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So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham drew near and said, “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 Suppose there are fifty righteous within the city. Will you then sweep away the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous who are in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” 26 And the Lord said, “If I find at Sodom fifty righteous in the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.” – Genesis 17:22-26
We were watching a baseball game. “That umpire’s got a crazy strike zone,” I said. “Yes. Completely inconsistent,” she replied. “That makes it really hard to know how to pitch or whether to take a ball or not.”
I’m reading a book by Ken Follett. He’s a very good story-teller, and several of his books are historical fiction. They give a good picture of certain periods of history. One of the things we take for granted these days has to do with money. You give me a quarter, and I know its worth. But in the last part of the first millennium an English penny was 90% silver and 10% copper. It weighed a certain amount. In one incident a gambler was taken advantage of by forgers who used a 50/50 combination of copper and silver. He was found out by the weight of the coins. Weighed and caught lacking (cf. Daniel 5:27).
As far as human enterprise goes, many tend toward a policy of judging a person on the basis of the totality of their life. One little misstep won’t put someone out of favor. You don’t lose a job in most cases because you were late once. But make a habit of it, and…
You might think that is what God is willing to do in regard to Sodom and Gomorra. Abraham will stand before the Lord and argue for leniency for the sake of 50, then 40, then 30, then 20 and even 10 righteous people. In the end, God agrees: “I will not destroy the city for the sake of 10 righteous people.” Ten righteous people will redeem a city. Ten righteous people will prevent a catastrophic judgment. God will withhold brutal judgment for the sake of 10.
But that is a moot point in this case. For there will not be 10 righteous people found there. Judgment will come. Destruction will be swift and decisive.
It seems, however, that nothing less than 100% purity is sufficient for our standing before God. James 2:10 tells us clearly that, “whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” And Paul tells us, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all the things written in the book of the Law, and do them” (Galatians 3:10). Jesus himself tells us that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
So what are we to do? I don’t know anyone who is 100% without sin. I’m not sure I know anyone who is 90% without sin. (Sorry, Dear Reader, not even you!). Well, that’s not actually true…the 100% without sin part. I do know someone like that. His name is Jesus of Nazareth. And those who repent of their sins and believe in him are clothed with his righteousness.
Remember how Abraham believed in the Lord and he was reckoned righteous by God (Genesis 15:6)? That same faith, now focused on Jesus will avail before God. God reckons the one who believes in Jesus as righteous. When we put the righteousness of Christ on the scale, we will not be found lacking. And that is our only hope.