Friday, November 5, 2010

Genesis 18:1-15 Can You Hear Me Now?

"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.  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."  (Genesis 18:1-2 NIV)

It seems that the three men appeared rather suddenly, for when Abraham looked up, they were already standing nearby.  Although Abraham may not have known this at first, these were no ordinary visitors.  However, Abraham hurries to give them the best of Near Eastern hospitality.  He provides water to wash their feet (a welcome refreshment from their hot, dusty journey).  He urges them to stay for a meal and serves these strangers as though they were honored guests.  While Sarah bakes bread, Abraham selects a choice calf and curds and milk and the couple prepare a feast for their visitors.  While they ate, Abraham stood nearby, ready to serve them in any capacity. (Genesis 18:2-8)

Eventually, the visitors begin to reveal the purpose of their visit.  "Where is your wife Sarah?" they asked him.  (Genesis 18:9 NIV)  I wonder if, at this point, Abraham begins to realize that these are no ordinary travelers.  Who else would know about Sarai's recent name change?  When Abraham indicates that Sarah is in her tent nearby, "...the Lord said, 'I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.' "  (Genesis 18:10 NIV)  In Genesis 17:16,19,21 God had already promised this, and 17:21 indicates that the Lord had already told Abraham that Isaac would be born by that time next year.  Not much time had passed since the Lord's previous visit, for He repeats the fact that Isaac would be born by that time next year.  I wondered why God would repeat this same message so soon.  Well, one reason may be that the Lord had previously appeared to Abraham alone (Genesis 17:1).  Perhaps the news about Isaac was so amazing and unlikely that the Lord wished to convey it to Sarah in a more direct manner.  This would also explain why the Lord had asked specifically about where Sarah was (in Genesis 18:9).

Did you ever hear of that phenomenon where, if a person is in a room full of people, he or she will still perk up and zero in when his or her name is being spoken?  This is sometimes called 'the cocktail party effect'.  Even though competing conversations are going on all around, a person is able to filter out the surrounding 'noise' and is able to pick up on the fact that someone just said his name.  I picture that happening here.  When the Lord asked where Sarah was, I'll bet her ears perked up within the tent and she immediately focused in upon what this stranger could possibly be saying about her.  (Which may have been why the Lord had inquired about her, for He certainly had known all along exactly where she was!)

:"Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.  Abraham and Sarah were already old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, 'After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?' " (Genesis 18:10-12)  See, I told you that she was listening!  Who could blame her?  The Lord was standing right in front of her tent!

"Then the Lord said to Abraham, 'Why did Sarah laugh and say, "Will I really have a child, now that I am old?"  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.' " (Genesis 18:13-14 NIV)  Sarah was afraid, so she lied and denied that she had laughed.(v.15)  However, the Lord called her on it:  "Yes, you did laugh." (Genesis 18:15)  His gentle rebuke reminds me of two things:

  1. Don't ever try to lie to God and, also,
  2. Don't think that anything is too difficult for God to accomplish.
Through the Scriptures, and in our everyday lives, God is calling out our name.  We can hear Him.  Are we listening?

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