Right after the final installation of the “Abraham and Sarah are going to finally have the promised child” saga, the text reveals just how harrowing the journey to Abraham’s blessing will be.
Because of the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah, God has determined to go and judge rightly if the situation is as has been told. God hears both sides of every story–even in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham, seemingly compassionate on the people of those cities, asks God if He would really destroy all of the God-fearing people along with those who outright rebel against God. It all started as a fairly confident plea blended with borderline accusation. Abraham’s first estimation was 50 righteous people, and God unreservedly agreed to spare the whole population if just 50 God-fearing people could be found. As Abraham observed the mercy of God in those moments, his assumptions of the presence of righteousness in the city waivers. He moves quickly from, What if there are 45? What about 40? 30? 20? Then, finally, what if only 10 righteous people can be found? And God said yes. He was so intent on showing Abraham the dept of his mercy (as if Abraham hadn’t been seeing it in his very own life for decades already), that He “bargains” all the way down to sparing all of the judgment due Sodom and Gomorrah for 10 God-fearing people.
I wonder what Abraham thought and felt when he realized that God’s generous mercy was like a precious treasure despised. Not even 10 righteous people had been found among the masses, and the judgment was delivered. Even in the last evening before the destruction, the people of that city were urged not to embrace wickedness, but they refused to repent. God’s persistent mercy is powerful because He is prepared to judge in Holiness – not it fury.
“Then the men set out from there, and they looked down on Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.’ Then the Lord said, ‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.’
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. Then Abraham drew near and said, ‘Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death 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?’ And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.'” – Genesis 18:16-26