The LORD Comes to Lunch With Abraham

1The 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. 2Abraham 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. 3He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5Let 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.” 6So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” 7Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8He 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 (Genesis 18:1-8).

It was a normal day for Abraham. The sun was getting high in the sky and it was hot (Verse 1). Abraham was sitting in the shade of his tent under or near the great trees of Mamre, with the view below him of the Jordan valley also known as the Dead Sea Valley. This was the day of Abraham and Sarah’s annunciation that they were going to finally have the baby that they had dreamt about. The good news would come from the Lord YHWH Himself. When we see the English word LORD used (v. 1), the Hebrew name of God, YHWH, is used in the text. Of course, Abraham did not realize that it was the LORD until later on in the afternoon. As soon as he saw the three men, YHWH and two angels, Abraham sprang into action and hurried from where he was sitting to meet them. He bowed low to these three strangers. Visitors to one’s home are a big deal. When the three men came to Abraham, he did not know why these men had come or who the men were that was visiting him. To Abraham these men were just strangers. The writer to the Hebrews in the New Testament, has something to say about the proper treatment of visitors:

2Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).

Surely the writer to the Hebrews was thinking of the visit of the LORD and His angels in this passage that we are looking at.

Abraham insists that they sit down and rest under the shade of the trees, and that he will bring water to wash their dusty sandaled feet and also food, and then they can carry on their way (Verse 5). The visitors are pleased to stay awhile. It is a wonderful thought to think that the LORD of heaven and earth would come and eat and be refreshed by His people. How we all long for Jesus to come and eat with us! Of course, these visitors did not need the provisions Abraham was to bring them, but they stopped and ate for Abraham’s sake. It was Abraham who received what he needed that day. Notice that Abraham’s service to these strangers was all at a hurried pace (Verses 2 and 6). He was careful not to waste their time. But the Lord was pleased to wait for Abraham to be fulfilled in his service to the Lord. Think about the time it took Abraham to get this meal together. He hurried into the tent and got Sarah busy at kneading three seahs (about six gallons) of fine flour together. Then he ran (Verse 7) to the herd and got a choice, tender calf and a servant hurrying along to kill it, before preparing a fire and roasting it. How much time would it take to roast the calf and knead and bake the bread? At least two hours, I would think. Yet the LORD and His angels wait patiently while Abraham and Sarah serve Him wholeheartedly. How it should gladden our hearts that the Creator of the whole universe should come and have lunch with Abraham and Sarah. Keith Thomas

Circumcision, the Sign of the Covenant

We are continuing to meditate on the life of Abraham. The people of Israel were required by God to have a sign in their flesh that would remind them of their commitment to the covenant that they had entered into with God. Much as a wedding ring is an outward sign that a person had entered into a covenant with another, so a Hebrew man had a sign on his flesh that was forever with him to remind him of his commitment to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

9Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you. 12For the generations to come every male among you who is eight days old must be circumcised, including those born in your household or bought with money from a foreigner—those who are not your offspring. 13Whether born in your household or bought with your money, they must be circumcised. My covenant in your flesh is to be an everlasting covenant (Genesis 17:9-13).

Commentator R. Kent Hughes says this of the mark of circumcision:

“Significantly, circumcision involved Abraham’s powers of procreation—the area of life in which he had resorted to fleshly expediency—and had so failed. Man’s best plans and strength of will would never bring about the promise. For Abraham circumcision was an act of repentance and a sign of dependence upon God for the promise.”[1]

Abraham had tried to bring about God’s will and purpose through doing what he could do (as in the matter of Sarai’s servant girl, Hagar, giving birth to Ishmael), and had miserably failed. God was now showing that He alone could satisfy their every need and fulfill the vision that He had given them. Only He was God Almighty, the great El Shaddai. Abraham had listened to Sarai and tried to bring about the vision by their own means, but now it was time to listen to the Lord and do things His way. He was finally at rest and waiting for God to fulfill His Word and His promises, by doing things His way and in His timing.

