As I get older I have noticed how much our society is slipping further into self-absorbed individualism, degradation and immorality.
It is in the little civilities like saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, lack of personal care, respecting our elderly citizens or our police, having compassion for those less fortunate, and even just common courtesy and respect toward others that we see rapidly disappearing. As we degrade in those little things it flows toward racial intolerance, dishonest financial gain, destroyed marriages, sexual depravity and the aborting of babies – to name but a few.
One by one, bit by bit, we begin to excuse it through humour or politically corrected language.
As a society it reaches a tipping point and eventually, so we don’t have to deal with it, we decriminalise it and everyone resigns to the fact that it is now the norm and we have permission to spiral downward to the next level.
And in our quieter reflective moments, we shake our head in bewilderment and ask the question, “Why? And, what can I do about it?”
I know there are some who are happy to point to, and leave it to, God’s Wrath. Fire and Brimstone… burn them up! And in those pious moments with one finger pointing toward the objects of wrath, and three fingers neatly folded and pointing back at themselves, the blind lead the blind.
But, as Christians we are not called to be ‘finger-pointers’ or pious judges.
Consider Sodom and Gomorrah with its culture of rampant sexual depravity. What happened there?
Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Yes, God heard the outcry and was letting Abraham know He intended to confirm it and by implication He would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Yep, God’s Wrath, it’s a comin’!
But, what did Abraham do in regards to Sodom?
Then Abraham approached God and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Abraham acknowledges God’s integrity and then spoke to the Lord’s Mercy.
Note well that the the Lord knew it would be unjust to slay the righteous with the wicked. Abraham didn’t enlighten the Lord of some unknown fact. But here is the reason: God works with man to establish the future and, in the process of determining reality, God always prepares a merciful alternative.
Urgent, redemptive prayer shoots straight through the door of mercy and enters God’s heart.
And the Mercy Door is never closed. Jesus Christ, The High Priest, ministers at the mercy seat in the Heavens. It is open each and every time we pray. Listen to how the Lord answers Abrahams prayer:
The LORD said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
How the truth of God’s mercy smacks in the face of those eager to judge a city or a nation! God’s Judgement and His Wrath will fall, as it did for Sodom. But before it does, God intends to be merciful. We see clearly that a few righteous people scattered in a city can preserve that area from divine wrath.
And Abraham pressed God to His limits. “What if it were forty?”, “Thirty?”, “Twenty?”. And finally, he secured the Lord’s promise not to destroy the city if He could find just ten righteous people there.
Consider God’s scales here. One side says “destroy” and the other side says, “Mercy”. One side is weighed down with the 200,000+ perverse evil people in Sodom. The counter side with just 10 righteous people. And we see the balance is tipped, by the spiritual weight of the righteous, towards mercy. Righteousness outweighs the wickedness of evil. God would spare sinful Sodom for the influence of ten godly people who dwelt within it!
When the Lord’s messengers came to rescue Lot and his family, Lot hesitated. Pressured by the two avenging angles to flee to the mountains, Lot asked if he could go to Zoar. As one of the Angels granted his request, he uttered something most astounding:
He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of. But flee there quickly, because I cannot do anything until you reach it.”
“I cannot do anything until you reach it”. Think about this. God had placed a limitation upon His Wrath. As long as the righteous dwelt in the city, it was protected. And after Lot reached Zoar, fire and brimstone fell and consumed every community in the valley, except Zoar! Why? Because the righteous were there.
Abraham stopped his prayer at ten. He was a great man of faith, and yet I believe he stopped praying too soon. The Lord’s mercy would have extended further. Consider sinful Jerusalem and what God told Jeremiah:
“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.
Yes, just one righteous person in a corrupt and sinful city could turn away God’s Wrath.
Just ONE godly individual who remains righteous while living among the ungodly, who cares for their community or family or school or a neighbourhood or a church or a workplace, swings wide open the door of mercy.
It is no little thing to God that He has a soul that remains righteous in an unrighteous world.
If just ONE heart refuses to give in to the intimidation of increasing wickedness, if that ONE refuses to submit to hopelessness, fear or unbelief, it is enough to draw from heaven a delay of wrath. Just ONE.
You can be the ONE who obtains forgiveness for your city. You can be the ONE who stands between the godless past and a God-filled future!
It all begins with ONE who is willing to pray.