Summary: We live in perilous & prosperous times. We have every modern convenience and an abundance of leisure time. We live amongst cities like Sodom and Gomorrah. We profit by living in the shadow of their wickedness. Are we just Negotiating with God?

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.

You might wonder why Abraham entered into this negotiation. He was doing very well making a good living. He probably sold livestock to the surrounding cities. Did Abraham have his own selfish reasons for wanting these cities spared?

Did Abraham genuinely care for the souls of the righteous and unrighteous? I think all these things came into play and Abraham realized what a tragedy was about to fall on these two cities. But for the righteous sake God would not destroy them if only 10 righteous people could be found.

Abraham had a heart for the lost citizens of those two cities and realized that he shared his world with them. But they did not share Abrahams belief in the Living God.

God used Integrative Bargaining here and gained the preservation of Lot and his daughters as well as Abraham and his family at the expense of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham and Lot lost their source of income and became dependent on God to provide for them.

They were also physically separated and spiritually separated from the evil of the two cities they once lived near. It was a win win after all. God destroyed the unrighteous and spared and separated the righteous.

For there is none righteous no not one. Romans 3:10

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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.

Tatjana Virant Kramar

commented on Feb 4, 2018

When Abraham pleaded with God for salvation of Sodom, he said to God at his 5th plea " let me ask You once more" - and then, for his 6th and final plea, he asked God not to destroy it if there was 10 righteous. God was more than willing to spare the whole sinful city (cities) for the sake of 10 righteous! Unfortunately, there were no 10 righteous there, but my point is: it was mediator Abraham who limited himself (and God) by stopping at 6th plea for 10 righteous! It was NOT God who stopped negotiations at the number of 10 righteous,!!! Abraham DECLARED in advance: „Let me ask you ONCE more…“ And THEN he pleaded for 10! ?!? Obviously, Abraham DID NOT have the faith that One would be enough for sparing the whole!!! (or he believed that there were 10 righteous for sure… irrelevant now anyway, he stopped at TEN). Numbers... 6...10... ring a bell? Number of man, number of the Law!!! BUT WHAT IF Abraham had not said „let me ask you once more“, and went on to his 7th plea to spare Sodom for the sake of 1 righteous person? God would have spared them all for the sake of Lot, cause He already showed willingness to spare x number of sinners for the sake of 10 righetous!!!!! (Would 9 people have made any difference? Don't think so). NOW, after THE ONLY absolutely Righteous One has died and was raised to life, so that now we have a mediator far better and greater than Abraham, can we "plead" for the world for the sake of that 1 Righteous? Cause He gave His life for the WORLD and was raised to life for ALL that He died for! (Or He died for all, but was raised for less than all? Hmmm…..) Is God who said „For the sake of 10 I will not destroy it“ WILLING to say NOW „For the sake of ONE i will not destroy it“? Is He? „Will not Judge of all the earth do right“? What is the judgement now for the World? All died, all will be raised to LIFE.

Mark Aarssen

commented on Jul 4, 2018

Good comments about righteousness. My point in this message was that we willingly compromise God's law in order to benefit from our personal circumstances. Both Abraham and Lot grew rich as they lived near very sinful communities. Did Abraham hope to change God's mind about destroying these cities so that Abraham might continue to prosper by living in the shadow of a sinful culture? My point was that today we seem to tolerate sin as long as our personal lives go well. We seem to negotiate how much righteousness is enough to appease God.

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