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Negotiating with God

The title for this mornings message is Negotiating with God. I must admit straight out that I am not a great negotiator. My wife would give me very strict instructions to keep my mouth shut when we went looking for a new car or any other major purchase.

Having grown up in the house of a professional salesmen I tended to always side with the salesmen and not my wife. A big mistake, usually expensive, in more ways than one. I have gotten a little better at negotiating but it has cost me a fortune over the years.

I have studied negotiation and dispute resolution as part of my Human Resources courses at community college. I did pretty well at that course now I just needed to learn to apply what I was taught. One day while I was in class I came to realize how often we tend to negotiate with God.

Please turn with me in your bibles to Genesis Chapter 18:23-33. Here we see the first recorded negotiation between God and man. It happens to be Abraham who is concerned about God pouring out his wrath on Sodom and Gomorrah.

There are basically only two kinds of negotiation that you can undertake, one is a win lose situation where one party will give up something which benefits the first party. Its called Distributive Bargaining any gain I make is at your expense. The other is called Integrative Bargaining which means that we have a win win situation.

Lets look at the negotiations Abraham undertakes. Abraham begins with acknowledging his own unworthiness to even begin to think that he (a man made from the dust of the ground and ash Vs.27) could negotiate with the Living God.

But still he feels the need to intercede on behalf of these people he has lived near. Abraham obviously has a close relationship with God and feels comfortable enough to pose the question.

Wilt thou destroy the righteous with the wicked in verse 23.

Its a good question. Its almost comical as Abraham barters his way through the situation always seeking the goal of restraining or removing Gods wrath.

Abraham starts with 50 righteous souls and works his way down to 10. All along the way Abrahams entreating God, and affirming his status as a lowly human being and begging Gods kind indulgence. Oh let not the Lord get angry, Vs.30.

Then we see God leave the negotiating table and went His way. Abraham returns to his place understanding he has reached the best of all possible deals with God on Sodom and Gomorrahs behalf.

If God finds ten righteous souls in these two cities combined, Abraham is of the understanding that the cities will be spared.

The next day Abraham wakes to see a cloud of smoke like a cloud from a furnace, a column of smoke. Abraham now realizes that his negotiations were in vain since God could not find 10 righteous souls from the combined population of the two cities.

That is all we get. We do not get information on how Abraham felt or what his reaction was, just that he moved.

So what did Abraham learn? He learned that yes, he could negotiate with God and pose hard questions. He learned that God would keep His word. He learned that not 10 living souls in either of those cities were found righteous in Gods eyes. He learned that God preserved his life for a reason and wanted him away from these people forever.


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Donald J Schutz

commented on May 2, 2013

This sermon incorporates a traditional misunderstanding of this verse. This passage has been misunderstood for years, and will be misunderstood for years. A steadfast eternal God does not need a human to calm him down to do the right thing. This is not a negotiation. Abraham jumps to the wrong conclusion that God intends to destroy the innocent with the wicked. Abraham asks if he will destroy 50 and works his way down to 10. At ten, it dawns on Abraham that God will not destroy even one righteous person, and will allow the wicked to exist in order to allow the righteous to exist. This discussion shows that God will not destroy even one innocent person, and it takes Abraham many questions to come to that realization. It dawns on him when he asks about 10, and then stops asking. This is not a negotiation, it is an epiphany that comes to Abraham when Abraham realizes that a steadfast, just, and eternal God will allow wicked people to live in order to preserve the righteous.

Mark Aarssen

commented on May 23, 2013

Thanks for your comments but I maintain it is a negotiation as clearly Abraham makes repeated appeals but lowers the body count with each attempt. There is No one righteous not even one Romans 3:10 Thanks for your insights.

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