We are looking at Biblical accounts of man’s verbal interactions with God. We are thinking about prayer, and how to pray. And in Genesis 18, we see Abraham engaged in active negotiation with God.
In a recent visit with Abraham, we found him thinking that perhaps his servant would be his heir. God said “No, your own son will be your heir.” Ten years passed, and nothing happened, so Sarah suggested that Abe take handmaid Hagar and produce a son. By the time we get to today’s passage, Ishmael, Abe’s son by Hagar, is about 14 years old. Abraham is 99. Sarah is 89. And, God makes the promise again, with more specificity. “At this time next year, Sarah will have a son!”
Due to the depth of the relationship between God and Abraham, the Lord decides to share what He will do next, in visiting the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah with the intent of destroying them. It is here that Abraham begs for God’s restraint. “Will you destroy it if you find 50 righteous people there? or 45? or 40? How about 30? or 20? Even 10?” God says that He will withhold judgment even if there are 10 righteous people. But there are not.
Abraham pleads for a division of mankind, between those who are proclaimed righteous, and those who are not; between those covered by the blood of the covenant and those who are not. Abraham, based on God’s revelation of Himself, sees all of humanity in this light. There are only two kinds of people: righteous, and unrighteous, not measured in human standards or by human appearances, but by faith in the promises of God.
Will God “sweep away” the righteous with the unrighteous? Will God treat the wheat as though it is chaff? No, He will not, and He does not. And even though He did not find even ten righteous people in Sodom, he still arranged the rescue of “righteous Lot,” his wife (partially), and his two daughters. He made a clean sweep of Sodom and Gomorrah, but not before rescuing the righteous.
God has promised to make a clean sweep of this world in which we live as well. It’s a mess, and God is at odds with sin. We look forward to a new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells. Will He sweep away the righteous with the unrighteous? No, He will make a clean sweep of this world, even as He reaches out and saves those who are in right relationship with Him through faith in the covenant formed by Him for the sake of His people, sealed with the blood of Jesus. And this should guide how we pray.