“In Outlive Your Life, Max Lucado writes:
Long before the church had pulpits and baptisteries, she had kitchens and dinner tables. Even a casual reading of the New Testament unveils the house as the primary tool of the church. The primary gathering place of the church was the home. Consider the genius of God's plan. The first generation of Christians was a tinderbox of contrasting cultures and backgrounds. At least fifteen different nationalities heard Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost. Jews stood next to Gentiles. Men worshiped with women. Slaves and masters alike sought after Christ. Can people of such varied backgrounds and cultures get along with each other?
We wonder the same thing today. Can Hispanics live in peace with Anglos? Can Democrats find common ground with Republicans? Can a Christian family carry on a civil friendship with the Muslim couple down the street? Can divergent people get along?
The early church did—without the aid of sanctuaries, church buildings, clergy, or seminaries. They did so through the clearest of messages (the Cross) and the simplest of tools (the home).
Not everyone can serve in a foreign land, lead a relief effort, or volunteer at the downtown soup kitchen. But who can't be hospitable? Do you have a front door? A table? Chairs? Bread and meat for sandwiches? Congratulations! You just qualified to serve in the most ancient of ministries: hospitality.
Something holy happens around a dinner table that will never happen in a sanctuary. In a church auditorium you see the backs of heads. Around the table you see the expressions on faces. In the auditorium one person speaks; around the table everyone has a voice. Church services are on the clock. Around the table there is time to talk.
Hospitality opens the door to uncommon community. It's no accident that hospitality and hospital come from the same Latin word, for they both lead to the same result: healing. When you open your door to someone, you are sending this message: ‘You matter to me and to God.’ You may think you are saying, ‘Come over for a visit.’ But what your guest hears is, ‘I'm worth the effort.’”
Source: Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life (Nelson, 2010), p. 55.
Judy and I love to have people over for a meal
It’s such a great time to connect and enjoy each other’s company
We’re able to talk about a lot of subjects that we wouldn’t normally have time to talk about on a Sunday morning
Many times, we’ve found that we have common interests and likes
Judy and I learned the importance of hospitality from our parents
Both sets of our parents were great at inviting others over to their homes or out to a restaurant for a meal
Hospitality was modeled for us
I’ve been introduced to a large number of ethnicities because of my parent’s hospitality
From Max Lucado’s qualifications for hospitality, we all have everything we need in order to serve in this way.
Take a moment to think about the last time you invited a person or family into your home for a meal.
Three men visit Abraham and he jumps into action to provide incredible hospitality for them. He includes his wife, Sarah, and at least one other servant. While hospitality covers the first eight verses, what encompasses all fifteen verses is how Abraham and Sarah reacted to the presence of the Lord in their midst. So, the author of Genesis wants us to wrestle with the question . . .
BIG QUESTION – How do we react to the Lord’s presence in our lives?
We are going to see two reactions today, worshiping and wavering.
GOD (Genesis 18:1-15)
Worship (vv. 1-8)
Setting the stage (narrator)
The narrator gives us some information upfront that Abraham did not have at first
It is later revealed to Abraham that one of the three men is the Lord – scholars call this a Christophany (the appearance of Jesus, prior to His birth) or Theophany (appearance of deity on earth)
We are given insider information before the narrative unfolds
The Lord (Heb. Jehovah) appeared to Abraham
Geography – near the great trees of Mamre (outside of Hebron)
Abraham’s location – entrance to his tent
Time of day – in the heat of the day (midday)
He looked up
Perhaps Abraham was taking a little nap
During the hottest part of the day, most people would stop working, stop traveling, and rest
So, when Abraham looked up and saw these three men standing nearby, he knew that something was up – why are these three men traveling right now?
