Genesis 18:16-23 (ESV)
Then the men set out from there, and they looked down toward Sodom. And Abraham went with them to set them on their way. The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
This passage doesn’t tell us exactly how Abraham figures out that the LORD is about to destroy Sodom. Instead we hear the LORD discussing out loud (presumably with the other two “men”) whether he should tell Abraham what he’s about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah.
So, we learn more about the backstory than the “frontstory.” The LORD explains, “For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” In other words, this is all about teaching righteousness and justice to Abraham.
And Abraham catches on fast. He understands that if God is going there, in person, to check out the reports that their sin is very grave, they’re in big trouble. While God promised to never again destroy the whole earth, He didn’t say anything about not destroying one valley.
So Abraham, knowing that Lot is down there, starts to negotiate.
But notice where this leads. The lesson gets deeper. Abraham isn’t just going to learn by watching the obliteration of two wicked towns. He’s getting schooled in the finer points of righteousness and justice. That’s typical.
God is always using sophisticated methods to pursue education and growth.
Notice that this negotiation doesn’t offend God – though some kinds of negotiations do.
You shall not put the LORD your God to the test. – Deuteronomy 6:16a (ESV)
Abraham isn’t trying to test God, nor cut a deal (“If you do this, I’ll do that.”) He’s simply asking questions. They’re tough questions, but fair ones.
God doesn’t have a problem with tough questions. Great teachers love students that probe.
The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here: