Summary: God comes to encourage Sarah to finish strong her journey of faith and not to give up on the promise that she would have a son.
What mistake do you suppose most runners make when they race long distances for the first time? Yeah, they start too fast. They’ll zip around the first corner of the track, but halfway down the backside they start to fade. At first the coaches will yell: “Pace yourself!” Then when the runners get within a lap of the end they’ll encourage: “Finish strong!”
That’s also the word of encouragement I have for you this morning as we consider another text about Abraham and his journey of faith. If you’ve been on this journey of faith for some time now, the temptation is to just go through the motions and do the bare minimum of what’s expected of you as a Christian. But God’s will for you is that you finish strong, not just barely crawl across the finish line. Let’s see how God encouraged Abraham’s wife Sarah to this end.
Our text unfolds as Abraham was sitting in the doorway to his tent during the heat of the day. Perhaps he was mulling over the new names God had bestowed upon him and his wife. He was no longer to be known as Abram but Abraham, which means “father of many.” And his wife was no longer to be called Sarai but Sarah, which means “princess.” Both names reminded the couple that through them God would establish a great nation, a nation from which kings would come, including the King of kings, Jesus, who would save the world from sin.
Perhaps because he was lost in thought Abraham didn’t notice the three men standing a little ways off. They were strangers and therefore the protocol of the day dictated that they not approach the tent until invited to do so. When Abraham finally saw them standing there with the mid-day sun beating down on their heads he leapt to his feet and hustled over to the traveling party. Once in front of them he bowed low to the ground and said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant” (Genesis 18:3-5).
Don’t you like the way Abraham greeted these strangers? Though he was rich and powerful and used to people serving him, Abraham did not think it beneath him to bow before these strangers and offer his services. And boy, did Abraham ever serve! Once he seated his guests and provided water for them to wash their feet, he ran to Sarah and asked her to bake bread with enough flour to make 130 pieces of flat bread! Then he went to his herd where he picked out a calf that would provide the tenderest meat for his guests. This was quite a treat because meat was usually only served on festive occasions. When all was prepared, Abraham stood off to the side ready to attend to his guests’ needs like a waiter at an expensive restaurant might do.
Like Abraham do you graciously bow to the intrusions of the day? Or do you get your back up instead when interrupted? Now if we think that Abraham went a bit overboard in his service perhaps we need to adjust our standards of hospitality. God did not create us human beings to bounce off one another like a hockey puck clanging off the post; he created us to serve and to care for each other even when it might not be convenient to do so! Sure, Abraham was serving the Lord himself since that’s who one of the travellers was, but he didn’t seem to know it at the time. Anyway this is how we are to treat each other: as if we are serving Jesus himself, for our Savior once said: “I tell you the truth, whatever you [do] for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you [do] for me” (Matthew 25:40).
Think about that next time Mom asks you to do the dishes or take out the garbage. Do those chores as if you are serving Jesus himself. Or when you hear that someone is sick, let that person know that you’re praying for them and take the God-given opportunity to stop by with a meal, or send a card. And don’t just be humble and generous towards family and friends; be helpful to strangers as well. For example when you’re out shopping and see that some item has fallen off the shelf, don’t just steer your shopping cart around it, pick it up and put it back. Friends, don’t say to yourself that you’ve put in the time and have done your bit to serve. Finish strong as Abraham did—still eager to serve even though he was nearly 100 years old!