He got up
Wiersbe says that Abrahams was “both curious and courteous.” [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Old Testament, Genesis-Deuteronomy, 91]
His curiosity motivated him to run from his tent to meet these men
He obviously realized that these men were not just ordinary men, especially one of them, as we will see in just a moment
He bowed down
He showed incredible respect and reverence for them, even though he did not know them
He bowed low to the ground
We’re not certain if Abraham recognized the Lord at this point
Assuming that he didn’t recognize the Lord, we see modeled in the Old Testament, what the New Testament writer of Hebrews encourages us to do
Hebrews 13:2, Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
“We've all been asked the question: ‘If you had the chance to talk to your hero, who would it be and what would you say?’ Washington, D.C. cab driver Sam Snow didn't have much of a chance to prepare for a conversation with his hero, though, because it took him by surprise. While driving his taxi recently, Snow mentioned to his passengers that even though he was a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, his all-time favorite player was Broncos legend John Elway. The passengers then asked him if he thought he could recognize Elway if he ever met him. Snow then turned around to realize that the famous former quarterback, who was in Washington, D.C. for the presidential inauguration, was in fact riding in his own backseat. The two snapped a quick picture, but only after Snow chastised Elway for beating his Steelers so many times in the playoffs.”
Source: "Cab Driver Praises John Elway, Then Learns He's Driving Him," Yahoo! News (1-24-17).
Whether or not Abraham knew he was bowing down before the Lord, we see him modeling worship of the Lord
PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when His people eagerly worship Him.
“Here’s a ninety-nine-year-old man who runs to meet the Lord. How do you and I greet the Lord when the alarm clock goes off for devotions and prayer, for meditation and worship?” [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 77-78]
What is our attitude and posture when we meet with the Lord?
Are we excited to see the Lord, to be with the Lord?
Do we give Him the proper reverence He is do?
I have to admit that I do not always run to the Lord in excitement and anticipation and I do not always bow low to the ground in worship of Him
But this is certainly how we should approach Him – with eagerness and humility
Francis Chan challenged me recently, through a video that is part of a book we are reading together as a board, to beg God for humility
That has been one of my prayers recently – begging the Lord for humility
I want to come before the Lord in total submission and humility, so He can use me for His glory
Perhaps you are recognizing that you do not come to the Lord with excitement, anticipation, and humility
If that is something you desire to do, then this next step is for you
#1 – My Next Step Today Is To: Eagerly approach the Lord each day with excitement, enthusiasm, and humility.
Abraham looked up, got up, and bowed down, but then he provided incredible hospitality
My Lord (v. 3)
It seems probable that as Abraham approaches the three men, that he recognizes One of them as being God
God had just appeared to him fairly recently (perhaps within 3 month) to establish the covenant of circumcision and promise he and Sarah a baby boy
This visit happened when Abraham was 99 years old
This next visit can’t be too distant from the previous one, because Isaac is born when Abraham is 100 years old (within the year)
So, perhaps Abraham recognized God, which prompts his worship of the Lord by bowing low to the ground, instead of just bowing his head in respect of a superior
“This is better translated ‘my Lord.’ The translation ‘my lord’ is misleading, since the Hebrew text refers to a title for God. NIV translates the same Hebrew in 18:27 as ‘the Lord’ (see 18:1, 13, 17), although it should be written in upper case.” [Waltke, Genesis A Commentary, 267]
“Perceiving at once that one of them was the Lord (אֲדֹנָי , i.e., God), he prostrated himself reverentially before them, and entreated them not to pass him by, but to suffer him to entertain them as his guests . . .” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 146]
Abraham wants to continue his close relationship with the Lord (he was the friend of God), so he offers an opportunity for fellowship
Normal hospitality (vv. 4-5)
What Abraham offers the three travelers is standard hospitality for the ancient Near East (foot-washing, food, and rest)
They all agree to not pass by, but to allow Abraham the opportunity to meet their needs
Extravagant hospitality (vv. 6-8)
Abraham offered them a meal, but what he provided for them was a feast
“Protocol required that the meal served to the guest exceed what was first offered.” [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 452]
Abraham does just that
He asks Sarah to make bread with 3 seahs of fine flour
Three seahs would make more bread than the three men, Abraham, and Sarah could eat on their own
“1 Sam. 25:18 tells us Abigail made sufficient provisions for David and his band of outlaws with five seahs of parched grain. The trench that Elijah dug around the base of the altar at Mt. Carmel, which was then filled with twelve jars of water, was large enough to hold two seahs of seed (1 K. 18:32).” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 11]
He selected a choice, tender calf and had a servant prepare it
While the offering of bread was very generous, the offering of meat was extravagant
Meat was not a normal part of their diet
It was reserved for special occasions (the Prodigal Son narrative)
Abraham was pulling out all the stops
He brought curds and milk
This was also pretty special for the guests
“In the ancient Near East, goat’s milk was especially prized because of its energy and easy digestibility.” [Waltke, 267]
Abraham goes all out for the Lord and His two angels
PRINCIPLE #2 – The Lord is honored when we offer hospitality to others.
