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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

November 4, 2015

Genesis 18

  1. Chapter 18:1-3. In chapter 17, the Lord had appeared to Abraham for the first time in thirteen years (17:1). Now, just a short time later, God appears again. The Lord is encouraging Abraham with His presence and friendship. The text says that the Lord (Yahweh) appeared to Abraham “in the heat of the day.” It was in the heat of the day and Abraham was resting at the door of his tent. Abraham did not see his three guests walking from a distance, they just appeared. Abraham responded by running to meet them and bowing himself to the earth (18:2). Finally, Abraham says, “if now I have found favor in your sight.” In the Scriptures, this is always spoken to one of a higher rank. These clues all point to the fact that Abraham recognized the Lord (cf. 12:7, 17:1).We can assume that this was God, in the person of Jesus Christ, appearing to Abraham before He took on flesh and was born at Bethlehem. The Bible teaches that no man has ever seen God the Father (John 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16). Therefore, if God appeared to someone in human form in the Old Testament, it makes sense that it was the pre-incarnate God-man that we know as Jesus Christ. Abraham responds with one of the greatest lines in Scripture: “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by” (18:3). He was eager to encounter and experience God. He wanted God to remain with him so he said, “Please do not pass your servant by.” This is precisely how the church should respond when Jesus knocks to be invited in for fellowship (Matt 25:31-46; John 6:53-58; Rev 3:20; 19:7).

  2. Verses 4-8, Abraham responds to the Lord with great zeal. Abraham jumps to provide service and care for his guests. He prepares a basin for them to wash their feet and he promises them that he will bring “a piece of bread” (18:5). The Hebrew word translated “bread” (lehem) can refer either to bread specifically or to food in general. Based on Abraham’s directions to Sarah in 18:6, bread was certainly involved, but 18:7 indicates that Abraham had a more elaborate meal in mind. As this section unfolds, there is a striking emphasis on worship. [These principles are also relevant to hospitality.] Abraham demonstrates worship in three ways: (1) speed, (2) selection, and (3) service.

    1. First, we will look at speed. When Abraham saw the men, “he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth” (18:2). The text goes on to say that Abraham “hurried” into the tent to delegate the orders to Sarah (18:6). I love this verse because it is so realistic. Abraham is a lot like most husbands. He makes commitments without talking to his wife. Men, are you guilty of this? At one time or another, I think every one of us has been. In effect, Abraham says, “Come on in, I’ll wash your feet. I’ll feed you a meal. Rest with us. I will take care of you.” But he has nothing prepared for these unexpected guests. So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to Sarah, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” Like a wonderful, loving wife, she does just that. In the very next -verse, Abraham “ran” to his servant to have the best meal possible prepared (18:7). Good old Abraham definitely got his fair share of exercise when company came into town. The man took worship and hospitality seriously.

    2. Not only was Abraham a man of speed but also he was a man of great selection. Abraham prepared the best available food for his guests (18:6-8). He didn’t hold back his first fruits for his family; rather he gave of his wealth to others. He was a man of great generosity. The feast that Abraham had prepared could have fed a small army. The ingredients for the bread cakes, “three measures of fine flour,” are equivalent to about thirty quarts of flour, which would make a lot of bread. Depending on the breed of cow, the calf butchered for the meal could produce up to 100 pounds or more of tender veal.

    3. Lastly, Abraham was willing to provide service. We know Abraham had 318 men in his household who were his servants (14:14), but here he himself becomes personally involved. Abraham sought the rest and refreshment of his company (18:4-5). He was after their best interests. So much so that Abraham was willing to make himself available to these men as a waiter/servant (“and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.” 18:8).

    4. Throughout their encounter, the Lord treated Abraham as His friend. He shared an intimate occasion with him—a common meal. This was a unique privilege for Abraham. It was the only case before the incarnation in which Jesus ate food set before Him. There were certainly many other occasions on which the Lord appeared to people and they offered Him food. However, on all those occasions He turned the food into a sacrifice. But with Abraham, He enjoyed a special relationship. He sat down at the table and ate with him. God reveals Himself to those who desire Him. Again the story confirms that Abraham’s guests were not ordinary men. They had used the new, divinely given name of his wife (17: l5). Furthermore, the Lord affirmed His promise that Sarah would have a child the following year (cf. 17:21). He even promised that He would show up for the birth.

