Priestly intercession for those who had crucified him.
†† While on the cross he also interceded for those who loved him.
†† He interceded for the repentant thief, and for Mary and John.
But the first words that come from his mouth on the cross are like Abrahamís:
†† God, save this city.† Even this city that is against you.
How does this apply to us as Christians and priests?†
I was listening to a sermon on this passage by Richard Vise.
†† Richard is the PCA campus minister at Auburn.†
And he asked a question that hit me right between the eyes.
If all of your prayers last week had been answered,
†† (just think for a minute about the things you prayed for last week.)
If every single on of them had been answered,
†† would the world be a better place, would Auburn be a better place,
†† or would only your family and your life be better?
If every single one of your prayers had been answered last weekó
†† who would be blessed?† Would it just be you and yours.†
†† Maybe people in your church.† Would Cullman be blessed?
Would America be blessed?† Would the nations of world be blessed?
†† How big are your priestly prayers?† Are they universal?
Whoís going to pray for the Sodoms of this world, for the people and places
†† that are under the judgment of God if itís not Christians?† Whoís going to
†† intercede for those dark places were missionaries are serving, if not us?
Iím so glad that our youth group got to go to the Yakima Indian Reservation
†† this summer and help in the Granberrysí mission work there.
Iím glad they got to see a broken place that needs their priestly intercession.
Itís so easy just to limit your prayers to your own needs, needs of your family,
†† and your close friends.† Those who are near and dear.
But as a Christian, your love must be for all your neighbors.†
†† There is no person, no place no matter how troubled, how far gone,
†† who cannot be the object of your prayers.† Lord, spare them.† Save them.
†† What a magnificent and weighty calling you have.
Brings us to the second point . . .
MP#2† Abraham the priest knew God.
When Abraham pleaded for Sodom, he presented a case to God.†
†† And as you examine his case, you realize itís profound theology.
†† His approach reveals a deep knowledge of God.
Because he didnít come to God and say:† Lord, have mercy on Sodom.
†† Overlook their wickedness a little bit longer, let them off one more time.
†† He didnít appeal to Godís mercyóhe appealed to Godís justice.
If you hired a defense attorney for yourself and he stood before the judge
†† and said:† Your honor, my client is as guilty as sin, please, please, please
†† I beg you, have mercy on him.† You would probably say to yourself:
†† I didnít need a lawyer for that.† I could have done that!
But if your attorney said:† Your honor, my client is guilty.
†† But I intend to prove to you that in his case, the law and justice will require
†† you to let him go and to waive all punishment.
You would say.† Wow.† Thatís bold.† This man must know the law.
†† And he must know how to convince this judge.
†† Youíd sit up and listen to his argument.
Well thatís what Abraham did.† He appealed to Godís justice.
He said:† Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?
†† God, I know you are just.† I know you demand righteousness.
But will you spare, will you forgive, the unrighteous city of Sodom,
†† for the sake of a righteous few in the city?
Abraham didnít say, God have mercy and overlook wickednessó
†† He said:† Lord, could you in your justice value the righteousness of a few so
†† much, that it would cover the unrighteousness of the many?
Could you spare the city of Sodom for the righteousness of 50 people.
†† And without a momentís hesitation, God saidóYes!
Now let that yes sink in for a minute and think of the implications.
Is your record all you have to go on?†
†† If youíve broken Godís law and failed morallyóis that it?
†† Or is it possible for the righteousness of someone else to cover you and save you?
This amazing yes of God shows that he will take someone elseís righteous record,
†† over your unrighteous record.
And that points directly to Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
His righteous life is valued so much by God,
†† that it covers and saves and forgives the unrighteousness of every person
†† who is in union with him by faith.
Abraham knew that.† Even though he didnít know all the details like we do.
†† He knew the outline of the Gospel.† He knew it was going to be through
†† some grand substitution that God would bring salvation.†
How does this apply to us as Christians and priests?
You have to know God.† That means knowing Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
†† It means knowing the big story of Godís justice and Christís righteousness,
†† and how we get that by grace.† You are a bridge between people and God.
And they way you lead them over that bridge is by the Gospel.
†† You have to be able to talk about it in own way.
Two Sundays ago we were at the Grand Canyon.†
We went to a worship service on the rim just a little after sunrise.
†† It was led by some college students who were part of a Christian ministry
†† to the National Parks.† They worked jobs in the park.† Led services on Sundays.
The speaker was a chemistry major.† Preached like giving a chemistry lecture.†
Shuffled around and illustrated the person and work of Jesus by comparing
†† it to what happens chemically when you use an emulsifying agent.
It was awkward and awesome at the same time because he knew God
†† and knew the Gospel and it worked and we were incredibly blessed.
We went back that evening at sunset and the speaker was an elementary ed major.
†† And it was totally different.† There was lots of eye contact and waving arms.
And she told us how she had grown up in the church and had known about God,
†† but hadnít known him, and then came to know him through Christ.
Difference, like looking at a picture of Canyon, and standing on edge of real thing.
†† And once again, we were blessed as the truth was brought home.