I was sharing this past week, with a group, that one of the best ways to connect new people to the church is through inviting them out for a meal or having them over for a meal
As Max Lucado already said, every one of us has all we need in order to qualify for the ministry of hospitality
I want to encourage everyone to consider who they can invite over for a meal this week
#2 – My Next Step Today Is To: Invite someone from the church to have a meal with me/us (either in my home or at a restaurant).
PRINCIPLE #3 – God is glorified when we give our best to Him.
Abraham did not spare any expense when it came to providing for the needs of the Lord and His two angels
He was willing to offer His best to the Lord
Are you offering your best to the Lord? (time, talents, or resources)
#3 – My Next Step Today Is To: Offer the best of my time, talents, and resources to the Lord.
Resources – Tithing, In-Gathering, Shoeboxes
Time – Volunteering Sunday morning or Wednesday evening (you can sign up today at the Welcome Center)
Talents – Serving with one of our commissions, special music, worship team, etc.
Abraham’s ministry to the Lord was exceptional and we see several characteristics that we should follow [Wiersbe, 91]
He served personally
He ministered immediately
He served generously
He served humbly
He served cooperatively
We should serve the Lord in the same way
Abraham reacted to the Lord’s presence with worship and service, but how did Sarah react?
Waver (vv. 9-15)
Crib (cultural reference)
The three men Abraham where his wife, Sarah, is?
It’s fascinating that they know her name, especially since we are not told in the passage that Abraham introduces them to her
Her certainly could have introduced her when she brought the bread out for the meal
It seems as though they are asking where she is, because they have not seen her yet
Abraham tells them that she is in the tent
In the original Hebrew, it simply says, “And he said.”
The NIV has added “the Lord,” because that is who is speaking to Abraham in verse 13
“He” in verse 10 is obviously speaking about the Lord
The Lord is now restating the covenant He had shared with Abraham, so that Sarah can hear it
The Lord is also giving a specific time frame for the first time
Abraham will not have to wonder when this promised son will arrive
Within the year Sarah will become pregnant and give birth to a son
Obviously, the three men wanted to know where Sarah was, so that she would not miss the covenant announcement
We are told that she was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind the three men
The narrator again gives us information to help us understand Sarah’s reaction to the covenant announcement and the confrontation that will take place momentarily
Abraham and Sarah were old
Sarah had reached menopause and was no longer having a monthly cycle – her body was not producing eggs that could be fertilized
“Her body is procreatively dead.” [Waltke, 268]
Romans 4:19, Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.
She laughed and had doubts
It’s important to note that she laughed to herself (not out loud) and thought in her mind that she was worn out and her master was old (she didn’t say those words out loud)
Sarah is aware that she has reached menopause
Even though she has never had any children of her know, she knows what it meant for other women in her household who have reached menopause
They are no longer able to conceive and bare children
From a human perspective, Sarah laughs and questions the validity of the Lord’s announcement, because she knows herself and her body
Sarah’s reaction to the presence of God in her life was doubt
What she was forgetting was the ultimate power of the Lord to do the impossible
The Hebrew word for pleasure is ʿeḏen (eh’den)
The same Hebrew word is used for the Garden of Eden
This Hebrew word can also refer to sexual intimacy
It’s fascinating to think that Sarah would consider having a baby or being intimate with Abraham, again, as like returning to the Garden of Eden
Sarah’s laughter and thoughts are not lost on the Lord
The Lord confronts Abraham about Sarah’s private laughter and thoughts
The Lord then asks if anything is too hard for Him
This is really a rhetorical question
PRINCIPLE #4 – God is omnipotent (all-powerful)!
