Engaging with God
Gracious God, change my heart that I might seek You; change my ears that I might hear You through Your Word.
Read Genesis 18:16-33
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
“Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor be afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich” (Alan Paton, 1903-1988).
For a third time in Genesis we see human societies that have sunk into such evil that God intervenes to destroy or break them up (Gen. 6:7; 11:7). This passage opens with Abraham walking alongside his heavenly visitors as God ponders and decides to admit him to the heavenly council, giving him advance warning of his plans. This is how Hebrew prophets like Amos and Jeremiah pictured their role (Amos 3:7; Jer. 23:16-18). They had to warn their generation that disaster or exile were urgent possibilities, though God is always willing to hold back judgment if there is repentance. But what if some repent and others don’t?
As founder and leader of God’s chosen people, Abraham must teach and nurture right and just behavior (19). So he wrestles with the moral question: is it just of God to allow innocent people to be swept away with the guilty ones (25)? Abraham has good reasons for caring about the fate of these cities. His nephew lives there. He fought a war to save them (Gen. 14:14-16). He engages with God in a conversation that follows the conventions of bargaining. It would seem almost playful if the issue were not so serious. Abraham challenges God that his reputation is on the line (25), while acknowledging the great gulf in their status (27). He begins with 50, which might have been about half the population of one of these small settlements, and works down to a mere 10 before he feels he can go no further.
Perhaps, as others have suggested, Abraham stopped there because he recognized there will always be innocent individuals who suffer when corporate sin is dealt with. Repressive regimes are rarely brought to justice without civilian deaths. We have to make tricky decisions; God had to find a balance, too.
Pray for some places that seem to be hotspots of evil. Pray for those living there who can make a difference for good.
Compassionate Father, may my heart beat with Your love for the disadvantaged, the marginalized, the victimized. Show me practical ways in which I can minister in Your name.
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