God is merciful and gracious. Abraham knew that. Therefore he was persistent in asking God to show mercy towards Sodom for the sake of the righteous people who lived there.
In his recent book "The General's Son," Miko Peled, an Israeli Peace activist wrote: "One has to admire Abraham for his tenacity. Stepping near as he did to confront the almighty and argue with God for the sake of a principle that he held dear, the principle that human life is sacred." (p. 167)
Abraham's intercession sounded like he was scolding his best friend, "Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous with the wicked... Shall not the Judge of the earth do what is just?" (v. 25)
For the sake of 50 righteous people God promised to forgive all. Abraham then pleaded with God five more times until he brought down the number to 10. God answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."
God listened to Abraham's intercessions; is God less ready to listen to ours?
Gracious God, we plead with you on behalf of cities and towns where we live as well as cities far away like Jerusalem, Gaza, Baghdad, Kabul, Teheran, and Damascus that you may bring your peace and merciful justice to all. Amen.
Genesis 18:20-32 (NRSV)
20 Then the Lord said, "How great is the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah and how very grave their sin!
21 I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know."
22 So the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, while Abraham remained standing before the Lord.
23 Then Abraham came near and said, "Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?
24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city; will you then sweep away the place and not forgive it for the fifty righteous who are in it?
25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to slay the righteous 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?"
26 And the Lord said, "If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will forgive the whole place for their sake."
27 Abraham answered, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes.
28 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."
29 Again he spoke to him, "Suppose forty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of forty I will not do it."
30 Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak. Suppose thirty are found there." He answered, "I will not do it, if I find thirty there."
31 He said, "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord. Suppose twenty are found there." He answered, "For the sake of twenty I will not destroy it."
32 Then he said, "Oh do not let the Lord be angry if I speak just once more. Suppose ten are found there." He answered, "For the sake of ten I will not destroy it."