I got into a bargaining match with my dad once when I was about 8 years old. It did not go well…for me. As I recall, we were driving home from having been out to eat for dinner, and I was desperately pleading for some ice cream from the back seat of the car. After several beggings and several refusals, I finally said to him, “Well, if you won’t give me any ice cream then you don’t love me.” Oops. Wrong thing to say. Dad pulled that car over and gave me a well-deserved lecture about what it truly means to be loved and taken care of, and that bowing to my ice cream whims had little to do with it.
I love that we have a number of instances in Scripture of real people wrestling with the Almighty God. I’m a wrestler. For better or for worse, I have this need to work through things and figure them out for myself. Which, as you can see, gets me into trouble sometimes. But I’m glad I’m not the only one…
Bargaining for God’s Sake
One of my favorite examples of a wrestling, bargaining conversation with God is the scene that takes place in Genesis 18 between God and Abraham. God has just revealed to Abraham that He is about to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their wickedness, and Abraham responds with some opposition. He enters into what really seems like a haggling conversation with God. The kind of thing you would see happening at a flea market — “I’ll give you $50.” — “How about $45?” — it’s bargaining at its best. But Abraham is not just wheeling for a deal here. Abraham is standing on what he already knows of God.
Genesis 18:23, 25 – “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 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 knows his God is Just, the Judge of all the earth, and he begins his pleading by calling forth this justice.
Bargaining for His Own Sake
I wonder if Abraham was also pleading for his nephew, Lot. Remember when Abraham and Lot parted ways?…
Genesis 13:12 – Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: Abram lived in the land of Canaan, while Lot lived among the cities of the plain and pitched his tents near Sodom.”
When God tells Abraham of His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, I can imagine Abe’s first thought was of his nephew–“Wait, I know someone who lives down there. God, you can’t destroy that place. He would die!” So, Abraham goes toe to toe with God about the issue.
Genesis 18:24 – “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?”
“If I find fifty,” our real God replies, “I will spare the whole city for their sake.”
Bargaining with Humility
Abraham goes on. But unlike my snotty 8-year-old pleading with my dad, Abraham continues his pleading with humility.
Genesis 18:27-28 – “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”
That’s a far cry from “If you won’t give me ice cream, you don’t love me.” That’s a picture of a man who knows his place before God.
And our real God agrees. “If I find 45 there,” He says, “I will not destroy it.”
This bargaining goes on and on. Five less. Ten less. Each time Abraham approaches the Lord with the same humility and reverence, pleading for the sake of even a few righteous ones in the city. Finally, they settle on the number ten. Ten righteous ones. The Lord agrees, He will not destroy the cities if 10 righteous people can be found there.
Invited to Bargain
Wow. What a conversation with God. It amazes me that our real God would allow such a conversation. He didn’t have to entertain Abraham’s thoughts and wrestlings. He didn’t have to put up with it. The Lord does not need to consult with any man about His plans.
But not only did our God allow this conversation, He invited it.
Genesis 18:17-19 – “Then the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.’”
It seems that our real God wanted to reveal Himself to Abraham. He wanted to show Abraham His heart and His plans, His justice and His mercy. He didn’t want to hide these things from Abraham. God had chosen Abraham to be the father of many nations, and to bless all nations through him, and He desired for Abraham to teach his children and his children’s children what was “right and just.” So…He showed Abraham what was right and just. He invited Abraham into an opportunity to know His heart and His character more.
This is our God. What a blessing. He is truly a God unlike any other. A God who wants to walk with us in relationship, even though He is far above us and needs nothing from us.
That little 8-year-old girl still lives inside me. The wrestler. I am happy to say she isn’t as snotty and bratty as she was then (well, maybe sometimes), but she still lives in me. I still have to wrestle through things and sometimes I have to learn them the hard way. I am so thankful for a God who will wrestle with me.
- He is truly a God unlike any other, a God who wants to walk with us in relationship.
- The Lord does not need to consult me about His plans, yet He invites my conversation.
- I am so thankful for a God who will wrestle with me.
Are there things that you need to “wrestle” with God about today?