Circumcision is a sign upon the flesh saying that the Jewish people are committed to following God’s way in God’s timing. Later on, in the New Testament, we see that circumcision became a matter of great controversy among believers in the early church. When non-Jews became believers, some argued that they should be circumcised as well. Paul argued that this was no longer necessary. His argument followed the reasoning that believers should be circumcised at the heart level, and not focus on that which is physical.

28A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God (Romans 2:28-29).

This is the Sabbath rest of faith. No more do we have to please God by signs on the outward skin of our commitment to keeping the way of the Lord. Now it is a matter of the inward heart. The Spirit leading and guiding us from within, not by a written code of trying to please God by the works of the flesh, but realizing that God has come down from heaven and satisfied all the demands of the Law. We please God from the heart, not from the flesh.  Paul’s teaching at this time was radical. Many who listened to him were offended. After all, had God not given the ritual of circumcision as a sign to them? In this case, the symbol had become all-important. Paul wanted them to see that it was a symbol of the truth that these new believers were already circumcised in their hearts, set apart though faith in Christ.

Thank God that we now have a new covenant, which has been sealed with Messiah’s blood.  He has given us what we need to be perfect and complete. When Christ died for our sanctification, circumcision was no longer required, as He is our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30). Paul explained it well when he wrote: “For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Jesus Christ, and who put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3). Keith Thomas

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis, Beginning and Blessing. Published by Crossway, Page 248.

El Shaddai Appears to Abram

1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4“As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you (Genesis17:1-6).

God reveals Himself to Abraham by a new name, El Shaddai, translated as God Almighty in the New International Version. This is the first use of this name of God in the Scriptures. El Shaddai describes the God who makes things happen by means of his majestic power and might. El signifies strong one, and Shaddai literally means the Breasted One. We should not understand that to mean that He has female body parts, it is a word picture of God as the Strong-Nourisher, the Strength-Giver, Satisfier, and All Bountiful, the Supplier of all the needs of His people. Yes, He is the one who can restore life and fruitfulness to Abraham and Sarah and cause them to have a child, and to fulfill every one of His promises to them and us.

There is a condition though. Abraham must walk before the Lord and be Tamiym, translated into English with the word “blameless” (verse 1). Tamiym means to be complete, without defect, faultless, blameless, and having integrity. God has been watching the character of this man evolve over time as the Lord has been working in his life, transforming his character to one whose heart is blameless toward Him. He requires the same of us. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

Further, God tells him that he will be a father of many nations and that kings will come from him (verses 5-6). What amazing promises God gave to Abraham and to us also as His children. Each of us that have entered into covenant with God on the basis of the blood covenant of the Messiah has been called to walk before the Lord in purity and blamelessness. Do not let this world conform you into its image of godlessness and evil. Walking blamelessly before the Lord sounds difficult, almost as difficult as Jesus’ command to “be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect.” How can we fulfill this command? We see elsewhere in scripture where Micah the prophet also revealed what God requires of man:

“He has showed you, O man, what is good, and what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

We need God’s help—the One called El Shaddai. By faith we must cast ourselves on Him, being vulnerable and crying out to Him to empower and enable us. He will do it. He does not ask us to rely on what resources we have, but on His resources. What do you need El Shaddai to do for you—what prayer do you need to ask God about today? He is listening and waiting for your cry. Keith Thomas

“Hagar, Where Are You Going?”

7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going? “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered. 9Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” 11The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. 12He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” 13She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Genesis 16:7-13).

It is in the desert place that the Angel of the Lord speaks to Hagar. This angel is One who has been watching and listening to all that was going on in Abraham’s household. He speaks kindly to her and asks two very pertinent questions which is good for all of us to hear, “Where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Verse 8).

Every now and then as we go through life it is good to sit down and assess where you have come from and where you are going. If you are aiming for nothing, you are bound to hit it! Did you ever experience a time in your life when you felt aimless and really did not know which way to go? Was God’s direction sought?

