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Genesis 18:1-15 (A Time for Laughter, The Son of Promise)

Sep 2, 2012   //   by Charlie Garrett   //   Genesis, Genesis Sermons (written), Torah  //  No Comments

Genesis 18:1-15
A Time for Laughter – The Son of Promise

I suppose I quote Acts 17:28 as much as any other verse in the Bible. To me, it’s a constant reminder that the Lord is always near and always there for me – ready to respond to my needs and yet also watching over my actions, both good and bad.

The verse says, “…for in Him we live and move and have our being.” God is right here with us, even now. He’s checking my sermon doctrine; He’s checking your heart. He’s aware of every person on the beach and every bird in the air.

He’s knows about every cricket which will interfere with the audio of this sermon, like they do every week. 🙂

But because we can’t see Him, it’s easy to forget He’s there. It’s easy to come away with the notion that He may not really be watching… this time. This time I’ll get away with it…

But what if there was someone right next to us who we could see, and we had a sneaky suspicion this person was checking out our actions? We tend to act differently when others are watching. Studies have shown that people who use the restroom wash their hands far more often when people are around.

When no one is in the room with them, mostly they just finish up and head for the door. But when others are present, they stop and wash their hands first. Did you know that? Someone could be watching – someone with a hidden camera. So next time,,, wash your hands!

Introduction: There are times that men receive angelic visitations. Do I believe this? Of course I do. The author of Hebrews tells us its so – “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.” Hebrews 13:2

How many of you would change the way you did things if you knew there were angels right there with you? Even more, how would your actions be affected if you knew that the Lord was in your midst?

I don’t mean in the invisible, seemingly impersonal way that Acts 17 speaks of, but in the form of a man – one who has arms, feet, a face, eyes…that sees your every move. How then would you act?

Text Verse: I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. Leviticus 26:12

God has appeared in human form. He didn’t just do it for 30-some years 2000 years ago, but He walked among men since the time of Adam and He appeared throughout the ages to His people as the Bible records and so… May God Speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Lord Walks Among His People

In Deuteronomy 23, we read these words from Moses before Israel entered into the Promised Land –

“Also you shall have a place outside the camp, where you may go out; 13 and you shall have an implement among your equipment, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig with it and turn and cover your refuse. 14 For the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp, to deliver you and give your enemies over to you; therefore your camp shall be holy, that He may see no unclean thing among you, and turn away from you.” 23:12-14

Some scholars look at these verses and think its only speaking of the Lord’s presence in a non-physical way. In other words, He is spiritually present in the camp of Israel, but not physically there. And yet, this has to be inferred and it has to overlook the physical aspect of what Moses is saying.

Yes, at other times the Bible speaks metaphorically about the arm of God or the right hand of God, but this verse is far more specific and far harder to dismiss. It’s the same as when the Lord appeared in Eden –

“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.”

Unless you’re simply not willing to believe the text as written, you have to admit that the Lord God truly walked in the Garden. He walked there, He walked among the Israelites, and guess what, He walked right up to Abraham. The text demands this as physical and literal – nothing else is possible as we’ll see in the coming verses.

1 Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.

God doesn’t have parts. To understand this, you can go back and watch my sermon on Genesis 1:1. The Bible bears this out as I mentioned just a few sermons ago. It says God is Spirit, no one has seen God; that He dwells in unapproachable light; etc.

It also says that God is unchanging on several occasions, including when speaking of Jesus. But it also says that Jesus does change – such as growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. So we have a mystery – the mystery of the incarnation.

God, who is outside of His creation and unchanging can’t take on parts and remain eternal and unchanging. Therefore, we are left with only one possibility – that the Lord here, who is Jehovah God according to the verse, is the physical manifestation of God.

This is the uniting of God with human flesh in the Person of Jesus – eternal and unchanging and without parts in His divine nature and yet physical and changing in His human nature; having parts – even parts that move – and movement implies change. Great is the mystery of the eternal Christ.

This might not be a popular view, but it is the logical one. Jesus is the Master of time and space and He is here, as He has been several times already in Genesis, appearing in His own history and directing human events which will lead to Himself.

The Lord (all caps in your Bible, meaning Jehovah) appeared to Abraham. It then says that He did so by the terebinth trees of Mamre, and then that it was in the heat of the day. These are all physical descriptions and they demand a bodily appearance.

When the Lord came, Abraham was “sitting in the tent door.” This is the prime spot which is occupied even to this day by tent dwellers in the region. They can watch the world go by while being shaded from the sun and they can possibly catch a breeze on their sweating skin.

It’s the earliest and longest used form of air conditioning in the world and Abraham was a pioneer of the technique.

