This morning I was reading that odd little story in Genesis 18:22ff where Abraham is negotiating with the "angel of the Lord" for the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. I've been in the Middle East and have "haggled" with vendors and merchants in the Bazaars. This conversation between Abraham and the Angel of the Lord feels a lot like that kind of transition. The question for me is who benefits from the conversation? Clearly God already knows what God is going to do. Clearly, even though Abraham seems to get the Angel of the Lord down to 10 righteous people, there are no redeemable qualities left in this dreadful city. So the question remains, who benefits from this haggling?
I believe the process is a teaching time for father Abraham. Abraham is just beginning to learn the nature of God, he is just beginning to learn about the relationship and covenant he has entered into with the creator of the universe. He now knows that the desire of God is to be merciful and to be just. If there were any reason not to destroy the city the city would have survived. But, when the last vestige of goodness in the person of Lot and his family (a dubious goodness at that) is removed, the merciful thing is to destroy the city before the wickedness spreads. Abraham is learning to walk with God and is learning God's essential nature.
I also note in Genesis that every decision has consequences. Abraham fathers a child with his wife's maid Hagar and the negative repercussions are being felt to this very day. Lot's daughters get their father drunk and get pregnant by him. One bears the child Moab, whose descendents become an ancient enemy of Israel but also is the place where King David's grandmother (Ruth) comes from. The other is Ammon whose descendents become the Ammonites, an entrenched enemy of ancient Israel. We live in a moral universe. Every choice, every decision, every act or deed has consequences that may well out live our own lives.