Genesis 18:20-32; Psalm 85;; Colossians 2:6-15, [16-19]; Luke 11:1-13
Bargains Galore! Preached by Rev. Peter Courtney
The LORD said to Abraham, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin! I must go down and 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, while Abraham remained standing before the LORD. Then Abraham came 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 forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous 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 forgive the whole place for their sake." Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?" And he said, "I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there." Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there." He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it." Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
I bought my first Ford Thunderbird on 8/8/88. As usual it was on impulse. It is in the nature of impulses that they act too soon. A month later the 89’s came out in a design that lasted until just a few years ago. I knew instantly that my impulse was wrong.
I managed to keep out of Ford dealerships for 12 straight months. When the sales person called the other Ford dealership nearby for the payoff figure so I could buy my 1990 T Bird with turbocharged V –6 he got the guy who sold me the 1988.
“Are you working with that Episcopal Priest from Virginia Beach?” he asked.
“He is a hard man!”
Our biblical ancestors were hard men too. Last week we remembered Abraham. He is the guy who lied about his wife to the neighbors and called her his sister. About how he and Sarah scoffed at God when God spoke of the miracle of birth for them. You have got to be hard to scoff at God when he sends a whole committee to deliver a message.
Today God has her hands full of hard people again. Not all of them are the bad guys either.
God hears a lot of whining about the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He has a stack of faxes and emails on his desk outlining the bad stuff going on in those cities. He says to himself: “I better check these rumors out to see if it is true!”
God disguised herself as two tourists. This has been a popular disguise ever since for police undercover work. The first person the tourists come across is our friend Abe. He just stands there, looking kind of goofy.
God says: “Things are a mess down here, hunh?”
Abraham didn’t want to rat out his neighbors because they might key his truck or something worse. Abe was continually afraid of his neighbors. Still the situation was pretty self-evident..
God gets the message by reading between the lines and says: “I’ll fix this!” Just before God goes thermonuclear, Abe clears his throat.
Pausing in mid stroke, and slightly annoyed to have his aim jiggered, God says “What is it?”
Abraham says: “This doesn’t seem right. I mean there are lots of bad guys in these towns, but what if there are four or five dozen pretty decent folks there. It doesn’t seem fair to nuke them too. After all, you are the king of the Universe, you ought to be able to run this railroad better than that.”
God took her thumb off the red button, squinted her eyes a bit, sighed and allowed, “ok if there were 50 decent types, I will spare the city.”
Abraham had been to the Ford dealership too. He replied: “What about 45.”
“All right already!.”
“Oy vey, ok?”
“All right already. 10. And that’s it.”
God stomped off and caused a few tidal waves on some uninhabited islands just to let of steam.
Abraham thought he had gotten a pretty good deal.
As you know, Mr. and Mrs. Lot and their two daughters plus their fiancés, a total of 6 people were the only decent folks in the whole two cities. Even the future sons-in-law maintained the Sarah tradition and jeered and laughed at the idea that God might wipe them all out. So when Mr. and Mrs. Lot left town with their daughters, the fiancés got toasted along with everyone else.
What are we to make of this? Does bargaining work with God? If it does, what kind of God?
Is this a kind of prayer?
Our Hebrew ancestors expected a lot of God. They expected God to be consistent with God’s revealed will in the tradition. They expected that God wouldn’t do anything to them if they kept covenant with God.
God never has.
But God is not subject to hard men like me or Abraham. The story simply reveals that God does what is consistent with who God is. Abraham, to his great credit, is consistent with who he is, a persistent, faithful, take no prisoners stand up guy.
Scripture does not record Abraham’s response to the destruction of the two cities. It does tell of his willingness to sell his daughters to marauders to keep his home safe for his guests, but not a word about what happens after the Lot family leave town. He knew that even though he got God down to the 10 mark, he was counting on a j40% discount from this number since there were only 6, not even 10. God went the extra mile to save them even though they were under the limit.
Wow, more Gospel, God going past his own limits to reach out to us.