2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,

Abraham has already met the Lord on several occasions and he knows exactly who has come to meet him. As soon as he saw them, he ran right up to them and made the customary bow of obeisance. He is showing worship to the Lord and the Lord receives it as such.

This has to be soon after the time he was given instructions to circumcise the males because if you remember, the Lord promised that it would be at the same time of the following year that Isaac would be born. Abraham obeyed the order to circumcise and the Lord has returned after his display of obedience.

3 and said, “My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.

Abraham only addresses one of the three. He knows exactly which one is the Lord and it is it to Him alone that he speaks. The context demands that this is none other than Jehovah mentioned in verse 1 and he is completely aware of it.

When he speaks to him, he says something that will occur many more times in the Bible. It is the term “if I have now found favor in Your sight…” or sometimes “if I have found favor in your eyes.” It’s to what we would say today “if you really want to make me happy…” It’s a type of invitation to accept what’ said next.

In this case, it’s that they don’t just pass by, but come and be his guests before passing on. And the specifics are found next –

4 Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. 5 And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.

Abraham is, as we’ve seen in the past chapters, an immensely wealthy man and his words here are words of extreme modesty. They fit the customs and pious nature of the people of God. He offers “a little water to be brought to wash their feet” and then they can rest under the tree in the cool shade.

While relaxing he says he’ll bring them just a “morsel of bread” instead of bragging that he will offer them a big feast. This thought is found in the book of Proverbs and shows that Solomon’s wisdom is built on these modest customs. There he writes –

When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you;
2 And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite.
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food. Proverbs 23:1-3

When someone boasts about the meal they’re giving you, their offering is more often than not a pretense. There’s a huge difference between sitting at a table full of food and hearing the host say, “Join me at my humble table” as opposed to “Enjoy the bounty of my wealth.” The table is the same, but the spirit of dining will be vastly different.

5  cont They said, “Do as you have said.”

The guests agree to his offer in a simple exchange of words. It’s beautiful to imagine that the same Lord who has accepted a meal from Abraham stands and waits for each one of us to offer a similar invitation to Him. The opportunity may come only once in a lifetime, but when it does, we need to respond.

It is a standing offer and the only way to receive it is by opening the door, just as Abraham opened his home to Him here. Jesus tells us of this in the book of Revelation – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

I would hope that each person will respond properly when the sound of the knock comes. The Lord of Creation doesn’t force Himself upon His creatures. As amazing as it is, He allows us the honor of choosing life. Choose wisely.

II. The Lord Dines With His People

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.”

He was probably so excited about the guests and their promise to stay that it says he “hurried” into the tent. He’s 99 years old and probably skipped like a teenager at the chance to entertain them. And his words to Sarah are as urgent as his steps. He tells her to “Quickly” make things ready.

Unlike today where we have refrigerators full of food and can zip together a meal in minutes, there is a ton of preparation for any unplanned meal at Abraham’s tent.

And what he tells Sarah to provide isn’t just a “morsel of bread” like he previously offered. Instead it’s about three times as much as each of them can eat in an entire day. Despite being humble about his offering, the bread alone is truly a banquet fit for a king, and there’s more to come…

7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.

Not only did he have Sarah whip together the biggest loaf of bread in town, but he pulled out of his flock a “tender and good calf” as well. Knowing Abraham and the circumstances, he picked the very best one of all and got it ready.

There is a lesson in this verse that we should remind ourselves about. It’s a truth that we face in most meals we eat and yet it’s not something we think of very often. In order to live, something else must die. What the world of vegetarians sees as brutal and savage is actually a picture of our own salvation.

In order for us to live, there had to be death. Without Jesus’ cross, we would remain spiritually dead and in our sins, but because of His death, we now have a chance and an opportunity to receive life – not just for another 8 hours until our next meal, but life which will never end. Think about that as we continue today.

8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them;

Bread, butter, milk, and a calf… It’s quite a bit more than a “morsel of bread” which he had spoken of when they came to him. If you want an idea of how much food this was, let me quote to you the words of Abbe Fleury – “We have an instance of a splendid entertainment in that which Abraham made for the three angels. He set a whole calf before them, new bread, but baked on the hearth, together with butter and milk. Three measures of meal were baked into bread on this occasion, which come to more than two of our bushels, and nearly to fifty-six pounds of our weight…”

Fifty-six pounds of bread, plus a calf, butter, and milk is a lot. Maybe they asked for a take home box for some of it.

8 (con’t) and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

I have to admit that whenever I read this, I always laugh to myself. There is Abraham standing there watching these three eat. I don’t know… it just gives me a mental picture that I can’t quite place…

Anyway, in the customs of the mid-east, it isn’t considered at all menial for the chief of a household to help prepare and serve a meal like this and it would actually be a breech of respect for him to sit and eat with them. Instead, Abraham stood ready to attend to any and every need the visitors might have.

