Genesis 18: 16-33
When the men got up to leave, they looked down towards Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.’
Then the Lord said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.’
The men turned away and went towards Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. Then Abraham approached him and said: ‘Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?’
The Lord said, ‘If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’
Then Abraham spoke up again: ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?’
‘If I find forty-five there,’ he said, ‘I will not destroy it.’
Once again he spoke to him, ‘What if only forty are found there?’
He said, ‘For the sake of forty, I will not do it.’
Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?’
He answered, ‘I will not do it if I find thirty there.’
Abraham said, ‘Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?’
He said, ‘For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.’
Then he said, ‘May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?’
He answered, ‘For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.’
When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.
Is God’s will absolutely fixed? Has everything already been preordained and planned for this planet, regardless of what we, His church, do? Or might we have a part to play in shaping the future? Can we have an active role in determining the destiny of families, communities and nations?
The Bible reading from Genesis 18 is fascinating in a number of aspects. In verse 17 we read:
“Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?”
In other words, God consciously and deliberately chooses to involve Abraham in what He is planning. He doesn’t have to consult anyone before acting, yet He invites Abraham His “friend” to participate and interject his own perspective on the matter.
It reminds me of Jesus’ words to the disciples in John 15: 15:
“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
The Father longs to reveal to us His desires and His intention is to involve us in the outworking of His will. We are not passive spectators in seeing His Kingdom come and His will be done here on earth. We are active participants. We are His partners and co-labourers.
Look at the conversation that ensues between God and Abraham. It’s almost comical. Abraham learns of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to the unrepentant sin and wickedness of the inhabitants. Abraham begins to negotiate with God on their behalf, appealing to God’s goodness, justice and righteousness, in seeking to spare the people of these two cities. He then keeps bargaining with God and gets the figure at which God will relent from His plan down from 50 righteous people to just 10. That’s persuasive negotiating!
Perhaps God’s will is not set in stone as much as I think it is. Could it be that God chooses to make Himself vulnerable to the desires and dreams of His people? That He is incredibly responsive to our prayers, petitions, pursuits and plans?
On Sunday past we looked at an alternative rendering, which appears in the footnotes, of a very familiar verse, Romans 8: 28:
“…in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good….”
Is it possible that ‘all things’ could include what you do?
‘…we know that in politics God works together with us to transform our communities into places of peace, justice and equality for all...”
‘...we know that in medicine God works together with us in finding a cure for AIDS or cancer...’
‘...we know that in education God works together with us in creating centres of excellence in learning and a hope-filled future for every generation...’
‘...we know that in business God works together with us in growing successful enterprises that will provide employment and economic prosperity...’
‘...we know that in parenting God works together with us in raising Kingdom kids, confident in their uniqueness, equipped and empowered to be world changers...’
God has invited us into a stunning partnership where we work with Him to release what is good. When we show up expectantly, get involved in our community, embrace our royal identity, release our creativity, pour out our resources, serve wholeheartedly, give generously, express our ingenuity – we are working together with God to bring about His very best for every sector of society.