This angel is no normal angel, but most scholars believe this to be an appearance of God in human form. John the apostle in his gospel reminds us that the Lord Jesus preexisted before His taking on human form. He wrote that Jesus was with God in the beginning, and that through Him all things were made, and that without Him nothing was made that has been made (John 1:2-3). This angel does not speak for God, but as God. He says, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Verse 10). This kind of language is not, “this is what the Lord says, but this is what I say!” This is God Himself speaking. Hagar knows who it is that is speaking to her, for she names God, “You are a God of seeing,” and names the well where she encounters the Lord, “Well of the Living One who sees me” (Verse 13). Hagar is given vision and direction for her future. She is told to humble herself and submit herself to her mistress, Sarai, and raise Ishmael in Abram’s home. I’m sure her heart was encouraged to learn that she would be mother to many descendants too numerous to count (Verse 10). These descendants today are the Arabic people.

Hagar was brought into a new revelation of the Lord on that day. First of all, she found out that God (Yehovah, not Allah) hears the cry of distress, and just to remind her, she was told to name her son by the name of Ishmael, which means God hears. She was also given the revelation that the God who was watching over her sees all that is going on in her life—it is a good lesson for each of us.

We all have challenging times of waiting when our faith is tested. Even though Abram had many tests to his faith, and although he did not pass all the tests, he is still referred to as a man of faith in scripture. We do not remember him for his mistakes, but rather for his decision to follow God’s direction and go to a new place he did not know. The legacy he leaves is one of faith. This is a reminder to us of the great grace God has toward us. He does not hold up our mistakes. He takes our damaged lives and leads us home from wherever we find ourselves. Even from a place that is a desert of our own making.

Maybe you can relate to one of the characters in this part of the story. Are you like Abram, being worn down and weary in the waiting process? Are you like Hagar, finding that you are at a point where you need God’s assurance and His direction? Wherever you are in your journey of faith today, and whatever difficulties you are facing, God has a next step for you. Even if that step is to continue to wait. He has a plan and direction for you, to lead you on from the place that you find yourself right now. Keith Thomas

The God Who Sees and Hears Us

4He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” 6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. 7The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.

When Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, becomes pregnant, there were changes in the household and relationships. Things got messy! Hagar becomes proud and begins to look down upon her mistress. We don’t know what is said or the behavior of Hagar, but whatever the attitude of the younger Hagar to the seventy-five-year-old Sarai, it is one of suffering for Sarai:

5Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” (Verse 5).

Sarai now blames Abram for his lack of leadership in allowing this shortcut to go ahead, and she is right. Abram was the leader of the home, the one who gets direction from God and leads the family accordingly, yet his leadership is reactionary to go with the flow, rather than seeking God for His direction as to the strife that he has now brought upon his family and into his home. When Sarai brings the situation up with Abram, he should have been the one to sort it out, but instead he throws it all back into Sarai’s lap:

6“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her (Verse 6).

Abram should have dealt kindly to Hagar and counseled Sarai to do the same. After all, they were the ones who came up with the plan in the first place! Unfortunately, Abram does not bear responsibility for Hagar. Notice that in his response to Sarai, he does not even call Hagar by her name, but calls her ‘Sarai’s slave’ (Verse 6). It is as if he is distancing himself from the whole situation, and from Hagar herself, along with the child he is responsible for. It is complete abdication. Hagar is not asked how she feels about all that is going on, and Abram takes little care for her soul. Having been used as a commodity, she is now cast aside. Surely she must be, at this point, a visible reminder of the failure of Abram and Sarai in trying to take a shortcut to God’s purposes. How many unwanted feelings did this situation breed for all three involved? I’m sure Hagar was left feeling that this baby she is carrying will be unwanted by the family she has been a part of. Hagar must have felt very insecure at a time in life that a woman needs even more security with a baby on the way. Can you imagine her grief and state of mind as she ran away from home? We are told that she went to a deserted place where she sat down by a spring. A deserted place tells us that she wanted to be alone. It is possible she did not feel safe, having been badly treated by Sarai and not sure of their intentions toward her and the child she was carrying. She is retreating, licking her emotional wounds, so to speak, and seeking solitude when the Angel of the Lord comes to her. Thank God that whenever we are in a dry and desert place, there is always a well of salvation, and our God is always watching over us.

If you have not yet entrusted your life to the God of all comfort, it is time to cast your soul upon Him, for He cares for you. Keith Thomas