Genesis 18:20-32 (NRSV)
Verse 20Then the Lord said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! Verse 21I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know." Verse 22So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.
Verse 23Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Verse 24Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Verse 25Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous 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?" Verse 26And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake." Verse 27Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Verse 28Suppose 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." Verse 29Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Verse 30Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." Verse 31He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Verse 32Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
On the road to Sodom God reveals to Abraham a dramatic plan for this corrupt city. There is little doubt that the people of Sodom deserved God’s anger, as the prophet Ezekiel (16:49) would later describe their guilt: haughty pride, excess of food and prosperous ease, little care for the poor and needy.
So now Abraham bargains with God, appealing to God’s desire for mercy. Will God destroy the whole city, righteous and unrighteous alike? Will God agree not to destroy Sodom for 50, or 45, or 30, or 20, or even 10 righteous people?
Beneath it all, this story is about redemption. God’s greatest desire is that all people will live, both the good and the bad. As Ezekiel (18:32) again puts it: “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone…turn, then and live!”
Our God is one of mercy and justice and in generous love God pursues us with offers of grace and life. Thanks be to God!
Good and gracious God, your love for us is beyond measure. Help us to turn to you each day, receiving your life-giving spirit and nourishment for our journey. In Christ’s name, Amen.