Remember that age old question about whether or not God ever changes his mind and the case study of Abraham interceding for Sodom and Gomorrah/ Lot? Well it came up during our fantastic and lively Faithroots Live session yesterday.
The assumption is that God plans to wipe out the city and this means Lot, Abraham’s nephew will be killed. This moves Abraham to intercede for Lot and the result is that his life is saved.
Well, look again. In the account (Genesis 18), Abraham barters with God. Will God spare the city if there are 50 righteous people in it? What about if there are 45? 30? Then Abraham pleads on the basis of 10 righteous men. God will not destroy the city if that is the case. However, we know that the reality is that only Lot in the city is righteous.
Yet, Abraham stops at 10. If it was down to Abraham bartering then Lot would not have been saved. Sorry Lot but we couldn’t find another 9 God-fearers in the city. Lot’s salvation from the city was not dependent upon Abraham interceding. In fact, it looks from the narrative like the two angels may have already set off for the city, to investigate it and to find and warn Lot.
Now, there’s an ongoing conversation to be had about how exactly God uses our prayers within his sovereign plan to fulfil his will and that there is a sense in which intercession changes things. However, in this specific case study, it’s important to see that God does not need Abraham to change hi mind for him -and that’s a good thing.
We’ve often talked about how God’s grace is always more loving and mercy than our mercy, even when his grace looks like law. Isn’t this a good example? Think about what we are tempted to settle for, the restrictions and constraints we place on our intercessions.
“Lord please get so and so to come to our church on Sunday and be saved.” But why does their salvation have to be dependent on coming to my church?
“Lord please let my Uncle Sebastian get better.” Well it’s great that I’m praying for my uncle Sebastian, I know him, he’s kind to the family and if he dies we will miss him. But what about Ethel who lives 3 doors down from him. We don’t know her, so we don’t bother to pray for her.
That God chooses to work through our prayers so that we get to see something of his goodness is wonderful, just as it is wonderful that God chooses to include us in the proclamation of the Gospel. But that’s an act of grace. The good God will always do good and his plan will be good and wise from the start. He does not need me to get him to be merciful, he does not need me to tell him about a piece of information he missed. What he does with us, is a little bit like what The Father does with the only begotten son. As his children, we have the privilege of having a heavenly father who loves us and shows us his work. That’s one of the beauties of prayer.