Summary: The three visitors
December 19, 2010
Of all the people of the world, God has chosen a childless man named Abraham to leave his hometown and go to a land of promise where He’ll make his name great and bless all the families of the earth through him.
Abraham believes God for all these things, but years and years go by, and nothing happens. So he and his wife form a little plan to help God along: Sarah gives her bondmaid to Abraham, and they have a son together; Ishmael, they hope, will be the one who carries the name of Abraham, but God refuses to establish His covenant with him. He has already decided that Isaac will be the son of the promise, and so it will be.
Despite his weaknesses, Abraham is counted as righteous, and as a sign of the covenant between them God gives Abraham circumcision.
This is where we left off last week and where we pick up this week:
And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre:
You’ll remember that Mamre is an Amorite man and an ally of Abraham’s (14:13). Apparently Abraham has pitched his tents on Mamre’s land.
and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:
Now we know from later in the story that two of these men are angels; they’re the same two who go down and stay in Lot’s house before destroying Sodom. The other man is “the LORD” or “Yehovah.”
Now we know that no man can see God’s face and live (Ex. 33:20), and that’s why I believe this is Christ in His human form—He is the Son of God in the flesh, the Bread which came down from heaven (Jn. 6:50, 51, 58).
He and these two angels come to visit Abraham.
and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3And said, My LORD, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.
It’s been debated whether he knew who these men were or not, but I think we can safely say that he at least knew something was different and special. When he sees them (he’s 100 years old), he runs to meet them, and he offers to take care of their needs (food, water, rest, and clean feet) before they go on their way.
And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.
Everything is done so quickly for these special guests, and then Abraham himself stands close by so he can serve them.
The men eat the meal, and then they address the two reasons for their appearance:
9And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son.
If he didn’t know before, Abraham surely knows who these men are now. He’s been waiting on God to give him a son for years, and now the date is finally announced: “I will certainly return to thee according to the time of life.” Other translations say “when the season comes around again” (NET) or “about this time next year” (NIV, NASB).
And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
“Waxed” is an Old English word that means to be worn out. In other words, Sarah knows there’s no way she can have a child at this point in life because she’s too old, so she laughs “within herself” at the idea.
This laughter isn’t from joy or pleasure but from disbelief: