Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” And the LORD said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Abraham answered and said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?” And he said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.” Again he spoke to him and said, “Suppose forty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of forty I will not do it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.” He answered, “I will not do it, if I find thirty there.” He said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.” Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” And the LORD went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place. – Genesis 18:16–33
Iain Duguid writes:
In his prayers, Abraham didn’t claim his own merit or standing before God as the reason why his requests should be granted. He recognized that he had none: he was but “dust and ashes” (Gen. 18:27). Whereas Jesus would in his High Priestly Prayer refer to his own authority and glory in the presence of the Father (John 17:2, 5). Abraham appealed simply to God’s just character: “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25). However Abraham didn’t suggest that God would be unrighteous to take vengeance. In our own day, there are many who think that Sodom and Gomorrah should have been spared, not because of their goodness, but because evil doesn’t really deserve judgment. By contrast, Abraham simply argued that it would be unjust to include the righteous in the fate of the wicked.
There is a second issue worth considering in light of our New Covenant reading this week: Lot was an extraordinarily privileged man, yet he made some miserable choices. As Abraham’s nephew, he should have deferred to Abraham about which land to take. Or even better, he should have said: “Let the goods and flocks go, I will cling to my uncle.” Instead, he chose what he imagined would be the best land for himself. Next, he pitched his tents towards Sodom – hoping to enjoy the fruits of this wicked city while imagining that it wouldn’t influence him or his family all that much; but the next thing you know, he is living in the city. Did Lot make a positive difference on the culture of Sodom? Well, his daughters married unbelievers and his wife had grown so attached to this wicked place that she defied the command of the LORD, looked back, and was killed. How would you act of Lot had been your nephew? Would you shake your head and say: “He brought this all on himself?” Here’s what Abraham did: He interceded boldly with the LORD on Lot’s behalf.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 9
Q. 9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.