27 And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, which am but dust and ashes: 28 Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. 29 And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty’s sake. 30 And he said unto him, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. 31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty’s sake. 32 And he said, Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten’s sake.
Abraham beseeched the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if there were fifty righteous people therein, and God had assented. Now we have this sequence where Abraham repeatedly petitions the Lord, seeing if He is willing to spare it for fewer and fewer righteous souls.
It’s natural to see this as a sort of bartering between and Abraham and God, though they are not haggling at extremes and meeting in the middle, as with the typical markets. Instead Abraham is procedurally seeking out the very limits of God’s mercy.
And while Abraham is concerned for the righteous, it is not as if that same concerns is absent from God, Himself. Ultimately God will be even more merciful than Abraham’s final plea asked for. God will only find Lot and his family as being worthy, which is less than ten souls, but He will lead Lot and his family to safety before destroying the city.
Perhaps we sometimes feel the need to convince God to not just be good, but to be very good, like Abraham was doing. And I imagine that He’s rather amused at our concern in those moments, for He is always intending to be much more good than we could even ask for!