FOR A FEW GOOD MEN (GENESIS 18:1-8, 16-33)
I borrowed a fascinating book from my seminary library after I heard the speaker at our school chapel. In the Chinese book by the odd title "I Love Curry Village." Hong Kong missionary Yim reveals that after ten years of mission work in India he could only manage to convert one person -- a Sikh, yet the hard work would not daunt or damper the zeal and fire in God’s people.
Yim recalls one year attending a typical camp to prepare incoming missionaries for the field and evaluating the quality of the new recruits.
12 were in training that year. Their ages differ. Among them was a couple in their 60s who joined after their retirement. There were quite a few young couples with children in tow. Also in attendance were some singles. All of them had something in common, which is enjoying to choose a challenging mission field for ministry. Five chose Mongolia, four were headed to East Europe, six went to a Communist country, two to Pakistan. Yim was happiest when he discovered that three decided on India. Some were undecided.
Chapter 18 introduces the Lord’s personal visitation of Abraham. Previously the Lord appeared to Abraham and spoke to him on at least five occasions (Gen 12:1, 12:7, 13:14, 15:4, 17:1). Words were spoken and communication was made but readers were not told how? The most popular references were made to "the Lord/He said to him" (Gen 12:1, 13:14, 15:4, 15:7, 15:9, 15:13), twice the text says "the Lord appeared to Abram" (Gen 12:7, 17:1) and once it was in a vision (Gen 15:1). In chapter 12 it was a one-way disclosure by God but by chapter 15 they had a two-way discussion. In this chapter the Lord made a personal visitation to Abraham to see if Abraham was ready to be the father of many nations.
How would you respond knowing your neighbor is doomed? How do you respond to a world that is lost and dying? How do you respond to ungodly, unashamed and unrepentant sinners?
Be Hospitable in Service
1 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He 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." "Very well," they answered, "do as you say." 6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. "Quick," he said, "get three seahs of fine flour and knead it and bake some bread." 7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. (Gen 18:1-8)
A student in the second month of nursing school was given a pop quiz by the school professor. The conscientious student had breezed through the questions until the last one, which read: ’What is the first name of the woman who cleans the school?"
"Surely this was some kind of joke. How would I know her name?" remarked the student who had seen the tall, dark-haired cleaning woman in her 50s several times. So she handed in the paper, leaving the last question blank. Before class ended, one student asked if the last question would count toward the quiz grade. Absolutely, said the professor. "In your careers you will meet many people. All are significant. They deserve your attention and care, even if all you do is smile and say hello". The student learnt the janitor’s name - Dorothy and had never forgotten that lesson.
Abraham’s hospitality to God will later be contrasted with Sodom’s hostility to God. It was a hot day (v 1), far worse than the normal burning, blazing and baking desert day. Abraham jumped into action the moment he saw the strangers, especially when he could guess their identity. He did not wait to be asked, bowing low to the ground, bringing the three men water (v 2) to wash their feet and then providing them shelter (v 4). The patriarch then called himself "your servant" twice (vv 3, 5) and selected the finest flour (v 6) and choicest calf for a feast (v 7). He did not sit with them but stood in respect (v 8) while they ate. By the way this is the first instance of "bowing" (v 2) in the Bible.