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 typical 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. The day of Abraham and Sarah’s annunciation had arrived, and they were going to have the baby of their dreams finally. The good news would come from the Lord YHWH Himself. When we look at 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 the reason for the visit. 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).

It is possible that the writer to the Hebrews was thinking of the visit of the LORD and His angels in this passage.

Abraham insists that they sit down and rest under the shade of the trees and that he will bring water to wash their dirty 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 beautiful 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 dine 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 while he is fulfilled in his service to the Lord.

Think about the time it took Abraham to get the meal together. He hurried into the tent and got Sarah busy 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 the fire and roasting it. How much time would it take to cook the calf and knead and bake the bread? At least two hours, I would think. 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

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 has entered into a marriage 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 you and me.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 means, but now it was time to look 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 considerable controversy among believers in the early church. When non-Jews became believers, some argued that they should be circumcised as well. Paul explained 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).

Resting in what God has done for us and on behalf of us is the Sabbath rest of faith. No more do we have to please God by signs on the outer skin of our commitment to keeping the way of the Lord. Now it is a matter of the inward heart. The Spirit leads and guides 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 wish to 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 had been circumcised in their hearts, set apart through faith in Christ.

Thank God that we now have a new covenant, 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.

Abraham Received an Everlasting Covenant of Land

We are studying the life of Abraham and the conversations and promises that God spoke to him. God said He would give to Abraham’s descendants an everlasting covenant of land. This land would be an everlasting possession for the generations to come:

7I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God” (Genesis 17:7-8).

Do you think that the promises of God still stand today regarding the land of Canaan or Israel, as it is known today? Do you see both a natural and spiritual fulfillment? God also promised that He would make of the seed of Ishmael and Esau, Isaac and Jacob’s brothers, into great nations, but the Lord is clear that it is through Isaac that the promises of the land are to be reckoned. Later on, when there is tension in the family from Ishmael mocking Isaac, Sarah wants for Hagar and Ishmael to leave:

…Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring” (Genesis 21:9-13).

The Arabic people have become a great nation with over 400 million people speaking the Arabic language, just as the Lord has spoken. The land of Canaan, though, was promised to the seed of Isaac, and it is to fight against God to try to take the land from them. Later on, just to clear up the matter, Abraham’s grandson Jacob was promised the land by God:

9After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel. 11And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you(Genesis 35:9-12).

It was from this line of progeny that Jesus the Messiah, the King of Kings, was to be born. Does this mean that God has forsaken those nations wherein the Arabic people live? Of course not! They also are called to become part of the Body of Christ, composed of Jew and Gentile, Chinese, Indian, Indonesian, Spanish, etc. There is one covenant open to all—to be completely forgiven of all sin. No matter where you are or what you have done, God has opened His door to you. Keith Thomas

El Shaddai

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 also 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 using his majestic power and might. El signifies strong one, and Shaddai means the Breasted One. We should not understand that to say 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 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 us also as His children. Each of us that have entered into a covenant with God from 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

The Patience Test

We are continuing to think about the testing of Abraham’s faith, and how it relates to all believers tested in similar ways. In the time of waiting God takes us through a patience test. This test happens to a man or woman of God when their expectations in God are not fulfilled “on schedule.” (Of course, we think concerning our schedule, not God’s!) Patience is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 6:2). This word comes from a Latin word which means, “to suffer.”

To pass the patience test a person has to yield to the Lord for His will to be accomplished God’s way and in His timing. Men and women of God down through centuries received visions of what the Lord wanted them to do, but they have almost always had to wait for God to act. Why is this? God does not want His people to short-circuit the process by jumping in and trying to fulfill the vision with their strength and natural talents. He uses skills and abilities, which He has given to us, but it must be in God’s timing and power and not ours. Waiting on God’s timing is the hard part.

The testing time is different and unique to each of God’s servants. After all, The Lord knows each one of His children intimately. He knows what we need to experience for our character to be shaped so that we are ready for the task. For instance, Joseph received a vision of his brother’s sheaves bowing down to him (Genesis 37:7), but the interpretation and fulfillment of the vision were still many years ahead. His character had to be changed and made ready for his future as the vice president of the nation of Egypt. He had to endure years as a slave in Potiphar’s house, before being falsely accused and thrown into prison. While in prison, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two men of pharaoh’s staff correctly, but Joseph went ahead of God and short-circuited God’s work by pleading with the cupbearer to get him out of jail. The Lord would not allow Joseph to get out of prison by his words to the cupbearer but made him wait two more years before Pharaoh’s cupbearer remembered Joseph’s unique talent of dream interpretation (Genesis 40:23 and 41:1). Sometimes God deliberately makes a man or woman of God wait until things are humanly impossible before He moves in our situation, which was the case with Abram and Sarai. Fourteen years had gone by, and it was now many years since it had ever been naturally possible for Sarai to conceive and bear a child.

Why The Wait?

We know that God was teaching Abram and Sarai valuable lessons in this waiting period. Why was the waiting time so long? Do we have a part to play and can we delay God’s promise by our obedience or disobedience? The “waiting time” is also a time of testing. We need to be alert and aware of the part we play in the waiting time.

The Lord showed up after a fourteen-year wait, twenty-three years from the initial promise, and told Abram that he shall no longer be called Abram, which means exalted father, but from that point on, his name would be Abraham, which means father of a multitude. The interesting thing about God’s word to Abraham was that the Lord spoke in the present tense and not the future tense. He said, “I have made you a father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). Abraham was asked to believe God’s Word about himself before it became a reality. Imagine what it was like going over to Mamre to see his friends, Eshcol and Aner, his allies in the war against the kings of the north (Genesis 14:13). At ninety-nine years of age, how does a man tell his friends that his name is now changed into father of a multitude? Do you think that Abraham corrected people every time they called him Abram? I wonder. Don’t you think that Eshcol and Aner would have laughed at him along with many others of his friends? Today we would consider a person like Abraham to be eccentric, but the Bible calls him the Friend of God (James 2:23). My prayer is for you and me to be a Friend of God. Keith Thomas