Read His Words Before Ours!
“Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Genesis 18:23)
Abraham’s question to the Lord hung in the air. The Lord had proclaimed the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the cities’ unrelenting depravity. Abraham knew he had no right to ask, but love for his nephew Lot, a resident of Sodom, drove him to boldly seek mercy, to intercede for him and his family.
Abraham continued his plea, “What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away instead of sparing the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people who are in it?” (Genesis 18:24)
He knew the character of the Lord, who led him out of Ur of the Chaldees into a new land. God had shown mercy to Abraham again and again. Not only was God just and righteous, He was also Abraham’s friend.
“You could not possibly do such a thing: to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. You could not possibly do that! Won’t the Judge of the whole earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25)
God listened to Abraham’s plea. He agreed to relent from destroying Sodom and Gomorrah if there were 50 righteous people. Abraham continued interceding, because he understood the pervasive immorality of the cities, and the unlikeliness of finding 50 righteous people. Finally, he negotiated down to ten people. Abraham counted Lot, his wife, two daughters, and his future sons-in-law. That was six people; surely, there would be four others.
But there weren’t.
Unfortunately, Lot and his two daughters were the only people saved from the destruction when God rained down burning sulfur on the cities (Genesis 19:24-26), which some scholars believe may now be buried beneath the salty Dead Sea.
Reading about the utter destruction of two cities is very sad. Though the people of Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t know the God against whom they sinned, they still were held accountable for their actions.
Generations before the Law was given in order to make Israel explicitly aware of the depth of their sin, we nonetheless see the stark differences between the heart postures of Abraham, a God-follower (Genesis 18:1-8), and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, who were bent on immediate self-gratification at any cost (Genesis 19:4-9).
In the residents’ response to the heavenly messengers’ visit, there is not only a total disregard for any holy purpose or message the visitors might bring (check out how Jesus would instruct the disciples to handle such rejection of His call in Luke 10:1-12), but also a revelation of a people devoted to violence and lust and the abuse of power. They were, in fact, a culture built on sin.
And sin results in death. As Romans 6:23 states, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We may not live out the specific sins of corruption and perversion that characterized the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, but we have been equally corrupted by our own sin. Our definition of good will never be good enough compared to the holiness of God. We are people of unclean lips, stained by our sin, unable to approach a Holy God. (Isaiah 6:5)
God’s perfect holiness demands a consequence for sin. Just as a good and fair judge ensures guilty people are punished for their crimes and restitution is paid to victims, God must hold people accountable for the harm they have caused. If He didn’t, He would be unjust!*
As Abraham was interceding for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, they had no idea of their imminent destruction and need for salvation. Similarly, the people around us may have no awareness of their need for a Savior. Still, like Abraham, we can intercede for them and pray for God‘s mercy despite their sinfulness. We can also pray for our country, state, and city, just as Abraham prayed for those two cities.
This story of justice also shows God’s mercy. He was willing to spare the cities from the consequences if there were only ten righteous people. Abraham‘s plea for mercy shows the power of intercessory prayer. Intercession can unleash God’s mercy and blessing in other people’s lives and alter the course of history. Our prayers can stand in the gap for our country and our city.
How can you pray for God to have mercy on our nation, community, and the people around you?
*We would be remiss if we ended the conversation on sin and justice here.
God is holy and just. He is also love (1 John 4:16), as is evidenced by His display of mercy even in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, He spared Lot and his daughters.
Because He loves us with a depth we struggle to understand (Ephesians 3:17-19),
He sent His Son, Jesus, to pay the just penalty for our sin. (Hebrews 9:15)
When we acknowledge our guilt before God, seek His forgiveness for our sin, and embrace Jesus’ gift of salvation, our relationship with God is restored through His mercy.
Would you like to learn more, or experience God’s love and mercy for yourself?
Reach out in the comments, or send us an email! We’d love to talk with you!
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!