There is nothing beyond God’s power to accomplish
He can as easily bring Sarah’s womb back to life, as He created man from the dust of the earth or woman from the rib of man
He can take the ashes of a cremated body and reinstitute it, when Jesus Christ returns in the clouds
He can remove the cancer cells from any human being, with just a thought or the touch of His hand
He can restore sight, hearing, and speech to those who are born that way
He can bring back to life those who are dead
He can save any sinner
“‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ Is there any sin for which the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cannot atone? Moses was a murderer but he was saved. David was an adulterer and a murderer, and he was saved. Peter denied Christ. Paul killed Stephen. These and countless other sinners have been saved by the merits of Jesus Christ alone. Their salvation was not too hard for God. Why should yours be impossible? God says to you, ‘Come now, let us reason together . . . though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; ;though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool’ (Isa. 1:18).” [Boice cited by Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 154]
The Lord does this for His glory!
As followers of Jesus Christ, this is a truth and attribute of God that we must embrace and believe with all of our being
Too often we doubt that God is truly all-powerful
We may pray for healing, but doubt that it will really happen
We may pray for salvation of family member or friend, but doubt they will turn to Jesus
Those are not a prayers of faith, trusting in an all-powerful God
God is willing and able to do the miraculous, the supernatural
He is all-powerful!
Confirmation of the covenant
The Lord states His covenant announcement a second time, so that Sarah can hear it again
He will return in a year and Sarah will have a son
“. . . Sarah’s unbelief does not abort, or sidetrack, or slow down the promise of God. She will still conceive, whether she thinks she can or cannot.” [Hamilton, 14]
We see another reaction of Sarah to the Lord’s presence
Sarah was afraid, so she lied
Her second reaction to the presence of the Lord in her life was fear, which caused her to lie
Fear can drive us to do things we normally wouldn’t do otherwise
“Fear moves people to do things that are irrational and uncharacteristic of them. Adam hid because he was afraid of God. Abraham deceived because he was afraid of what the Egyptians might do to him. Now Sarah is afraid because she has challenged the authenticity of a divine promise and because she has irked the divine visitor. Thus she lies: I did not laugh. A second sin is committed (lying) in an attempt to cover up a first sin (unbelief).” [Hamilton, 14]
Why did the Lord confront Sarah about her laugher, but not Abraham about his laughter?
Both Abraham and Sarah laughed about the same covenantal announcement
Here is the difference
Abraham’s laughter was based on joyful, astonished faith
Sarah’s laughter was marked by doubt and unbelief
The Lord confirms that Sarah did actually laugh
“The Lord doesn’t condemn Sarah for laughing; but simply reminds her that He knows exactly what’s going on in her heart and what she’s doing behind closed tent flaps.” [Courson, 78]
There is one final principle that is evident throughout verses 9-15
PRINCIPLE #5 – God is omniscient (all knowing)!
The Lord knew Sarah’s name (v. 9)
The Lord knew the future concerning Sarah having a son (v. 10)
The Lord knew what Sarah did in the privacy of her tent (v. 13)
The Lord knew that Sarah had laughed to herself (v. 15)
This all knowing God is also aware of everything that is going on in our lives
He knows your name
He knows your future
He knows what you do in the privacy of your own home
He knows the attitude of your heart and knows your thoughts
Do you need to eagerly approach the Lord each day with excitement, enthusiasm, and humility?
Whom can you show hospitality to this coming week by having a meal together with them?
What time, talent, or resource do you need to give the best of to the Lord?
The same is true of the church, we need to make sure that we are giving our best to the Lord, as a congregation
How do you react to the Lord’s presence in your life?