Bargaining With God

Various tv programmes have shown us that haggling is the way to go.  Get a bargain, see what a discount you can get.  On some of the tasks set by Lord Sugar on The Apprentice, it is obligatory to get a reduction in some form or another, or the purchase is not valid.

But what about bargaining with God?  Have you ever indulged in that?  Many of us have.  Abraham does so here – not for himself, but for the people of Sodom.

Gli abitanti di Sodoma provocano l’ira divina
The inhabitants of Sodom provoke the wrath of God

20 The Lord said, “Abraham, I have heard that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah are doing all kinds of evil things. 21 Now I am going down to see for myself if those people really are that bad. If they aren’t, I want to know about it.”

22 The men turned and started toward Sodom. But the Lord stayed with Abraham, 23 who asked, “Lord, when you destroy the evil people, are you also going to destroy those who are good? 24 Wouldn’t you spare the city if there are only fifty good people in it? 25 You 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.”

26 The Lord replied, “If I find fifty good people in Sodom, I will save the city to keep them from being killed.”

27 Abraham answered, “I am nothing more than the dust of the earth. Please forgive me, Lord, for daring to speak to you like this. 28 But suppose there are only forty-five good people in Sodom. Would you still wipe out the whole city?”

“If I find forty-five good people,” the Lord replied, “I won’t destroy the city.”

29 “Suppose there are just forty good people?” Abraham asked.

“Even for them,” the Lord replied, “I won’t destroy the city.”

30 Abraham said, “Please don’t be angry, Lord, if I ask you what you will do if there are only thirty good people in the city.”

“If I find thirty,” the Lord replied, “I still won’t destroy it.”

31 Then Abraham said, “I don’t have any right to ask you, Lord, but what would you do if you find only twenty?”

“Because of them, I won’t destroy the city,” was the Lord’s answer.

32 Finally, Abraham said, “Please don’t get angry, Lord, if I speak just once more. Suppose you find only ten good people there.”

“For the sake of ten good people,” the Lord told him, “I still won’t destroy the city.”

The very phrase name of the town, Sodom and its co-accused Gomorrah, has become synonymous with sin and bad living.  But Abraham is concerned for the good who will be destroyed along with the bad.  He wants to save them – and with them the whole city.

God himself can’t believe how badly they are behaving.  He is off to find out the truth, and is perfectly willing to negotiate with Abraham over the number of good people required to save the whole city.  He doesn’t want to see the people destroyed any more than Abraham does, but there comes a point when enough is enough.

Abraham is willing to plead for the people before God.  Is that something we are willing to do?  To intercede on behalf of others – however bad they seem?  That God will see the good and not the bad?  Do we look at how people behave and shake our heads in righteous indignation and superiority?  Or do we pray, passionately and daringly?  Or do we think there is no hope?  Do we care enough to argue with God?

Because we learn from this passage that God is not longing to destroy.  He isn’t waiting for people to slip up to get his opportunity to zap them, because it serves them right.  No God is truly a God of compassion, who really would prefer not to do that.  (Though he is also a God of justice and a some point there is a price to be paid for continual, wilful disobedience and evil)  God wants evil to stop, because he doesn’t want lives to be broken.

The sad fact of it is, as we read on, God could not find even ten good people – and the city was destroyed

This isn’t about drawing lines between good and bad, in which we sit smugly on the “good” side.  This is about pleading for our communities – of which we are a part.

Is there enough goodness in our town to save it?  Are we doing what we can to make it so? Because God too longs for that to be the case.  That our communities are filled with goodness – and that is the responsibility of us all.

Lord,
I want to pray,
to plead,
to cry to you

for the places where things are going so wrong.

Not from self-righteousness,
not from a place of feeling my life is so right,
not from any triumphalism

but from
love,
hope
and assurance of your grace.

I pray for the places my life is wrong.
For the things I do
that make the lives of others more difficult,
for when I know if you look at my life
there is not enough goodness in it.

Restore us Lord,
we pray.
Restore my life,
this community,
each nation
– your world

That when you look,
there will be goodness to see

And may I allow you to let it begin in me

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2 thoughts on “Bargaining With God

  1. Beautiful piece today, Pam. Thankyou. I used your idea last week of visitors arriving unannounced as an intro to my sermon on Sunday – it seemed to make the point very well.

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