God is both just and merciful, as illustrated in this story. Includes a teaching guide, 2 games, and a prayer exercise.
Intro Game 1: Try Not to Laugh
Make funny faces at the kids. The first one that laughs has to get up and make funny faces at the group. Keep playing until everyone has had a chance to stand up. If some are good at not laughing, call on them to make faces.
When the game is finished, tell students that laughing is fun, but we shouldn’t laugh at someone when they’re being serious. In the story today, there’s going to be a woman who laughed at God when He said something serious.
Intro Game 2: Don’t Say It
Have the students pair up. They take turns asking each other questions. The person, answering however, can’t use certain letters. For the first round, they might not be able to use words with the letter “s.” If they do, their partner gets a point. Continue for a couple of minutes and then change the letter they’re not supposed to use. The student with the most points (caught their partner using disallowed letters the most times) wins.
Afterward, tell students that they were playing a fun game with a silly rule, but it’s important to follow God’s serious rules. We’ll see in our story how two cities were punished because they didn’t follow God’s rules.
Ask students, If you were God and you saw someone who was doing wrong things all the time, what would you do to that person?
Do you think God ever does punish people when they do wrong things?
How does God punish people? (This may be an opportune time to remind students of such stories as the Fall, the cursing of Cain, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and the doctrine of Hell, depending on what you have studied with them thus far.)
We’ve been learning about Abram or Abraham. Does anyone remember what God told Abraham to do? (God told Abram to leave his country and his friends and his family and go to a new country.)
So Abram went to the country of Canaan. Does anyone remember what promise God made to Abram about the country of Canaan? (God promised that he would give the whole country to Abram’s children and grandchildren forever.)
But there was a problem with Abram having children, wasn’t there? Does anyone remember why Abram didn’t have any children yet? (His wife, Sarai, couldn’t have babies.)
So what wrong thing did Abram do to help him have a baby? (He married Sarai’s servant, Hagar. Abram had two wives.)
Did Hagar have a baby? (Yes, she had a son named Ishmael.)
But then, a few years later, God talked to Abram and told Abram that Sarai would have a son, even though Sarai was ninety years old. And God named Abram Abraham and He named Sarai Sarah.
Today, we’re going to learn about the time when God told Sarah she will have a son and we’re going to learn about a time when God destroyed two cities.
Summarize Genesis 18-19 with the following Bible story, asking the included questions as you read.
A little while later, Abraham was sitting outside his tent. Abraham did live in a tent, by the way, not a house. He was sitting outside his tent when he saw three men walking by. When Abraham saw them, he got up and hurried over to them and invited the three men to have dinner with him because Abraham knew that the three men were really God and two of His angels and that they just looked like three men because they were in disguise.
While they were eating outside, the man who was really God asked, “Abraham, where is your wife, Sarah?”
“She is in the tent,” Abraham answered.
Then the man who was really God said, “Sarah will have a son next year.”
Sarah was in the tent, listening to what the man was saying – she didn’t know that He was really God – and when she heard Him say that she would have a son, she started laughing because she didn’t believe it.
Then the man who was really God asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Is anything too hard for the Lord? She will have a son next year.”
Then Sarah came out of the tent and said, “I did not laugh.”
But the man who was really God said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
Do you think God can make Sarah have a baby, even though Sarah is so old and could never have a baby before? (Yes. God can do anything.)
And we can believe that if there’s anything in our lives that we need help with, we can believe in God and He can help us with it, no matter what it is. There is nothing too hard for God. There is nothing He can’t fix and make better.
But did you notice how Sarah laughed at God? Is it a good idea to laugh at God? (No, we need to respect God.)
And did you hear how Sarah lied to God when she told Him she didn’t laugh? But God knew that she did laugh. Do you think we can ever lie to God? (No. God knows everything, so we can never trick Him or lie to Him.)
Well, after the three men were finished eating, they got up and started walking toward the city. The man who was really God told Abraham, “The people of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah are so sinful – they’ve done so many wrong things – that I’ve decided to totally destroy those two cities and kill everyone who is living there.”
Abraham said, “Will You really kill everyone? What if there are some good people living in Sodom and Gomorrah? Will You kill the good people too?”
God said, “If I find fifty people in those cities who believe in Me and do what is right, I will not destroy the cities.”