These verses ought to bring up the obvious inspection of our own selves. He not only brought out the finest and the best, but he brought out much more than was necessary too. The question each of us has to answer individually is whether we are doing the same?

How much of what you can give to the Lord do you actually give? I’m not talking only about money, but praise, worship, time, personal inconvenience, etc. Abraham personally attended to them, not one of his hundreds of servants. He gave the best of what he had and he gave it in abundance, and he did it personally.

He, this man known for his faith, was also a man of deeds and actions. Let us, and I mean this sincerely, be sons of Abraham not only in faith, but in deeds of faith as well.

As a kind of side note to this meal, and especially in this world which is spiraling more and more toward the insane each day… “Yes, Jesus ate meat.”

Kamran Pasha, Was Jesus a Vegetarian, the Huffington Post, 3 Sep 2009 – “Indeed, human beings throughout history have questioned the morality of animal slaughter, and religious traditions such as Hinduism and Buddhism have long been the home for those who believe that killing and consuming sentient animals is barbaric. Religious vegetarianism is commonplace in the East, but is not considered mainstream in most Western faith communities. And yet, after lengthy research into the historical record, I have become convinced that Jesus Christ himself was in all likelihood a vegetarian, and that vegetarianism was probably a central tenet of the early Christian community founded by his disciples. In fact, there is evidence that Christ’s opposition to animal sacrifice at the Jewish Temple may have been the triggering event that led to the Crucifixion. Yes, I know. This sounds preposterous. …”

Preposterous? This is one of the most insane articles ever written. Only a dolt or a sub-dolt could come to this conclusion. This person did no research at all. Instead, he lied his way through the entire article. Instead of appearing scholarly, he proves himself an idiot.

9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” So he said, “Here, in the tent.”

If you want to elevate a friendship, you have a meal with that person. A meal is where the impersonal becomes personal. It is where the hidden matter becomes evident. It is where alliances are made, secrets are revealed, and where bonds grow strong.

Having a meal together, particularly at one’s home, is as close to intimacy as people come apart from a physical relationship which is supposed to be reserved for a man and a wife. The Lord has come, the Lord has eaten, and the Lord has been intimate with His friend, Abraham.

The Lord now asks about Sarah, who is actually the person that the meeting was principally designed to highlight. This is like watching a movie where the main actor actually doesn’t appear as the main actor until a surprising point in the movie.

Abraham has already been given the promise and he has been obedient, but Sarah has been on the fringes of the narrative. Now she comes into focus as the lens directs towards her. How do we know this, because the question is so direct, “Where is Sarah your wife.” The Lord asks for her by name.

This can only mean that the visit has been centered around her all the time and the formalities of the culture were merely relaxing and yummy weigh-stations on the highway to the destination.

Abraham’s answer to the question, that she is “here in the tent,” means that she was close enough to hear every word of the conversation. It is purposeful and intended to let them know they can call her if they want, but either way she is privy to their talk.

10 And He said, “I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

The Lord promises to return according “to the time of life.” This doesn’t mean that He’s going to come again personally, but that He will visit in the sense of fulfilling the promise. The question is, “What does it mean when He says, ‘according to the time of life?’”

I’m going to give you a couple options and let you decide, because I have no idea. It either means at the same time next year, meaning in 12 months. Or it means in nine months which is the duration of the pregnancy that will happen as soon as Abraham gets going. Or it means during the spring of the year – the time when life springs back into its productive cycle of life. Think and choose…

III. The Lord Knows His People Intimately

I. The Lord Walks Among His People
II. The Lord Dines With His People

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

We already knew this from 13 years before when Sarah, or Sarai at that time, offered Abraham her maidservant Hagar. However, the Bible is repeating this so that we know that what is coming is nothing other than divine intervention. By this time in human history, a woman who is 89 years old is too old to bear.

12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

Sarah laughs at the announcement, but not as Abraham did when he was told. Instead, the Bible makes a distinction – “She laughed within herself.” In other words, “Pshaw.” Maybe she made the sound along with a scrunchy face. Her doubt and laughter is then made clear in her words.

Her words don’t just implicate her own barren state, they also attempt to do so with Abraham by saying he’s too old too. But the miracle is in her womb, not his seed. It’s a picture that will be repeated several times in the Bible and culminating in the greatest miracle of all – the conception of Jesus in the womb of a virgin.

Sarah’s doubt will be replaced by Mary’s faith and the Son of God will fill the world with the laughter of joy, not incredulity. With God all things are possible. But to Sarah’s credit she states that Abraham is her “lord.” The faults are forgotten, but that which is noble remains.

