23 Abraham approached and said, “Will you sweep away the godly along with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty godly people in the city? Will you really wipe it out and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty godly people who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing – to kill the godly with the wicked, treating the godly and the wicked alike! Far be it from you! Will not the judge of the whole earth do what is right?”
Genesis 18:23-25 NET (New English Translation)
Is there anyone who can be right in the eyes of the Lord? Is there any action that a person can do to achieve righteousness? The apostle Paul mentioned in one of his letters that we all fall short of the expectations that God has for us. That there is nobody who is right with the Lord, not a single human being. That is because every person is infected with the disease of sin, passed down from generation to generation, which makes every soul on earth rotten in the eyes of God and therefore worthless to Him. If that is the case however, how is it that we find in the Bible stories of people receiving blessings from God in spite of the sin that was in them?
These blessings were not the result of any good action from the people who got them. It was through the grace and favor that they had received from God that made them possess a right standing with Him. How is a person suppose to respond to this unmerited favor?Being declared righteous by God compels a person to do what is right in the eyes of the One who made them righteous, out of gratitude for receiving this special favor. This was the case for both Noah and Abraham. Noah, when he received grace from God, out of appreciation, obeyed the Lord’s command to build the ark and it resulted in his and his family’s salvation. When Abraham was granted this unmerited favor, he was determined to live his life in a way that would please His God.
An example of Abraham living this walk of faith can be seen in his pleading for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. The patriarch knew that the people in those two cities were wicked and he probably wanted to see God judge them accordingly (considering what happen in the previous chapters). Nevertheless, he had hope that within those cities there would be a remnant that God would declare to be righteous and would be spared from destruction. He probably hoped that his nephew Lot would be among those few. As his relationship with God got closer, Abraham began to understand the many dimensions of the Lord’s character.
Among those dimensions was that God was just in His actions. This meant that the Lord will give to each person what they deserve; the wicked receive punishment and the righteous obtain blessings. With that in mind, the Lord would not destroy the ones He favors along with the wicked. Such an action would go against His nature. It was with this intimate knowledge of God that Abraham pleaded for mercy for the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Essentially, he was asking that God give the people what he had been given: grace.
In a strong parallel, Abraham foreshadowed what Jesus Christ would do; intercede on behalf of a people that deserved punishment, namely ourselves. Except in the case for Jesus, His intercession required Him to give His life to pay for the punishment that was due us. He did this not because it was just, but it was out of grace. Those who are faith followers of Jesus Christ (like you and I) have, like Abraham, received this grace from God; and it was by His grace we are made righteous.
What are we to do with this grace we have been given? Jesus tells us that we must go out and tell others about His grace that leads to salvation, and plead with them, on Christ’s behalf, that they would accept His wonderful gift. We must continually intercede for them, just as Abraham did for Sodom and Gomorrah, with the hope that others would be made righteous through grace and be spared from the judgement that is due for the wicked.