I am not a theologian or classically trained professional Christian. I’m an “everyman” making an honest effort to study what the Bible says, and with understanding, practice what it teaches me to do. As a disciple of Messiah Jesus, I want to teach others how to make more disciples like He wants all believers to do. So, I need to be honest here. Some of the things I read in the Bible don’t make much sense to me. At times, with a little discipline, God opens my eyes to expand my understanding when I intentionally wrestle with Him for clarity. This doesn’t always happen, but it is really neat when it does.
One of those difficult passages is contained in this week’s portion of Scripture (Vayera – He Appeared) that my wife and I have been working through. It is the account of the Lord’s revelation to Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. It is found in Genesis 18:16-33. After delivering the good news of Isaac’s birth within the year, God asked Himself a question concerning the wrath He was going to pour out on their depraved citizens.
Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?
Upon hearing the news of what God was about to do, Abraham was horrified. Undoubtedly, his thoughts first fell on Lot and his family living in Sodom. It is also apparent that Abraham wasn’t only concerned about his own relatives. He was also concerned for the people they lived among.
I have negotiated with merchants in the Old City of Jerusalem. The back and forth bargaining is uncomfortable for many visitors to the Holy Land from the West. The objective is to find the bargain basement lowest price so that a mutually acceptable transaction can be completed. The longer the negotiation goes on, the more invested both parties become in finding a point of agreement. Reading this account, from a human perspective it is easy for me to visualize what happened between God and Abraham.
At first glance, it appears that God can be negotiated with. It looks like God was open to changing His mind about whether or not to lay waste to Sodom and Gomorrah. Pleading, Abraham appeals to God for mercy. The text records a give and take between Abraham and God where the Righteous Judge successively pledges to withhold His judgement if certain numbers of righteous people are found in the cities. Abraham asked, “Will You destroy them if fifty righteous people are found in the cities?” God relented. “No, I will not destroy them if fifty are found.” Back and forth Abraham and God negotiated. In the end, God promised not to destroy the cities if just ten righteous people are found to be living there.
This is where one of my previous struggle with God’s Word is found. What’s going on here? Can’t God make up His mind? Really, does God change His mind? From a human perspective, it certainly seems so. We know that there is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s free will to make choices in the Bible. These concepts appear unreconcilable to the finite mind of mankind. Therein is the rub. God is not a man. He is not finite. God stands outside of time and space. My personal opinion is that in this life we will never see how God’s sovereign will and man’s free will can coexist as truth. I have come to realize that with some things in Scripture that I have to be satisfied with resting with unresolved tension, knowing that I serve an infinite God who loves me and want the best for me.
He also has a plan for my life. He also had a plan for Abraham’s life. It was God’s plan that Abraham would be a blessing to others. It has always been God’s plan that through Abraham was to be a blessing to all the nations of the world. This included the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, even in their depravity.
Abraham agonized over the people who were soon to die without having the kind of relationship with God that he did. Abraham pleaded with God for their salvation, stepping into God’s desire for his life to be a blessing and to be the avenue of blessing for the whole world.
Through the negotiating process with God, Abraham became fully invested in the role God had for him in His overall plan for history. Abraham believed God. At the point of his belief, Abraham was saved out of the depravity of the world and the consequences of his own sin. In that respect, Abraham was no different than you and me as believers in the 21st Century. Once he believed, Abraham began to work out what his salvation meant for him, his family, and the whole world. Abraham walked in his growing faith in God and the understanding of His will for his life. He willingly steeped into the plans God had sovereignly established for him in eternity past.
The perceived negotiation was how God got Abraham to become fully invested in what He wanted. God wants the story of His glory proclaimed among the people of all nations. He want to offer His blessing to everyone Jew and Gentile alike. Abraham understood this and pleaded accordingly for the lives of the unsaved people of his time.
How many are you negotiating for with God?
Talk About It
Have you ever agonized over the salvation of the unsaved people in your sphere of influence? Why, or why not?
What could you do to become fully invested in God’s plan for your life to be a blessing to all of the people in your sphere of influence where you live, work, play, and worship?
Ask God to give you the names of 10 people in the various domains of your life who need to step into a personal relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus. Start praying for them regularly and look for opportunities to step into their lives with a bold proclamation of the Good News.