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"Behold then the goodness and severity of God: toward them that felt (the Jewish nation in unbelief), severity; but toward thee (believing Gentiles), God's goodness" (Romans 11. 22).

Thus wrote Paul when dealing with the fall or trespass of the Jewish nation in their rejection of the Lord, and the riches of God's goodness in turning to the Gentiles. Such events were foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures.

Often we have side by side the goodness and severity of God. God's goodness and severity are clearly seen in Genesis 18 and 19. In chapter 18, God (Jehovah) in company with two angels visited the tent of Abraham to announce the birth of Isaac, which was to take place within a year. He found Abraham sitting at his tent door, and when the LORD asked about Sarah's whereabouts, Abraham said, "Behold, in the tent." It was good for Sarah that she was in her own tent and not in the tent of some other woman exchanging the gossip of the day. What a miss it would have been for her if she had not been at home when the LORD called!

When Sarah overheard the LORD saying to Abraham that she should have a son, she laughed within herself, saying, "After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? " The LORD said to Abraham Wherefore did Sarah laugh ... Is anything too hard for the Lord? " It is evident from Hebrew 11. 11 that "By faith even Sarah herself received power to conceive seed when she was past age, since she counted Him faithful that promised.

Here in the promise of the birth of Isaac we see the goodness of God to Abraham and Sarah, but not to them only but to countless millions of believing souls who trace the line of blessing back to Abraham's Seed which is Christ.

The LORD told Abraham on the night in which he was justified by faith (Genesis 15), that Eliezer (God is my help) of Damascus who had been born in Abraham's house, would not be his heir but he could have a son of his own and seed through him as numerous as the stars that twinkled above Abraham's head in the dark blue vault of heaven There and then Abraham "believed in the LORD ; and it was counted to him for righteousness".

Long after this God said through Isaiah, "Sing, 0 barren, thou that didst not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud thou that didst not travail with child: far more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife, saith the Lord " (Isaiah 54. 1). Paul turns this verse of Isaiah to good account in his allegorical teaching to the Galatians (Galatians 4 21-31) in regard to the dispensational change that had taken place that they were not under the terms of the Old Covenant but they were under the New. Hagar was the married wife who had the husband; she bore her children unto bondage for she was a bondwoman, and Ishmael took his character from his mother. Though Hagar's seed was not to be numbered for multitude (Genesis 16. 10) and Ishmael was to beget twelve princes (Genesis 17. 20 25.12 16), even as twelve princes sprang from Isaac, the twelve sons of Jacob more were to be the children of Sarah than of Hagar.

Paul sees in the children of the desolate of Sarah the seed of Abraham according to faith, and sees in the unbelieving Jewish nation the descendants of the bondwoman. The bondwoman in the allegory is mount Sinai in Arabia and answered to Jerusalem beneath which was in bondage to the law and still is but the freewoman is Sarah and believers children of promise born after the Spirit.

Hagar and Sarah are typical of two Covenants the Old and the New The Old brought forth its children first and those who were of the Old Covenant persecuted the children of the New Covenant even as Ishmael persecuted Isaac and the result of this was the demand of Sarah to Abraham "Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac" (Genesis 21.10). This was grievous to Abraham, but God told him to do as his wife said. She had the mind of God in the matter. Here in the lives of those women and their sons was a picture of what would happen to the unbelieving Jewish people and to the believing Gentiles. " Behold then the goodness and

severity of God."

As in Genesis 18 we see the goodness of God to Abraham and Sarah, and to us, in the promise of the birth of Isaac through whom Christ was eventually to come into the world, we see in chapter 19 God's severity in dealing with the people of Sodom and the surrounding cities of the plain. God's severity to the cities of the plain of Jordan is a warning to men on earth as to what will happen to them who practise the sins of Sodom, which, alas, are on the increase in this country. Leniency by the authorities in dealing with such sins may well prove a public cancer which will wreck the well-being of this nation. It would be well if people read and re-read the words of Jude 7:

"Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them, having in like manner with these given themselves over to fornication, and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire."

When the LORD had announced to Abraham the birth of Isaac, He spoke with Himself, saying, "Shall I hide from Abraham that which I do?" He decided to tell Abraham about His going down to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if the sin of these cities was altogether according to the cry thereof which had come up before Him. This visit of the LORD to Sodom was to have such an effect upon Abraham, that he would teach his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD and to do justice and judgement, that His word to Abraham might have fulfilment.

Abraham, knowing the sinfulness of those cities, at once became a pleader with God to spare the cities, if fifty righteous were found therein. God said that He would spare the cities for the sake of fifty righteous. Then Abraham took courage to ask God to spare them if there were forty five righteous therein, then he spoke of forty, thirty, twenty and lastly ten. Then we are told that" the LORD went His way, as soon as He had left communing with Abraham" (Genesis 18.88). "To commune is from the Hebrew word Dabar which means "to speak," the noun form means "a word or a thing." No such communing as that which is told us in this chapter of Abraham and the LORD speaking together takes place today. No such communion as that which took place between the Lord and the two on the way to Emmaus takes place now, for when after the two were communing (Greek, Homilei, meaning converse, commune, talk) together, He joined in the conversation, and of His talking with them, they afterwards said, "Was not our heart burning within us, while He spake to us in the way, while He opened to us the Scriptures?" (Luke 24.18.82). We know of course that though the Lord does not talk with us as He did of old, yet He does speak to us from the Scriptures through the words which He spoke to others, which are written for our learning and comfort, and also it is our privilege to speak to God our Father through Him.

Only the two angels are seen arriving at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. Lot saw them and evidently recognized who they were, and he rose and met them and bowed himself with his face to the earth. He invited them into his house, but they refused and said that they would abide in the street all night. What a night of shame and wickedness it was in Sodom as the men, young and old, and all the people from every quarter, compassed the house of Lot! Such degradation threatened, if it had been possible, the very angels of God, as was the practice of the Sodomites. No wonder that the conduct of these people vexed Lot's righteous soul from day to day! Yet he stayed on, strange to say! There is an important lesson for us all in this, not to be in circumstances or places in this world where we should not be, and not to be found doing what we ought not to do. Lot's history is a sad one. Even when the city was about to be destroyed he lingered and the angels had to take him by the hand and also his wife and daughters by the hand and bring them forth out of the city, so powerful was the hold of the things of this world upon them.

We are told that "God remembered Abraham (the pleader), and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in the which Lot dwelt" (Genesis 19.29). As Abraham saw in the early morning the smoke of the burning cities, he did not know then that Lot had been delivered. God honoured his intercession and did not destroy the righteous with the wicked.