Genesis  ◦   Chapter 18

1The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre, while he was resting at the entrance of his tent during the hottest part of the day. 2When Abraham looked up, he saw three men standing nearby. Quickly he ran over to welcome them and bowed down in greeting.

3He said, “Sir, please do me the favor of staying at my place and let me serve you.4Rest under this tree and I’ll bring some water so that you can wash your feet. 5And since you have honored me by stopping here, let me have a meal prepared so that you can regain your strength and then you can continue your journey.” They answered, “Please do as you have said.”

6So Abraham ran back to the tent and found Sarah, and said, “Go quickly and use 20 quarts (22 liters) of our finest flour and bake some bread.”

7Then he ran to his herd and selected one of his finest, most tender calves and gave it to a servant, who prepared a meal of it. 8Abraham then brought some cottage cheese, milk, and the roasted calf, and set the meal before the men. While they ate, he waited on them under the shade of a tree.

9They asked him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” He answered, “She is there, in our tent.”

10Then one of them said to Abraham, “I will be back when the pregnancy is complete and your wife, Sarah, has given birth to a son.” Sarah was behind the man, listening at the entrance to the tent. 11Abraham and Sarah were very old and Sarah was many years post-menopausal – well past the age of childbearing.12So when Sarah heard this, she laughed to herself, thinking, “Now that I am old and worn out, and my esteemed husband is nearly one hundred years old, will I really enjoy such a thing?”

13Then the One who was God said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child when I’m so old?’ 14Is anything too hard for the Creator of heaven and earth? I will be back when the pregnancy is complete and Sarah will have given birth to a son.”

15Fearing she might have offended, Sarah lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But the Lord smiled and said, “Yes, you did.”

16When the men finished their meal, they stood up and headed off toward Sodom. Abraham walked with them for a while to say his goodbyes. 17Then the Lord turned toward his two companions and said, “Should I hide from Abraham the therapeutic action I must take 18in order to protect Abraham’s descendants from corruption, so that they will become a great and powerful nation – a blessing to all the peoples of the earth – through whom I will fulfill my promise of grace? 19For I know Abraham and have chosen him to head the family through whom I will fulfill my promise to save humanity. He will teach his children and their families to live in harmony with me and my design for life, to do what is right and exercise good judgment, and I will fulfill through Abraham what I promised him I would do.”

20So the Lord said to Abraham, “The wail of discord, caused by deviations from my design of love, coming from Sodom and Gomorrah, is so great and their selfishness so malignant 21that no more time given them will do any good. I have come in person to examine if their selfishness is beyond healing. If not, I will know.”

22The two angels, in the appearance of men, left and headed toward Sodom, but God stayed with Abraham. 23Abraham’s heart was heavy with concern for the Lord, and in empathy he said, “In the act of cleansing, will you sweep away the spiritually healthy, godly people, together with the malignantly unhealthy – the terminally selfish, who are beyond healing?24What if there are fifty spiritually healthy, godly people in the city? Will you really eradicate the whole city rather than seek to uplift it through the righteous? 25Let it never be that you would do such a thing; you would never destroy the spiritually healthy in order to eradicate the terminally selfish. You would never treat the godly like the wicked – never! Surely, the Ruler of all the earth will do what is right!”

26The Lord said, “If I find fifty spiritually healthy, godly people in Sodom, I will not remove it.”

27Encouraged, Abraham pressed on: “Lord, please forgive my boldness. I know that I am only a finite human being, a mortal who will return to dust, 28but what if the number of the spiritually healthy – those who love and trust you – is forty-five rather than fifty? Would you remove the city for the lack of a mere five people?” The Lord said, “If I find forty-five godly people there, I will not remove it.”

29Once again Abraham asked the Lord, “What if only forty are found there?” The Lord kindly replied, “I will not remove it if there are forty godly people there.” 30Then Abraham implored, “Please don’t be angry with me, Lord, if I speak again, but what if only thirty godly are found there?” The Lord answered, “If I find thirty godly, I will not remove it.” 31Abraham spoke again, “Lord, forgive me for being so bold, but what if only twenty spiritually healthy people can be found there?” The Lord said, “I will not remove it if only twenty are found.” 32Abraham then said, “Please don’t be angry, Lord, if I make one more inquiry, but… what if only ten godly people can be found?” The Lord smiled and said, “I won’t remove it if I find just ten godly people.” 33When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.