The Story Unfolds
According to the divine narrative, the LORD appeared unto Abraham in the plains of Mamre. The remarkable encounter began in a very unremarkable way. One day Abraham was sitting in the tent door, in the heat of the day. Perhaps he was sitting there to rest. Extreme heat can drain the body of energy and it is good to relax .As Abraham rested, he saw three men coming towards him.
When he saw them, Abraham did something very unusual. He “ran to meet them from the tent door” (Genesis 18:2). It was deemed to be socially undignified for a mature man to be seen running. Children run, adults walk. And yet we read that Abraham ran to meet them.
Perhaps Abraham ran to meet these individuals because he discerned something spiritually unique about them. The gospel affects individuals emotionally. Sometimes when the soul is caught up with the divine there is a sense of ecstasy that needs physical expression.
One fact is certain. Abraham was not going to let these three men leave his presence, if at all possible. The heart of the Christian is like that. Once the heart senses the presence of the good and the godly, it does not want to let those individuals go.
As Abraham came face to face with the three men, he humbled himself “and bowed himself toward the ground” (Genesis 18:2).
Abraham was not simply being polite. He was humbling himself in their presence, which is the mark of a godly heart. The Bible says, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Roman 12:10). So much tension and conflict in the church would be resolved if Christians followed the example of Abraham, and, in honor, preferred others.
A third action of Abraham is noted. After he ran to meet the men and bowed before them, the patriarch asked for the pleasure of their company at a meal, saying to them, “if now I have found favor in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant” (Genesis 18:1).
How had Abraham found favor in their sight? Abraham found favor by running to meet them, by humbling himself before them, by showing them he wanted to be a friend and not an enemy, and by not being demanding.
Abraham used the language of petition when speaking to the men saying, “I pray thee.”
It is within human nature to want to command others, to take charge, to be in charge, but Abraham reminds us to be people who petition, rather than pressure others.
Abraham did not want the men to pass on by. To entice them to stay, Abraham asked that he might get them refreshments. He invited them to let him get them water to wash their feet, and then they could rest under the tree.
It was Abraham’s stated purpose to make the men as comfortable as possible in the hot climate of the plains of Mamre. But there was more.
Abraham told the men he would find bread for them to eat that they might find nourishment, and be refreshed.
The response of the three men to the gracious hospitality of Abraham is recorded. “And they said, So do, as thou has said” (Genesis 18:5).
There is a principle of life that I have encouraged others to embrace. It is a biblical principle. “When someone wants to do something nice for you, let them.” You will receive a blessing, and they will be blessed in their service.
There is such a thing as false humility and false pride. Both should be set aside to be ministered unto. Ask for nothing, but appreciate everything.
When Abraham heard the three men were going to receive his hospitality, his heart rejoiced. Rushing into the tent, Abraham instructed Sarah to “Make ready three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth” (Genesis 18:6).
Sarah must have been astonished at this instruction, for three measures of fine meal was an extravagant amount. Three measures of meal equal about two gallons of meal (7.3 liters). That is a lot of bread.
An average loaf of bread contains about three cups of flour. Two gallons of meal, which is the equivalent of about eight quarts, or thirty two cups, would make nearly eleven loaves. Eleven loaves of bread is extravagant and a spiritual lesson is learned. The Lord loves a cheerful giver, a hilarious giver, an extravagant giver. And Abraham was an extravagant giver.
Of course, poor Sarah was the one having to do the work of baking all of the bread, for she was the one told to “knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth.” Sometimes a person’s exuberance can create demands on others, who may or may not be so happy about the moment. Nevertheless, we can assume that Sarah obeyed Abraham, and the bread was baked.
With the aroma of freshly baked bread permeating the air, while the three strangers rested under the shade of a tree, while their feet were being washed, Abraham was not idle himself. We read that Abraham “ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat” (Genesis 18:7-8).
What a precious scene is presented in this picture. Not only does Abraham comfort and feed the three strangers, he stands by them under the tree to wait on them while they did eat.
The idea of Father Abraham standing by the strangers to further wait upon them is a lovely example of what the heart of every Christian should be, and that is a servant to others.
In a narcissistic generation that is into Facebook and selfies, the Christian has a chance to be different, and reflect the faith of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus Himself, who said, “the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Once the fellowship meal was over, one of the men, whom we shall call The Stranger, said unto Abraham, “Where is Sarah thy wife?”
The question may have surprised Abraham. “Sarah? He wants to know where Sarah is? How does he know Sarah? Sarah has been in the tent. She has been cooking. Sarah has been busy. How does the stranger know about Sarah?”
Not only did The Stranger know Sarah’s name, but he knew she was the wife of Abraham. Still amazed by the sudden inquiry, Abraham answered, “Behold, in the tent.”
Of course, The Stranger knew exactly where Sarah was, but He wanted to bring her name into the conversation because The Stranger knew that if He mentioned her name, her ears would perk up, and she would come to the tent door to listen. When our names are mentioned, suddenly everything stops, and our curiosity is peaked.
