Yahweh said, “Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous, I will go down now, and see whether their deeds are as bad as the reports which have come to me. If not, I will know.”
The men turned from there, and went toward Sodom, but Abraham stood yet before Yahweh. Abraham came near, and said, “Will you consume the righteous with the wicked? What if there are fifty righteous within the city? Will you consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are in it? May it be far from you to do things like that, to kill the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be like the wicked. May that be far from you. Shouldn’t the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Yahweh said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare the whole place for their sake.” Abraham answered, “See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to the Lord, although I am dust and ashes. What if there will lack five of the fifty righteous? Will you destroy all the city for lack of five?”
Yahweh said, “I will not destroy it if I find forty-five there.”
Abraham spoke to him yet again, and said, “What if there are forty found there?”
Yahweh said, “I will not do it for the forty’s sake.”
Abraham said, “Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak. What if there are thirty found there?”
Yahweh said, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”
Abraham said, “See now, I have taken it on myself to speak to the Lord. What if there are twenty found there?”
Yahweh said, “I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake.”
Abraham said, “Oh don’t let the Lord be angry, and I will speak just once more. What if ten are found there?”
Yahweh said, “I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.”
Yahweh went his way as soon as he had finished communing with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is often assumed to be about a wrathful God punishing bad behavior. But the story really isn’t about that at all. The vast majority of the text consists of an extraordinary discussion between Abraham and God in which Abraham ask God if He will spare the city if just a few innocent people can be found there. God’s answer is inevitably, “yes.”
In the Biblical narrative, it sometimes seems like God’s concern is with the Israelites as a group rather than with each individual. And in our lives, it is easy to feel very small and insignificant – one person in a world of billions. We might ask, “does God take notice of me?” One of the most disconcerting things bout COVID is that it makes us all feel like cannon fodder - a nameless statistic - a potential carrier or patient. The story of Sodom and the discussion between Abraham and God reveals that God does not love groups; He loves each of us as His unique creation and takes notice of each one of us because each one of us is the center of His universe.
Jesus said something similar in the Gospel of Matthew:
Aren’t two sparrows sold for an Assarion coin? Not one of them falls on the ground apart from your Father’s notice, but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore, don’t be afraid. You are of more value than many sparrows.