The Story So Far
God created mankind to live in joyful relationship with God and to govern the earth, but sin twisted the good patterns God had established and broke man’s relationship with God. God promised that Eve’s offspring would defeat Satan and restore the created order, and God chose Abraham as the ancestor of the race through whom this offspring would come. God called Abraham to leave his family and homeland and to trust God by traveling to a country God would show Abraham. In return, God promised Abraham that he would become a father of a very numerous nation, that God would give them their own land to possess forever, and that they would become a blessing to all the nations of the world. Now, many years after the promise, and after Abraham’s misguided attempt to fulfill God’s impossible promise by having a son by his wife’s maid, God has re-affirmed the covenant with Abraham and made it clear that his barren, post-menopausal wife Sarah will have a son within the next year.
Abraham’s Relationship with God
Abraham had a very special relationship with God, founded on God’s love and Abraham’s willingness to trust it. There are few men who are willing, like Abraham was, to leave everything behind and travel to a new, unknown country, depending entirely on God’s provision. Because of Abraham’s faith, God put him in a unique position and granted him authority as the ancestor of God’s chosen people, Israel.
God Tells Abraham a Secret
Because of this special relationship, and the position Abraham had as the one who would be responsible to train his descendants after them to follow God into the blessing God had promised them, God now discloses to Abraham the plans he has for the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, where Abraham’s nephew Lot lives. God confides to Abraham that he is about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.
Abraham Talks God Down
We often think of prayer as a pious, submissive, quiet action. Here we see something quite to the contrary. Abraham blows up, crying “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” And he proceeds to use all his Middle Eastern bargaining skills to wheedle, manipulate, and coax God not to destroy these cities. He argues that if there are fifty righteous, God would destroy them along with the wicked, and this goes against God’s just character. When God agrees not to destroy the cities for the sake of fifty righteous people, Abraham moves it to forty-five, pointing out that for the lack of five people God would destroy a whole city. And so on. Abraham talks him all the way down to ten, then stops. God never offers any resistance, but rather complies with each of Abraham’s results. If anything, the account gives the impression that Abraham stopped too soon. This demonstrates that God is not interested in pushover followers, but rather real, engaged people who are not afraid to be upfront, even aggressive, in asking God to demonstrate kindness.