Abraham asked, “What if there are only forty good people living there? Will You destroy the cities then?”
God answered, “If I find forty people in those cities who believe in Me and do what is right, I will not destroy the cities.”
Then Abraham asked, “What if there are only twenty good people living there? Will You destroy the cities if only twenty good people are living there?”
God answered, “If I find twenty people in those cities who believe in Me and do what is right, I will not destroy the cities.”
Abraham asked, “What if there are only ten good people living there? Will You destroy the cities if there are only ten good people living there?”
God answered, “If I find ten people in those cities who believe in Me and do what is right, I will not destroy the cities.”
Why do you think Abraham keeps asking God if He will destroy the cities if He finds people there who believe in God? (Abraham is concerned about the people living in those two cities and doesn’t them to die.)
Then Abraham went back home, and God went back up to Heaven, while the other two men, who were really angels, walked on to the two cities. The two cities were called Sodom and Gomorrah.
When the angels entered the city of Sodom, Abraham’s nephew, Lot, saw them and invited them to spend the night in his house. “It’s not safe to sleep outside in this city,” he told them. So the angels went and stayed at Lot’s house.
But in the middle of the night, all of the men of the city came and surrounded Lot’s house. “We know you have two men staying in your house!” they yelled. “Send them out here so we can mistreat them!”
Lot went outside and said, “No, don’t be so wicked. We must treat these men kindly.” But the men of the city pushed Lot out of the way and were about to break down his door to get in his house when the two men who were really angels opened the door and used their power to make all the men go blind.
Then the angels pulled Lot back inside the house and said, “God has seen how evil the people of this city are. Take your family and run away from here because God has sent us to destroy this city and the city next to it too. You must run away from here. Don’t stop, and don’t look back or you will die along with everyone else.”
Then, Lot and his wife and his daughters ran away from the city and fireballs fell from Heaven and completely burned up the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and destroyed them.
Does anyone remember what the angels told Lot not to do when he was running away? (They told him not to stop and not to look back.)
But as they were running, Lot’s wife turned around and looked back at the fireballs and the burning cities, and, immediately, she was turned into a pile of salt.
The next morning, Abraham woke up and looked over at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and saw that God had destroyed them. But Lot and his two daughters were safe.
Why did God destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah? (Because the people who lived there didn’t believe in God and they were doing wrong things, so God had to punish them.)
Why did the angels save Lot from being burned up in Sodom? (Because Lot believed in God and did the right things that God wanted him to do.)
Why did Lot’s wife turn into a pile of salt? (Because she disobeyed God’s instructions. The angels told her not to look back, and she looked back. We have to be careful to obey God’s instructions, so nothing bad happens to us.)
Where can we find God’s instructions? (God has given His instruction to us in the Bible. If we follow what the Bible says, God will be happy with us.)
Remind the students that when Abraham was talking to God and asking God if He would really destroy the towns if righteous people still lived there, he was asking because he was concerned about those righteous people. We should be concerned about other people, too, and we should pray for them.
Tell students that you want them to take a moment now to pray for everyone they’re concerned about. You can prompt them as they pray silently, naming some of the following. If not at all of these apply to all of the students, tell them to keep praying for other people.
You can prompt students to pray for Mom, Dad, Brothers and Sisters, Grandparents, Uncles and Aunts, Cousins, Friends, Teachers, Parents’ Friends, People at Church, Christians in other countries, etc.
Game: Try Not to Laugh (Take 2)
Hold the ultimate silly tournament. Students pair up and make funny faces at each other simultaneously. The first one to laugh is out. The other pairs up with another winner until you find the one child who is the best at not laughing.
Game: Don’t Say It
Play the intro game again for as long as time permits. You can up the challenge level by naming two letters that the students aren’t allowed to use, or change it so that the person asking the question isn’t allowed to use those letters, either.
Father, we know that You are so powerful, You can do anything, just like You can make an old woman be able to have a baby. But You’re not just powerful; You’re also good. Your rules are good and You are right to punish people when they don’t listen to You. Help us to follow Your rules so that we can be happy and so that You can be proud of us. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This lesson is included in my book, Father Abraham: Children Sunday School Lessons on Genesis 12-50.