  3. In 18:10b, we learn that “Sarah was listening at the tent door,” behind Abraham. It was customary in Abraham’s day, as in some cultures today, for women to be neither seen nor heard while male guests were entertained. Sarah thus prepared the bread out of the sight of the men (cf. 18:6), and now she remains inside the tent as they ate. While she carefully kept out of sight, her curiosity got the best of her. She may have peeped through the folds of the tent. At the least, she had her ear to the door, anxious to hear the conversation outside.

  4. Verses 11-12. The promise that she would be a mother next year was absurd. Sarah was now 90 years old and has been through menopause. So she was doubly dead in respect to childbearing. In human terms it was impossible. So “Sarah laughed to herself.” Here, laughter was not the result of stubborn resistance to God’s will, but of hopelessness and years of disappointment. Sometimes you laugh to keep from crying.

  5. Verses 13-14. God confronts Abraham for Sarah’s lack of faith. Had Abraham deliberately kept God’s promise from her? Was his faith so weak that he could not convince his wife? Somehow he must give account for his wife’s response. Abraham was the head of the home and was responsible for the spiritual instruction in the home. Sarah’s response of disbelief had mirrored Abraham’s (17:17). Sarah saw unbelief in Abraham and she responded in kind. Husbands, are you modeling a life of faith to your wife? Fathers, what are you modeling for your family? When you’re under pressure? Tired? In crisis? Discouraged? Do those that know you best and love you most see you as an exemplary man of faith? Although the announcement of the birth of a son is made to Abraham, the focus of the narrative is clearly on Sarah’s response. Sarah can’t believe it. God responded by dealing with the sin of her unbelief, but not by taking away the promise. Instead, He reaffirms His promises to Abraham and Sarah. This is interesting. The underlying issue is the physical impossibility of the fulfillment of the promise through Sarah. Once the physical impossibility of Sarah’s giving birth was clearly established, the Lord repeated His promise to Abraham. The Lord had already told Abraham that Sarah would have son “at this time next year” (17: l5-21). What, then, was the purpose of returning to repeat the announcement? We need to hear God’s promises over and over again in order to strengthen and develop our faith. This is why we must assemble together for the teaching of God’s Word. We desperately need instruction, whether we realize it or not. The fact that the Lord knew Sarah had laughed and knew her thoughts demonstrated His supernatural knowledge to Abraham and Sarah (Ps 139: l-2, 4; Heb 4:13; 1 John 3:20). The Lord’s rhetorical question, one of the great statements of Scripture, reminded the elderly couple of His supernatural power and further fortified their faith (cf. Jer 32:17, 27; Mark l0:27;Luke 1:37). The words of our Lord speak as loudly to Christians today as they did to Abraham, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (18:14a). The simple laughter of Abraham and Sarah reminds us that we often laugh when we should trust. We often throw our hands up in the air when we should be putting them together in prayer. We are too prone to focus on our lack of strength instead of His sufficient strength.

  6. Verse 15. Our passage closes with these words: “Sarah denied it however, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. And He [the Lord] said, ‘No, but you did laugh”’ (18:15). Poor Sarah. When confronted about her laughter, she denies it. I would too. It’s not nice to laugh at God! The Bible does not gloss over the sins of its heroes and heroines of faith (cf. l2:l3). This is yet another indication that the Bible is God’s Word. What other book would expose the failures of its heroes? If this were the entire story, we would be tempted to say that this woman is no example to follow. But over in the New Testament, in the book of Hebrews, we get the rest of the story. There, in that wonderful eleventh chapter, the hall of fame of the heroes of faith, Sarah’s name appears: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised (Heb 11:11). Now we begin to see what must have happened. After the guests left, Sarah was still thinking about what she had heard, and the words of the Lord came home to her heart in peculiar power, especially the question God had asked, “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” (18:14)

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