Shall Not the Judge of All the Earth Do Right?
Today’s Text: Genesis 18:16-23
As a good host, Abraham walked a short distance with his guests as they resumed their journey. He soon learned the purpose for their trek. The ensuing dialogue reveals an amazing interaction between the Lord and Abraham:
“Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way. And the Lord said,
‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing, since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice, that the Lord may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him. ‘
And the Lord said,
‘Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know.’
Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. And Abraham came near and said, ‘Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?’”
God had a unique friendship with Abraham. As they walked together, the Lord revealed His plan to judge the cities in the Valley of Siddim represented by principal city of Sodom. God confided in Abraham because he was the progenitor of a still future nation that would be characterized by righteousness and justice that would ultimately bless the world.
Abraham had a moment alone with the Lord as His two companions walked on ahead. While it’s tempting to focus on the announcement of impending judgment, the ensuing conversation provides insight into Abraham’s compassion and God’s grace.
Although Abraham knew the reputation of the cities, he boldly, but respectfully confronted the Lord about His intention to destroy them. Abraham pointedly asks, “Would you destroy the righteous with the wicked? Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:23, 25).
Assuming there were some righteous individuals in the wicked cities, Abraham was concerned that God would inadvertently destroy them with the wicked. He pressed the Lord for the particulars.
Would God spare the city if He found 50 righteous? Would He spare the cities for 45, or 40, or 30, or 20? In each scenario, the Lord answers affirmatively—Yes, He would spare the cities. Abraham concluded, “Suppose ten shall be found there?” (v. 32).
Abraham did not press the Lord further and the reason why is open to speculation. Some suggest that ten individuals constituted the smallest social entity and the natural place to end his intercession. More likely, however, it was because Abraham had ten family members living in the city: Lot, his wife, two unmarried sons, two single daughters and two married daughters with their husbands (Gen. 19:8-14).
Confirming that if He found even ten righteous individuals in Sodom, He would spare the city. Then, the Lord left Abraham to continue His journey.
Through this encounter Abraham learned that God is righteous, but not willing that any should perish! God does not judge indiscriminately. Abraham implicitly trusted God to spare the cities for the sake of any righteous people found there. Sadly, there were none.
The following day, Abraham went out to the spot where his conversation with the Lord had taken place the previous afternoon.
He looked out over the valley, “and he saw, and behold, the smoke of the land which went up like the smoke of a furnace” (Gen. 19:28).
God had indeed judged the cities as planned, but only after giving opportunity for repentance. When Abraham rescued the inhabitants of the cities from the coalition of Mesopotamian kings more than a decade earlier, they had heard Melchizedek bless Abraham in the name of God Most High (Gen 14:19-20). Having been introduced to the One-true God, the inhabitants of the cities could have chosen to worship only Him, but instead persisted in an immoral lifestyle.
The record filling the 19th chapter of Genesis exposes the rampant wickedness of the cities in the cross-hairs of God’s judgment. Lot and his family allowed themselves to be influenced by the wickedness surrounding them as documented in the biblical account.
Before judgment fell on Sodom, however, the angels that accompanied the Lord delivered Lot, his wife and both of his unmarried daughters. The others refused to leave. When Lot’s reluctance to leave caused him to hesitate, the angels forcibly grabbed his hand and that of his wife and daughters (Gen. 19:16). His wife looked longingly back even as they were led to safety; she turned into a pillar of salt (v. 26). The angelic deliverance of Lot was an act of God’s grace.
The account concludes,
“And it came to pass, when God destroyed the cities of the plain, that God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out of the midst of the overthrow, when He overthrew the cities in which Lot had dwelt” (v. 29).
There were no righteous people in the city, but God in His grace spared Lot because of Abraham.
This event underscores a principle reiterated throughout Scripture. The Lord is gracious and merciful. Although His righteousness obligates Him to judge wickedness, the Lord not only hears, but answers the intercessory prayers of the righteous. God always gives the opportunity for repentance.
Charles E. McCracken is an international Bible teacher, long-time friend of Israel and advocate for the Jewish people. Rev. McCracken authentically communicates biblical truth making his presentations relevant for those seeking to understand the significance of Israel and the church in Bible prophecy. He staunchly supports the nation of Israel and the Jewish people’s right to exist and live in peace.
© Charles E. McCracken 2018, devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Emphasis added).
1) Bible opened to Isaiah. By, Ken Horn, [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM Portfolios
2) Abraham Sees Sodom in Flames, circa 1896–1902. By James Jacques Joseph Tissot (1836-1902) [PD-US, PD-Art], via Wikimedia Commons – Enhancement: MKM