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Maple Leaf - Canada  Local Congregation
Edmonton, Alberta

What If There Were Ten
By: Robert Berendt (published September 13, 2018)

We often read of the account in which Abraham who was a specially chosen man of God reasoned with God as the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah were imminent. The reports God had received of the rampant sin in those cities were being addressed. We know that God is Almighty in every way. He and the angels with Him did not have to walk on the plains of Mamre and God did not "need" reports about the evil of those cities. We know that this was the God of the Old Testament that we know of as the Logos and Word that later would become Jesus Christ. God enjoyed His relationship with Abraham and Sarah and when we read that God so loved the world - we ought to know that God does love people - thankfully that includes you and me. As God and the two angels with Him were about to leave, they looked toward Sodom and Gomorrah and hesitated. In the recorded words, God stopped to explain to Abraham about the sin He was aware of, and Abraham knew that his relative Lot lived in Sodom. It seems that Abraham also knew that God was going to completely destroy the city, though God apparently did not directly say that in the recorded words. No doubt there was more of a conversation than is recorded. Abraham was full of respect and awe for God, but he also knew God was generous, kind and merciful. Carefully, Abraham asked if God would still consider destroying the whole city if there were 50, then 45, then 40,30,20 and finally 10 righteous people in that city. A kind and loving God said: "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten" (Gen. 18:32). But the city was destroyed and along with it Gomorrah and other cities of the plains (verse 25). The only little city God spared was Zoar and that was where Lot wanted to go. It is disconcerting that when we consider small children as well as adults, God did not find a reason to spare a single city of the plain except Zoar. Lot may have had his two virgin daughters who lived at home and at least two others who were married since he warned his "sons-in-law" (Gen. 19:14,15). The only people who left Sodom were Lot, his reluctant wife and two unmarried daughters (verse 16). Even at the last moment, Lot was allowed to "reason" with where he was to find refuge. The angels told him to flee to the mountains, but Lot preferred the cities and asked about Zoar which was also a city on the plain and was scheduled for destruction. God is merciful, though He must also act with great wrath and power. After being told not to look back, Lot's wife disobeyed and was immediately turned into a pillar of salt (verse 26). Why did she look back? Was it her other two daughters? Were there more children or grandchildren? Did she love the active life the city offered? She disobeyed the warning.

Later in the history of God's people, the children of Israel were also wicked and evil. In spite of God rescuing them from the iron fisted grip of Egypt, many who were slaves looked back as well. They remembered that there was enough food in Egypt, but they did not appreciate the fact that God had looked for an occasion against Egypt so He could rescue Israel (Num. 14:2). God told Moses to stand aside and He would destroy Israel and make a new, stronger and better nation than the one Moses was leading (verse 12). Moses was brave enough to reason with God. Moses could not state something God would not have known already, so it is not new knowledge that made God change His mind. God was pleased that Moses tried to stand in the gap for Israel as Abraham had for Sodom. Because Moses was so passionate about the people, God changed His plan (although it is possible God was testing Moses)(verse 20). It is a little foolish for us to think that we can give God a better idea than the one He has. On anther occasion following the building of the golden calf, Moses who realized that a great sin had been committed reasoned with God and stood in the gap for Israel. If God would not forgive their sin, Moses too wanted to be blotted out of the book of life (Exod. 32:30-35. Psalm 106:23). God withheld His great anger, but Israel wandered for 40 years until all the adults who left Egypt died with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.

Another of God's chosen was King David. There is no record of another person like this who had his sins written about in the Scriptures. David carried a great responsibility because God chose him in the sight of the whole nation to become the king. It seemed he was out of step fairly often in his walk with God. There is also no other whose deep prayer of repentance is written of as that of David (Psalm 51). Among the sins of David is his numbering of the people of Israel. It does not seem to be such a sin at first glance. God was angry with the nation and He moved David to give that order (2 Sam. 24:1) In a way David had done that when he needed to know who was with him against the rebellion of Absalom (2 Sam. 18:1), but Joab could see a difference and this numbering was wrong (2 Sam. 24:3). David realized that too and prayed about it (v.10). God had moved against Israel and when the punishment was coming, David blamed himself and his house and stood in the gap for Israel (verse 17,25). God listened to the prayers of David.

In these incidents it was clear that the nations, cities or people were deep in sin. The penalty of sin is death and in His mercy, God always gives warnings about His wrath. He gave a 120 year warning through Noah and God still destroyed all air breathing creatures. Egypt was a sinful land, Israel slipped into sin and all the world has been under the influence of Satan for thousands of years. God has seen the complete development and results of this evil influence. The penalty of sin is still death, but God is looking for someone to step into the gap (Ezek. 22:30). He is saying "if there were ten". When nobody who was worthy was found that could fill the gap for all of mankind, God provided One to fill that role and that was Jesus Christ (Isa. 63:5-8). God had to act with justice and His wrath was totally justified, but His wrath is always tinged with mercy, kindness and love. God does not have any joy in the punishment or death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). He consistently looks for the "ten" and responds to those who weep for the sins of the world (Joel 2:12-14).

Jesus outlined the condition of the world shortly before His return and the direct intervention of God into the affairs of this world. That intervention is the end of the influence of Satan and the complete establishment of God's laws and statutes in every nation on earth. Jesus stated that there would be such devastation that the world has never seen before and this world has already seen horrors that leave us speechless (Matt. 24:21). What if there were ten? Would God spare the world if there were ten? The answer was also given by Jesus Christ in advance. He said that things would be so terrible that no flesh would be saved alive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened (verse 22). Clearly God knows there will be a number of elect on the earth. These people are the reason God in His great mercy will carefully control the affairs that take place. Jesus stated that there would be 144,000 who would be sealed or protected before the angels of God let loose the harm that would come to the earth and sea. He also stated that a great multitude out of every tribe and nation would be before His throne and all their tears would be wiped away (Rev. 7:9,14-17). God promises that He will gently gather the remnant of Israel and lead them (Isa. 11:11-12). There will be families from every nation in the world who are still living and they will be invited to come and worship God (Zech. 14:16). What if there were ten? The mercy and love of God will be amplified.

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