Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Righteous of Sodom

I am reading through Genesis as part of my morning routine and over the past two days have again reviewed the occasion when Abraham was visited by the Lord and two angels, concluding with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  As the angels leave Abraham appeals to God's mercy to spare Sodom if 50 righteous might be found to which the he responds favorably. Finding a sympathetic ear, Abraham begins negotiating the number downward.  The level to which Abraham negotiates is telling. Beginning at fifty, he requests a reduction of five, then five again.  The Lord patiently and mercifully listens and agrees to these.  Abraham continues now with a reduction of ten, then another ten.  At this point there is a turn in Abraham's request.  While those heretofore were seeking mercy on behalf of the just, he fears that the continued pressing while raise ire, yet he continues until the count is ten.  At that point Abraham ceases.

Why would Abraham go to the trouble of making such requests?  He would have known the level of sin and degradation rampant in the valley region.  One even wonders if he was repulsed at the idea of having to fight for the cities in order to rescue his nephew, Lot (Gen 14:8-16).  Lot was in many ways a respected part of the city as evidenced by his place at the city gate when the angels arrive (Gen 19:1).  Abraham's request to spare Sodom had no altruistic origin but an impassioned desire to save Lot once again.  At no time in the conversation of impending judgment did the Lord mention his plan to save Lot leading Abraham to believe everyone in the city was doomed including his nephew and family.

Consider how low Abraham dared seek to go.  Why stop at ten?  By this point Abraham probably was doing some quick mental addition to not only safeguard Lot but any other righteous.
Let's see, there's Lot, his wife, the two girls and their fiancés…  That's six.  Surely there will a few others in the city.
Looking back at the scene we can deduce from the negotiation that there were indeed fewer than ten.  The sentence of judgment had already been passed with the inevitable execution to be carried out.  We can forgive Abraham if he did not pick up on that with his emotional entanglement.  Or maybe he did realizing the populace was truly irredeemable.  Scripture does not say.  The remarkable yet tragic aspect of this is that there were fewer than Abraham hoped.  Not only were there not ten, but members of Lot's family did not qualify.  First, there were the future sons-in-law who thought Lot was jesting when he warned them (Gen 19:14).  After that Lot's wife looked back at the destruction being wreaked after reaching Zoar (Gen 19:24-26).  That action evidenced where her desire was.  Lastly, both daughters impregnated themselves by their drunken father for fear they should be bereft of children (Gen 19:31-32).  How many in Sodom were righteous?—only one.  And even in Lot's case we are not fully convinced except for the NT testimony (2 Pet 2:7-9).

This bit of history has lessons concerning the consequence of choices made.  Much earlier, the livestock of Abraham and Lot had been blessed by the Lord so that they needed to separate the families to have enough pasture.  Abraham gave Lot the choice of where to go, and he moved his tent toward Sodom (Gen 13:12) outside the land of promise.  Lot could have shared the land with Abraham though the latter would receive it in full much later through his offspring.  There was plenty of room for both families to live in harmony had Lot chosen that way.  Herein is the danger.  When we willingly operate outside the place of blessing, there is imminent and certain danger for not only us personally but also to those closest to us.


Stephen Pohl said...

Interesting analysis Steve, especially your final sentence, the take away of your post. Reminds me of a piece I wrote about two years ago titled, Don’t Go There!

Steve Bricker said...

Thanks for the comment and link. The whole situation ("occasion of sin" as you shared in the link) seems right according to our standard, God has others so that the the end is death whether physically, spiritually, or metaphorically.