Genesis 18: 1-15 – The World of 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 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.”

Today we are going to look deeper at the text and see what we find there. As you read this we see that Abraham is either a man of great hospitality, which is (and remains) very common in that context, or he knew something was special and unique about these visitors the moment they appeared.

When you read the original Hebrew, several things are significant within this encounter.  First, we see when he encountered these guests, the first thing he does is that he bows. This is important.  Normally one would not bow in such a way unless they are encountering royalty.  This was not a common way to great people, even guests.  This shows great, great deference.  Abraham knew they were important, even the word he uses to great them – lord, while not being the same one reserved for God shows great respect. Also the amount of food being prepared was far too much for just a couple of guests.  This was a royal feast that was being prepared.

Even if at first he didn’t know he was in the presence of God, he knew it was important.

But then he knew it was God because only God can promise life.  He is told when the guest return, they will have a child.  Only God can do that. You will notice many, many times in scripture that someone is unable to have a child (Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth) but God gives life to his people.  Understand this, it is a huge point in the narrative of scripture, God is the author of life.  Life is God alone to give.

And now we see a shift in the story.  No longer is this a promise without a date.  In a year, they will have a child.  In a year, it will be fulfilled.  No longer is God’s promise theoretical, but now they have this date.  Now it is happening.

God’s word will come true.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about what this means to our life today

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