How to Argue with God and Win

by Mike McKinniss

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Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?” He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.” Genesis 18:32

Sometimes—like anytime He asks me to do something—I argue with God. More often than not, the Lord is compelling me to do something nice for someone else, He’s asking me not just to tell another person that God loves them, but to actually be the manifestation of that love.

But I’m more comfortable being, you know, not loving. Or at least, just minding my own business. What’s the deal, God? Can’t I just ignore this person beside me or the desperate need right in front of me? How come you never ask me to do that?

That’s how my arguments go with the Lord. I hardly ever win because He’s always right, of course. And even when I do win and I neglect the loving thing He’s requested of me, I actually lose. I become a worse person for having fought His intention to care for the people around me.

So, arguing with the Lord is generally a bad idea, I suppose.

I was told one time by a rabbi friend, however, that the reason God chose Abraham to be the father of the nation through whom He would save the world (Gen. 12:1-3) was because Abraham was willing to argue with the Lord. Abraham was chosen because he argues with God? What did this mean?

The evidence for Abraham’s willingness to take God to task is found in Genesis 18. Three strangers, representing the Lord, come to Abraham’s camp. They are on their way to Sodom so that they might destroy it. The city’s wicked stench has reached God’s nostrils and it must be destroyed. Abraham, for his part, is probably thinking of the well-being of his nephew Lot, who had settled there. So Abraham pleads with these powerful strangers to spare the city if any just ten righteous people can be found there.

In effect, Abraham wins the argument. God agrees with him.

Abraham is not the only biblical character to do this. In Exodus 32, Moses descends Mt. Sinai to find that the Israelites have fashioned a golden calf in his absence and have commenced worshiping it, forgetting that the invisible God is the one who saved them from the Egyptians’ spears. God sees it too, and swears to destroy the Israelites for their short memories and blatant idolatry. But Moses stands up for them and for God’s honor.  Moses argues that God’s mercy would better display His greatness to the world than His quick judgment.

Moses wins the debate. God relents in His judgment and Israel is spared.

Maybe the rabbi was right. There seems to be something to this theme of biblical heroes arguing with the Lord and getting what they want.

The difference, though, is that these biblical figures are arguing for good things, things that are on God’s heart already. Abraham and Moses each contradict the Lord, not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. Not interested primarily in their own interests, Abraham and Moses are fighting for more of God’s goodness. They appeal to God’s mercy—his higher nature, perhaps—and pull out of the Lord His best.

Maybe arguing with God isn’t such a bad idea, after all. I just have to get on the right side of the argument.