I have explored Genesis 18:22-33, before and like most passages of the Bible it has more than one key lesson that we can take from it. In it, 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:
“The men turned away and went toward 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, 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.”
God’s lesson on the “wages of sin” was to be manifested in a physical way, and those the sins inhabitants of the Sodom and Gomorrah were going to paid with immediate effect.
But we then have the intervention of Abraham, a righteous man. The consequence, “For the sake ten,” God would spare the cities. Abraham didn’t sway God by some magical means (see Beyond Magical Thinking), but rather mitigated the situation by appeals to God’s own mercy. Abraham’s prayer of intervention was offered as an act of righteousness. It was an appeal for the sake of others. Above all else it was consistent with God’s own nature. Notice the prayer was not, “Oh God, can’t You just overlook evil.”
This prayer for mercy. A mercy which is in the very nature of God. A mercy evident in the words, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).”
God’s mercy and righteousness is being mirrored by Abraham. He is not at cross-purposes with God. This is, I guess, one aspect of what true righteousness is. To be united in mind with God and His purposes is at the root of why, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16b).”
Great things can be accomplished through prayer. We are not speaking of the “God let me win the lottery,” type prayers, which if we look at the example above probably driven by greed rather than righteousness. But rather prayers for healing, forgiveness, and of relationship, which foster well-being in the soul. These build up all who are involved, and bring peace.
Are we living righteously today? Are we channeling that righteousness to righteous goals? Are we praying with power? These are just a few things to meditate on today.