The Holy Spirit, writing through Peter in chapter 3 of his first letter, gives us something good about Sarah from the account and made her an example of the godly wife through all generations –

For in this manner, in former times, the holy women who trusted in God also adorned themselves, being submissive to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord,…

It’s good to know that when God forgives a transgression such as in Sarah, it’s removed as far from us as the east is from the west, but our notable deeds He will remember for all eternity and adorn us with blessing because of them.

13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.”

Jehovah speaks. There is no other possibility left in the account than that this is God incarnate; it is Jesus. The name Jehovah belongs solely to the Lord and no created being, and because God is unseen, then this is Jesus. No other possibility exists.

His words here show both His omniscience and His omnipotence. His omniscience is seen when Sarah laughed and spoke silently, but her words are as if shouted from the housetops from He who searches hearts and minds – an attribute belonging to God alone and to whom it is ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament.

His omnipotence is seen in His exclamation, ha’yippahlay me’Yehovah dabar… “Is anything to hard for Jehovah?” The question is rhetorical and demands a negative response… “Nothing, O nothing, it too hard for Jehovah.”

Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh.
Is there anything too hard for Me?
Why, I spoke the universe into existence.
This child will come, Sarah, just wait and see…

15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid.
And He said, “No, but you did laugh!”

Sin comes at us from different angles and it is always seizing the opportunity to come out of us in words and actions. Sarah sins for a second time. First she laughed in disbelief at the promise of the Lord and then she lies. One sin often leads to another and in this case it was because of fear – she was afraid.

The Lord showed that He knew what was otherwise unknowable and she recoiled from it. And this doubt isn’t unique in the world. Instead it’s the standard. God has spoken out the pages of the Bible which verify – beyond a shadow of a doubt – that He is aware of all things.

But we add sin to sin by denying His word, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. The Bible is so absolutely accurate in all that it details that we are left without any excuse at all. But out of fear – fear because of our own sin – we try to hide the evidence and deny it exists.

Fortunately for Sarah, this is her final moment of unbelief. She crosses over to the side of light and truth and Hebrews 11 records the transformation –

By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised. Hebrews 11:11

Matthew Henry says that “One sin commonly brings in another, and it is not likely we shall strictly keep to the truth when we question the Divine truth.”

Fortunately for Sarah, her failure to keep the truth passed behind her and now she stands on that Divine truth as is recorded for us in Hebrews. Some of us here or watching by video might be hiding from the truth and in so doing are attempting to deny even the Divine truth – one lie compounding upon another.

This can only lead to eternal sadness, but there is a way to put these things behind you. Let me tell you how we can exchange our body of death, which is brought on by sin, for life which is available because of Jesus’ death…

A Time for Laughter

The Lord appeared to Abraham in the heat of the day
Near the terebinth trees of Mamre as he sat by the tent door
While he was sitting the Lord passed by that way
And the Lord came with others, yes there were two more

Abraham lifted his eyes in order to see the sight
And behold three men were standing close by
So he up got to meet them, filled with delight
To them hospitality he would not deny

Bowing himself to the ground in respect complete
He asked them to stay if he had found favor in their sight
Let me bring water and let me wash your feet
And you can rest under the tree, this spot here is just right

I will bring you a morsel of bread refreshing to the heart
And then you may pass by, yes… then you may depart

You have come to your servant please stay to break bread
And their response came with a smile, “Do as you have said.”

He instructed Sarah to make ready three seahs of fine meal
And then he ran to the herd and took a good and tender calf
He whipped together a banquet, and he did it with great zeal
He went all out for them, an entire measure – not just a half

So he took butter and milk and the calf he had prepared
And set it before them to eat as he stood and stared

Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?”
He pointed to the place, “Here, in the tent.”
“I will certainly return to you according to the time of life
And behold she shall have a son, though her years seem spent

She was behind him listening at the tent’s door
Trying to account for what had happened heretofore

Both Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age
And Sarah had passed the time for bearing a child
And she laughed within herself a laugh of doubt-age
I have grown old and what I hear is to me certainly wild

And the Lord said to Abraham, yes He did say
Why did Sarah laugh, why did she show dismay?

Is anything to hard for the Lord?
I will return, according to the time of life,
And then you will see the truth in My word
You will have a son, yes… a son from Sarah your wife

But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,”
For she was afraid and so she told lie
But He saw through her words and her awkward gaff
Because with the Lord, nothing is hidden from His eye

Mercy is found in the Lord whether from one sin or a lot
If we accept His pardon, our relationship He will restore
And in His eternal home there He will reserve a spot
And He will safely lead us along to that distant shore

So let us give him all the glory He is due
For the gift of eternal life granted to me and you

Hallelujah and Amen…

 

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