Summary: As Christians, we are responsible to pray for wicked people. Though their actions invoke divine censure, our responsibility is to pray for God’s glory through turning the wicked to righteousness.
“The men set out from [the oaks of Mamre where Abraham had set up his tent], 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? Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?’ And the Lord said, ‘If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.’
“Abraham answered and said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. Suppose five of the fifty righteous are lacking. Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five?’ And he said, ‘I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.’ Again he spoke to him and said, ‘Suppose forty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of forty I will not do it.’ Then he said, ‘Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Suppose thirty are found there.’ He answered, ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ He said, ‘Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it.’ Then he said, ‘Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.’ He answered, ‘For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.’ And the Lord went his way, when he had finished speaking to Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.”
Do you pray for wicked people? Do you plead for those who have embraced wickedness? Do you ask God to show mercy to those He identifies as being under sentence of death? Are your prayers coupled with eager, earnest labour to tell lost people of the Saviour? When you plead for God to show mercy to wicked people, are you specific in your requests? How far will you go when asking God to show mercy on those who are undeserving of mercy?
God frequently informs His people of His plans before judging evil. The response of His people to His revelations demonstrates their divine character and reflects God’s glorious presence with them. God is merciful, and He expects His people to reflect that same mercy. In our text, Abraham provides an exemplary model of compassion that encourages the people of God to pray and in particular to seek mercy for the wicked—especially pleading for those who do not deserve mercy. Join me in studying the life of Abraham, focusing in particular on this singular demonstration of compassion as he prayed for the city of Sodom.
*Informed of God’s Plan* — After the Lord, together with the two angels that accompanied Him, had been entertained by Abraham, and following their announcement of the miraculous gift of a child to Abraham and Sarah,, the divine emissaries left to go to Sodom. Ever the gracious host, Abraham accompanied his guests as they left his tent.
God has said in His Word,
“The Lord God does nothing
without revealing His secret
to His servants the prophets”
Indeed, that is the case in the study before us. Looking down on Sodom from the highlands where Abraham pastured his flocks, we are informed that Yahweh Himself, the Living God, was one of the three guests whom Abraham had been entertaining. God 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” [*Genesis** 18:17b-19*]. The Lord—whom theologians accept to be a theophany, or the presence of the preincarnate Son of God—determined to inform Abraham what was about to happen.