Tag Archives: Sodom and Gomorrah

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.

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
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

If you don’t ask

One of the wonders of the internet revolution is that we need no longer be left with questions.

When I was a girl, if you had a question, you had to find an adult who might know the answer, go and get the encyclopaedia (which in a book was relatively limited!), wait until the library opened and see what you could find there – or just keep on wondering.  Now Google is my friend (Other search engines are available!).  We have instant information at our fingertips.  When we ask, we can have an instant answer to our question.

But perhaps that takes out some of the effort of asking and seeking out the answer.  And internet searches cannot help us with those questions that only a person can answer, questions of desire and will.

This weeks readings are very interesting questions of God’s heart and mind – and how we ask him for what we want.

Abraham becomes party to God’s plans for Sodom and Gomorrah.  God has heard of their wickedness, and is going to check it out.  If their actions are as wicked as God has heard, then he is going to destroy them.  Serious stuff!  Abraham is concerned by this, and intervenes on behalf of the innocent people he assumes are there, those who have been doing the right thing.  Surely God won’t destroy them for the sake of the wicked.

Abraham bargains hard on behalf of the people, such is his concern for the good and righteous people of Sodom and Gomorrah.  He will not let it drop with God, and manages to get a promise from God that if only ten right living people are found there, God will not bring destruction.

I wonder how I would have reacted in that situation?  Would I have been relieved that at last God was going to do something about those wicked people, and stood by and applauded, assuming it served them right?  Or would I have had the strength of Abraham to think of then people, and plead for the safety and salvation?

How keen are we to plead to God on behalf of others.  Not just mention it briefly to God in passing, but to plead with him for them?  To take seriously the plight of others, however they behave, and show God how serious we are?  Abraham was not going to let it go.  God had to know how serious his request was.

Jesus points to this same issue in Luke 11.  The disciples have seen Jesus praying, and want him to teach them what to do.  Perhaps they had seen that his prayer life was so much more than theirs.

Jesus gives them an outline for prayer that involves honouring God, looking for the kingdom, praying for need, asking forgiveness for sins and protection from temptation.  He then goes on to principles of prayer.  He tells them a strange story of a friend begging for food at midnight.

The point is that this man is a worst case scenario – a friend who won’t open the door to you even if it is midnight!  But eventually he does because of the man’s persistence.  If even this poor example of a  friend will do that, how much more eager will God be to grant our petitions.

Human fathers know how to treat their children – how much more so will our heavenly father.  The only question I suppose is are we willing to ask?

Do we show God the intention of our prayer?  Are we concerned enough to bring situations to God over and over – not because he is stubborn or needs persuading – but to show our seriousness in praying.  Do we care enough to plead with God for the world and situations in it?

Prayer is serious business.  We are not just putting nice words together, but asking God to do something.  We need to show God how serious we are.

And if you don’t ask…

…you don’t get