My point is that these were two very different people, with very different ways
†† of communicatingóbut both knew God, knew Jesus, knew Gospel.
Knew big story of his righteousness answering Godís justice.
†† That has to be true of you in your calling as a Christian and priest.
†† You have to love people and know God. ††
Brings us to the third point . . .
MP#3† Abraham the priest failed completely
Abraham argued a powerful theological case with God himself.
†† Will you spare the city for fifty righteous people?† And God said, yes.
But what happened next?†
Abraham said, What if there are only 45?† Will you still spare the city?
†† What if there are only 40?† What if there are only 30?† What if there are only 20?†
And each time the Lord said:† Yes.†
†† One preacher pointed out that Abraham is the only man who prayed
†† and wouldnít take yes for an answer.†
But Abraham got just to the climax:† Lord, what if there are only 10?
†† And he quit and went home.
His priesthood didnít work.† He didnít save Sodom.† It was destroyed.
†† His prayer is like an unfinished symphony.†
†† Itís like a scale and we are waiting to hear the last note and it doesnít come.
What are we waiting for Abraham to say?
O Lord, do not be angry, but hear me as I approach you againó
†† Will you spare the city for the righteousness of one?
But he didnít do it.† He went home at 10 because he knew that if it got down
†† to one, that one was his nephew Lot.† And even though Lot was a believer,
†† he was still a sinful man and only relatively righteous.†
Abraham had to go home with the great question unasked,
†† because he knew he didnít have on truly righteous man.
But we do.† We do have the One Righteous man.†
†† We have a priest who doesnít stop and go home.
But with us in mind he pushes the case with God to its completion.
What happens when you sin?†
†† What happens when you fail miserably and sin against God and other people?
1 John 2:1, ďIf anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defenseó
†† Jesus Christ the Righteous One.Ē
Jesus the Righteous One speaks to the Father in your defense.
†† And he doesnít defend you by pleading for mercy.
He doesnít say:† O Father, Andrew broke you law today, again.†
†† Have mercy on him one more time.
†† Please overlook his sin again and give him another chance.
And God says:† Well, ok.† And itís like you are on probation.
No, pleads justice.† He says, Andrew has sinned against your law and your love.
†† He deserves punishment.† But I have paid that punishment.
†† I have lived the life he should have lived and died the death he should have died.
Father, justice cannot punish the same sin twice.
†† Accept my righteousness and cover his sin.
†† And God smiles and without a momentís hesitation says, Yes!†
Because he delights in forgiveness over judgment.
How does this apply to us as Christians and priests?
When you understand and believe in Jesusí priestly work for you,
†† and when it sinks in, it empowers you to be a priest to people.
Itís what enables to love them, and stand in the gap for them,
†† and pray for them and point them to Christ.
Because believing in Jesusí priestly work for you makes you humble and bold
†† at the same time.† And thatís how a priest has to be.
You canít feel proud and superior and look down on peopleónever help them.
†† But you canít feel inferior and fearful or you wonít help them either.
You must have this impossible combination of humility and boldness.
†† And that comes from really believing in Jesusí priestly work.
You realize that in yourself you are deeply flawed, terribly wicked.†
†† And that God canít overlook your sin.† And a terrible price must be paid.
That humbles you.† You canít feel morally superior to anyone.
†† And that enables you to approach them in a lowly way, as a priest must.
But in Jesus, you are completely righteous.†
†† When you sin, youíre not on probation.† Not walking on eggshells around God.
†† You have the highest possible standing.† You shouldnít feel inferior to anyone.
You can be bold and say:† Let me pray for you.†
†† Let me tell you how you can know God.
One of the saddest chapters in the whole Bible is David and Absalom.
†† David knew he was forgiven.†
But it seems he was so overcome by accusation and despondency over his sin
† †with Bathsheba, that he was unable to intercede in his sonís life.
Itís as if he thought:† Who am I to speak to my son after what I have done?
†† Absalom was in a very dark place and needed a fatherís bold prayers and words.
†† David seems to have been paralyzed, and he lost his son forever.
It doesnít have to be that way.† When you are crushed by self-accusation,
†† or the accusation of Satan, or even the accusation of the law of God,
†† look to your High Priest, look to Jesus.† Old hymn says:
Well may the Accuser roar, Of sins that I have done,
I know them all and thousands more, Jehovah findeth none.Ē†
†† Devil, Iím a thousand times worse than you say I am.
†† But Jesus is righteous, and he covers me.
Iíve told you before the story of Rabbi Duncan.
†† He wasnít really a rabbi, he was a Scottish Presbyterian minister.
But he was a Hebrew scholar and missionary to Jews in Hungary in 1700só
†† so he got the nickname Rabbi.
Story is told that at communion one Sunday a weeping woman passed the cup
†† without drinking.† Duncan pressed the cup into her hands and said:
†† ďTake it woman.† Itís for sinners.Ē
As we come to the Table.† Drink deeply of Jesus your High Priest.
†† And then go out of here humbled and emboldenedó
†† love the people God brings into your lifeóand intercede for them
†† in the strength of the Gospel.