August 11, 1999

"Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?"
Genesis 18:23
___I hugged the rugged West Texas cowboy as best I could. This cowboy was the genuine commodity, not your drugstore type from the city you've seen onlineonlywalking the halls of the mall. The boots were for work, and the spurs were functional, not ornamental.
___We hugged and prayed as he hovered over his 2-year-old daughter in the emergency room of an Amarillo hospital. The injured infant was all that remained of his family; his wife had been taken three hours earlier by a natural gas explosion that reduced their house questions
Pastor, First Baptist Church,

to a scattered pile of rubble.
___As often happens, after the initial concerns for survival subside, the questions inevitably arise: "Why God, why did you let this happen?" This tragedy was no exception. The plea for an explanation or understanding was voiced repeatedly during the days that followed, not from a lack of faith, but a frustration that sought to know why.
___ "God, why would you take such a fine woman--a wonderful wife and mother, and leave a lonely child and a grieving husband?"
___Abraham's encounter with the Lord in Genesis 18:20-33 comes to mind in this context, and especially his question of God in verse 23: "Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?" What a great question in the Bible that God answered in keeping with his character and justice.
___Actually, two questions often are asked of this text, and the first can be answered easily by examining this exchange between the Lord and Abraham. Does God allow the demise of a righteous person's life and in so doing judge that person's worth or lack thereof? So many times, people in the midst of personal pain and tragedy come to a verse such as Genesis 18:23 and inquire of God's sense of justice.
___God's answer to Abraham, however, made it clear that the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was not an accident, but instead a judgment on those who had given their lives in total rebellion against him (18:20-21). In addition, as an act of mercy in the midst of judgment, God indeed did spare a righteous remnant in the city (19:15).
___No, God does not "sweep away" the righteous with the wicked in an act of judgment. His mercy and grace in Christ Jesus will see his children through this life and the life to come with the Father.
___The second question probes the depths of our frailty and transitory life. Although that issue is beyond the scope of Abraham's encounter with God in Genesis 18, suffice it to say that no circumstance can remove us from the province of God's tender and compassionate care (Romans 8:38-39).
___The details of the mysteries of this universe are not ours, but the assurance of his perfect love and tender care is ours through the ages. These weakened bodies do get sick and die; our flimsy automobiles and homes do give way to the forces of accidents. Our place in the presence of the Savior, however, never will be compromised through circumstances.
___Praise be to God for that assurance in Christ!

Previous Columns: 7/14, 7/21, 7/28, 8/4, 8/11.


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