One of the most interesting exchanges of the Bible is found in Genesis 18:22-33. God has revealed His plan to destroy the cities of the valley, and Abraham intercedes and begs mercy for any righteous found there. It reads:
“22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 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?25 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?” 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” 27 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.”29 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.” 30 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.” 31 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.” 32 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.” 33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home (NIV).”
For the sake of 10 God would spare the cities. And if we look at the account of the Flood, the requisite 10 were not found then either, as only 8 were spared on the ark. This number 10 being a special number in regards to the righteous has found its way into the Jewish worship as well. Ten men who have had their bar Mitvahs are required for the full worship and prayers to be said. Why 10? I don’t know, but Abraham stops at that number in his pleadings.
Christianity offers a slightly different tally. Jesus said whenever two or more are gathered in His name, he will be there with them (Matthew 18:20). We need not have 10 to worship publicly – two will do, and even then one can worship privately (Mathew 6:6). Better still, Jesus so loved the world, that He died for it. And even if there had been only one sinner, He would have still have done it (2 Peter 3:9). He desires none to perish. For the sake of one, He came.
For the sake of 10 righteous God showed mercy in the Old Testament, but His mercy is shown now even for you and me.