Genesis 18: 1-15 – The World Behind the Text

This week we are looking at Abraham. There are so many different stories that we can look at regarding his life, it was almost too hard to choose. So, for me, I decided to use my favorite story from Abraham’s life, Genesis 18: 1-15:

The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures[c] of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. He said, “Oh yes, you did laugh.”

This passage is one that comes about in the middle of Abraham’s journey.  He has been called out of Ur, he’s already made some mistakes, he’s been promised great things by God, and has already had his name changed.

But, he has not had the main promise fulfilled yet, he has not yet had a son.  In the middle of his journey, we see God now appear to him and remind him, encourage him, and reaffirm his promise to him and to his family.

Let’s remember for the Jewish people (and for us as Christians) just how important Abraham is.  Abraham is regarded as the first Jew because he is the first person in scripture to receive the covenant of circumcision.  For Christians, he is the model of faith, because his faith was reckoned to him as righteousness.  Because of this, so much of the middle portion of Genesis is reserved for the retelling of his story. This would have been a sacred text and sacred story for the Jewish people, seen in some ways like we would see the Christmas story.

But in the telling of Abraham’s story, this occurs after many years of wandering, but the promise has not been fulfilled yet. You all know me and my love of Star Wars, this would be like the same moment of The Empire Strikes Back.  It’s a moment of waiting, of frustration, potential defeat, and worry. God’s promise has not been fulfilled yet.  Abraham has made mistakes. Will God be true to His word?  Can He really be trusted?

That is the moment that we find ourselves in. Knowing this back story makes what happens even more amazing.

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