The Stranger was going to say something to Abraham, but he wanted to make sure Sarah overheard the message too. “And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him” (Genesis 18:10).
Sure enough, when she heard her name, Sarah had come to the door of the tent, which was behind The Stranger, and she listened to what was being said.
Sarah’s reaction to what she heard was very human, given the fact that she was, “old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women” (Genesis 18:11).
Simply put, Sarah laughed, not out loud but within herself. Sarah had a thought that produced her laughter of sarcasm and unbelief.
Sometimes self-talk is counterproductive, and this was such a case. Sarah thought, “Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” (Genesis 18:12).
Suddenly The Stranger interrupted Sarah’s thoughts. Without even turning around, The Stranger made a statement to Abraham, who was still standing before him outside the tent, and under the shade of the trees.
“Abraham,” said The Stranger, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” (Genesis 18:13).
Remember that Sarah had said these words to herself, and yet The Stranger was able to verbalize her precise thoughts to Abraham. What a remarkable ability that was.
The Stranger went on to ask a rhetorical question of Abraham, and also to Sarah. The question did not need an answer, for the answer was in the inquiry. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Genesis 18:14).
The correct answer is, “No. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.”
The Stranger continued with an amazing promise. “At the appointed time I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14).
It was such a simple statement, and yet it was filled with supernatural wonder. A man and a woman who had passed their childbearing years according to nature were to have, not just any child, but a son of promise.
When Sarah heard her thoughts verbalized, and the promise of a child, her heart changed in an instant for she was afraid. Both Sarah and Abraham perceived in an instant, that The Stranger was no ordinary visitor, and the heart of Sarah became afraid.
In her fear, Sarah lied, saying, “I laughed not” (Genesis 18:15). The Stranger was not going to let Sarah lie without being challenged. Sin must be confessed, and the Stranger said, “Nay; but thou didst laugh” (Genesis 18:15).
That was all The Stranger said. He did not press the point any further, and Sarah said no more. The truth was told. Her silence was self-evident to the truth. She had laughed in unbelief at a promise.
With that, the three men rose up to leave. Standing still for a moment, the men turned their gaze toward the city of Sodom. It was obvious they were going to travel to Sodom, and so, for just a little way, “Abraham went with them to bring them on the way” (Genesis 18:17).
It was on this short walk that The Stranger suddenly began to speak to Abraham again, and said, “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do” (Genesis 18:17).
Again, the answer is, “No.” The Stranger was not going to hide from Abraham that which
He was going to do. What He was going to do was go and judge Sodom for its wickedness.
The reason why The Stranger was ready to reveal to Abraham what He was going to do when He reached Sodom was His respect for Abraham.
What a lovely thought that is. The Stranger had respect for Abraham.
Abraham was going to become a great and mighty nation. He would yet live up to his name, which means, “Father of many nations.”
He who had once been a devil worshiper named Abram, “Father of High and Windy Places”, was going to become something far different. He, who had no son, was yet to have a son, and become the “Father of many nations.”
Furthermore, through Abraham, and through his son, all the nations of the earth were to be blessed in him (Genesis 18:19).
It is difficult to image the full impact of these words upon Abraham. One truth is certain. Abraham now knew beyond doubt that The Stranger was the most Unique person in the universe. By divine illumination Abraham came to know he was speaking to the LORD (Jehovah).
When the other two men moved on towards Sodom and Gomorrah, “Abraham stood yet before the LORD” (Genesis 18:22). Abraham stood before Jehovah to intercede for a sinful city. Abraham stood to plead for mercy, instead of judgment. Abraham stood with the LORD.
In a short period of time it had been revealed to Abraham that the three men were really three angels, spiritual heavenly beings, who had assumed human bodies that they might be visible to Abraham. And one of them was the Son of God, the Angel of the Covenant, whom Abraham distinguished from the rest as the LORD (Jehovah).
It did not happen at once, but Abraham knew that the LORD GOD of the universe had come to visit him.
Who else but an omnipotent LORD could say, “I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14).
Who else but an omniscient LORD could knowingly state the secret thoughts of the heart, saying, “Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” (Genesis 18:13).
Who else but the sovereign LORD could make a dead womb to live again? “And Sarah shall have a son” (Genesis 18:14).
Who else but the righteous LORD could move to judge with severity the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with unflinching resolve? (Genesis 18:20).
One day, on the plains of Marme, Abraham stood face to face with a man who was more than a man; He was The Stranger, and The Stranger was the LORD incarnate. He was Jesus Christ as the Angel of Jehovah. He was the visible expression of the Godhead bodily.
Jesus remembered this moment during His earthly meeting and commented that, “Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56).
I trust that like Father Abraham, you too, will believe in the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity as you see Christ in the Old Testament. I pray that you, too will have spiritual discernment and will rejoice and be glad.