Summary: What would you do if God came to dinner? Abraham gives his best to the Lord and receives fellowship, promise, and plans for the future in return.
Two things are accomplished in this chapter - a visit from God Himself for two reasons: blessings and judgment. God is reminding Abraham - and especially Sarah - of the promised son, and to engage Abraham in a discussion about judging sin. It teaches about God’s character and intercession.
At the beginning of chapter 17 God appeared to Abram. We don’t know what form He took - but here, in Chapter 18, it is appearance of three men.
Obviously one of them is recognized as the Lord. Look how it shows all capital LORD. That signifies a translation of the word Yahweh - that special Hebrew word that the Jews would only put down as YHWH. It’s the personal name for God - the one he used with Moses at the burning bush.
He’s at the Mamre - which is between Jerusalem and Gaza - by Hebron. Today Hebron is in an area of Israel known as the West Bank and is a hotbed of Palestinian uprisings.
In those days, of course, it was Abraham and his tent. And it was hot.
Verses 2- 5
God takes the form of a man and visits Abraham with two angels. Abraham uses the term Adonai - which means lord - obviously he recognized that these were no ordinary humans. When an ordinary person approached in this context, the person would rise - but when someone of superior rank appears they would advance towards them. Abraham goes further - he bows low then offers food and drink to them.
Having a meal was a very important custom to that culture. And the way Abraham does it signifies these are important visitors.
Verses 6 - 8
The cakes of flour would have been cooked pretty rapidly - unleavened bread basically. Nomads usually didn’t eat animal protein - and killing a calf was an even more significant gesture. They would dip the meat placed on the bread into melted butter.
So Abraham stands by as they eat - now, why would God have to eat anyway? Well, why did Jesus take fish after His resurrection? Eating is fellowshipping and accepting of the hospitality of Abraham. It was all he had to offer.
Verses 9 - 10
God already knew where Sarah was - but it’s like He’s saying it for Sarah’s benefit ("I know you’re there Sarah") and Abraham’s - for what comes next.
God’s already told Abraham that Sarah was going to have a baby in about a year (Chapter 17) - but now He says it again. Last time Abraham laughed - now it’s Sarah’s turn.
Verses 11 - 12
Sarah said this to herself - but maybe the laughter carried just a bit to the outside of the tent. Obviously she hadn’t really believed Abraham when he told her what the Lord had already said to him.
Verses 13 - 15
God knew what was in Sarah’s heart - and he calls her on it. He tests her faith "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" She doesn’t respond very well - denying that she laughed.
Sometimes when called on the carpet by the Lord we react poorly. There is a saying that goes "if you are going to lie, do it forcefully." A lot of people have gotten away with things by pushing their lies. That doesn’t work with God, does it?
Now comes a fascinating look at how God relates to Abraham - and has some interesting implications for us today.
Verses 16 - 19
You can just picture these guys standing there looking out over Sodom- and God says out loud - "should I tell him? He is going to be pretty instrumental in THE PLAN, you know."
And Abraham is pretty intimidated by these guys thinking - "what is going on?"
Notice what God says:
1. I’ve chosen him
2. He is to keep My ways and become like me ("do what is right")
3. I will bless him and bring about my promises to him
It’s very close to the New Covenant:
God chose us (Romans 8:33)
We are to obey Him and become like Him (Romans 15:18, Phil 3:21)
God doesn’t wait for Abraham to answer:
Verses 20 - 22
So the two other guys walk away towards Sodom. We’ll see in the next chapter that these angels go down and meet with Lot. So who is the guy who stayed behind? The Angel of the Lord - the pre-incarnate Christ, I believe.
"I will go down" God Himself didn’t have to go down - the angels going before Him was enough - as if He Himself had gone there.
So next comes one of the most interesting conversations recorded in Scripture. Abraham - apparently a little less intimidated, engages God in a little bargaining session - at least it appears that way.