I think it is an astonishing thought that a man could be called the friend of God—that God calls him friend. Yet, the Scriptures reveal to us that Jesus considered his disciples his friends (John 15:13-15) and God considered Abraham his friend (James 2:23; 2Chronicles 20:7). What does that look like? Are all righteous people God’s friends? I may be wrong, but I don’t think this is true. Although Abraham was God’s friend, Lot was not, although he was considered righteous and a worshiper of the true God (2Peter 2:23). So, what makes a man God’s friend? I believe the answer to this question comes to us in Abraham’s life and his walk with God.
Friends know what their friends are up to, and God considered it pertinent that he reveal to Abraham his intention to judge Sodom (Genesis 18:16-17), and in the intercourse that followed, I believe is revealed what makes a friend a friend.
We need to remember that Abraham had committed his life to God. Both Abraham and Lot had left their homeland desiring the blessing of God—to make them a great nation. God kept his promise to both men, but Abraham’s commitment to God went much deeper than that of Lot. Abraham had covenanted with God concerning circumcision. That is, he cut himself off from the world (symbolized by the cutting off of the flesh) in order to have an intimate relationship with God (cp Genesis 17:9-14). Circumcision represents the promise of intimate fellowship with God.
Abraham has grown considerably in his knowledge of God. Apparently, Abraham has been able to see from experience how God has treated people. Perhaps he also remembered the Lord’s word concerning the Amorites in Genesis 15:16 and his patience with them. It is because of this more intimate knowledge of God that Abraham was able to speak to the Lord concerning his intent to judge Sodom. He appealed to God’s character, i.e. to his righteousness. “Shall the Judge of the world destroy the righteous with the wicked?”
Abraham knows that Lot dwells in Sodom and stands before the Lord pleading for his life. He bases his argument upon the justice of God tempered with his mercy, love and compassion for man. From Abraham’s perspective, a just God would not allow the righteous to suffer the punishment due the wicked (Genesis 18:25). How could the righteous Judge treat the righteous and the wicked alike? The righteous did not deserve the same fate as the wicked.
What I believe the Scriptures tell us here is that Abraham has grown to be more and more like God over the years. God revealed his intent to judge Sodom in order to draw godly compassion and the sense of righteous judgment out of Abraham. God gave Abraham the opportunity to plead a case for the righteous in Sodom, and Abraham did just has God intended (Ezekiel 22:3). He is becoming more like God, whom he serves. Abraham had come to recognize the traits of justice mixed with mercy, love and compassion and so incorporated them into his own life and used those character traits to call out the same from God who was about the judge the land.
Once Abraham saw that his request was granted (Genesis 18:23-26), the bargaining began over how many righteous it would take to save the city. Abraham stopped bargaining when his request for ten righteous people was granted. Why did he stop there? Probably Lot had at five daughters, at least three were married (cp. Genesis 19:14) and two were not (Genesis 19:15). Five daughters, plus 3 sons-in-law, plus Lot and his wife make ten righteous people. Abraham overestimated Lot’s righteous influence over his family, showing that righteous behavior isn’t enough to influence the behavior of others, but walking with God in mutual friendship does.