Read Genesis 18:16-33
Wow. What happened here?
Did Abraham question the righteousness of God? Did he challenge God – to his face?
Did he actually make God change his plans?
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (v17). It’s all very deliberate on God’s part. He chooses to let Abraham in on his plans. This is a new thing in the story. It’s almost as though God is asking for Abraham’s input.
Abraham doesn’t like the plan. He cannot accept that God would destroy innocent people along with the guilty. Isn’t it nice to hear a character in the story ask the author the very same questions we want to ask? And what does God do with such a bold question?
‘You’re right,’ he says in my words, ‘for the sake of a few, I won’t destroy the many.’ Then he patiently lets Abraham press deeper and deeper, bringing the number all the way down to ten.
It seems as though Abraham has guided God to a better plan.
But I’m not sure.
Read verse 19 carefully. God has a plan for Abraham, too: to raise children to be righteous and just. In fact, the promise depends on it. God plans for Abraham to become the father of a great nation – which, when you think about it, is a little bit like God himself. Like God, Abraham will need to guide, teach, and instruct his many children, and I wonder if this is why God shares his plans with him.
God is mentoring Abraham.
He is inviting Abraham to interact with him, to question him and get to know him better: his goodness, his patience, and his response to evil.
He’s also teaching Abraham about judgement and mercy, about how they need to work together. What parent doesn’t need this lesson? And so Abraham becomes more like God and better equipped to judge his own children.
Did Abraham change God’s plans? I don’t think so. I think God changed Abraham. He drew him deeper into relationship with himself, and he taught him to judge well.
Of course, to Abraham it may have felt that he changed God’s plans. But I think God planned all along to spare the town for the sake of ten; just as he planned to let his actions and character be questioned and debated – for the sake of one.