Finally, Abraham said, “Lord, please don’t be angry with me if I speak one more time. Suppose only ten are found there?”
And the LORD replied, “Then I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.”
This story of Abraham’s intercession and bargaining for the survival of the cities of Sodom and Gommorah is described in great detail as far as Biblical passages go. Very rarely do we see this much specific dialogue in this sort of setting, but the writer wrings every drop of conversation from this encounter. There are two things at play here that add flavor to this text. First, the Bible’s attestation to the omniscient attribute of God means that the Lord knew exactly how low Abraham’s requests would go, and he allowed Abraham to go through the whole process of negotiation. Next, everything that I read about Abraham in the preceding chapters indicates that either initially, or very soon into the bartering, he knew what number he wanted to get to. Certainly he was trying to cypher the number of members of Lot’s family in the settlement and then assume a small number of those who were like minded in order to have a manageable bottom line to bring to the Lord.
God knew Abe’s number and Abe knew Abe’s number, and yet they still worked through the process of the negotiation. In Middle Eastern countries this negotiating is far more prevalent than in the West. Here we have prices, there they have suggestions. But this case is curious, if for no other reason than that the literal, bodily presence of God is present in this deal.
Obviously there are many different applications here that can be made, different avenues of thought that can be engaged, but just one simple thing strikes me this morning. Out of all the theological truths regarding intercession and judgment, the simple truth emerges that God values the process of prayer between us and Him. He doesn’t cut Abraham off in the middle of the negotiating and tell him, “ten is the final number, lets knock off all this nonsense and get to the point!” Though His omniscience is at play here, another aspect of God’s character is also displayed, his friendship. He likes talking to Abraham. The Bible says that they were friends, not merely king and subject, not merely master and servant, but friends. And don’t we like to spend time with and enjoy conversation with our friends.
The New Testament tells us that if we believe, as Abraham believed, then we also are called the “friends of God”. Among a thousand other things, this title means that God enjoys long, drawn out conversations with us. He sees value in talking through our problems and fears and reservations even though he knows both our “lowest number” as well as his.
Prayer is more than just having a conversation with a friend, but it is not less.