Abraham Prays for Sodom
16When the three men got ready to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked part of the way with them.
17The Lord said to himself, “I should tell Abraham what I am going to do, 18since his family will become a great and powerful nation that will be a blessing to all the other nations on earth. 19I have chosen him to teach his family to obey me forever and to do what is right and fair. If they do, I will give Abraham many descendants, just as I promised.”
20The Lord said, “Abraham, I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing all kinds of evil things. 21Now I am going down to see for myself if those people really are that bad. If they aren't, I would like to know.”
22The men turned and started toward Sodom. But the Lord stayed with Abraham. 23And Abraham asked him, “Lord, when you destroy the evil people, are you also going to destroy those who are good? 24Wouldn't you spare the city if there are only 50 good people in it? 25You surely wouldn't let them be killed when you destroy the evil ones. You are the judge of all the earth, and you do what is right.”
26The Lord replied, “If I find 50 good people in Sodom, I will save the city to keep them from being killed.”
27Abraham answered, “I am nothing more than the dust of the earth. Please forgive me, Lord, for daring to speak to you like this. 28But suppose there are only 45 good people in Sodom. Would you still wipe out the whole city?”
“If I find 45 good people,” the Lord replied, “I won't destroy the city.”
29“Suppose there are just 40 good people?” Abraham asked.
“Even for them,” the Lord replied, “I won't destroy the city.”
30Abraham said, “Please don't be angry, Lord, if I ask you what you will do if there are only 30 good people in the city.”
“If I find 30,” the Lord replied, “I still won't destroy it.”
31Then Abraham said, “I don't have any right to ask you, Lord, but what would you do if you find only 20?”
“Because of them, I won't destroy the city,” was the Lord's answer.
32Finally, Abraham said, “Please don't get angry, Lord, if I speak just once more. Suppose you find only 10 good people there.”
“For the sake of 10 good people,” the Lord told him, “I still won't destroy the city.”
33After speaking with Abraham, the Lord left, and Abraham went back home.
I love the glimpse into God’s inner thoughts! “Should I tell Abraham?” he asked. “Yes” he answered, because he wanted Abraham and his family to obey him (Verse 17 is a question in the Hebrew text, not a statement as found in the CEV).
Obeying normally means doing what we’re told to do, but that’s not what God had in mind. ‘Obey’ is CEV’s translation of “to keep the way of the Lord.” Keeping the way of someone means living their way without their having to tell us what to do.
God wants us to internalize his values and character so we make the same choices as he’d make. For Abraham to teach his children the Lord’s way, the Lord had to let Abraham in on how he thinks.
This reading reminds me of Jesus telling his disciples, “Servants don’t know what their master is doing, and so I don’t speak to you as my servants. I speak to you as my friends, and I have told you everything that my Father has told me” (John 15:15). He shared everything he knew with them so they could be like him.
A key way we learn God’s ways is by reading the Bible.
Keeping the Lord‘s way is the heart of our mission, which is to build a community that reflects God’s character and values. In that community we will all be at peace with each other and with God, and will experience the full life God intended us to have.
To fulfill this mission, we need to be:
- Evangelists, sharing the Good News of a restored relationship with God;
- Advocates, restoring social justice to the world so that everyone enjoys their fair share of God’s creation;
- Peacemakers, building redemptive relationships with all whom we encounter.
When he looks at you, may the Lord see a reflection of himself.
My Creator, you made me in your image for relationship with you, and your Son restored our relationship. Now by the power of your Spirit, may I always walk in your ways as Abraham’s spiritual descendent, and be a blessing to the world. Amen.
John Pellowe is the CEO of the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, an association of 3,200 Christian churches and agencies. His passion is to help ministry leaders reflect on the application of their faith to their leadership practices in order that how ministries operate is as much a presentation of the Gospel as what they do.