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

What is a Vision?

“Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:5-6).

 The Lord gave Abram a vision of the future of his descendants, that they would become a great nation. When God calls a man or a woman, often He will give them a vision. Any leader worth his salt has been given an image in his mind’s eye of how the future will look. After getting a vision, one must prayerfully plan how he or she is to bring the image into reality. As I write, I remember more than 38 years ago the thoughts that God put in my heart for my future. It is not the same method for every person. Stay open to God and be alert to His promptings.

The Lord used various things in my life. Shortly after God called me from my career as a commercial fisherman, I worked for a while as a window cleaner, and as a painter and decorator. During this time, I had a passion for leading a small group in our home, along with my wife, Sandy. At one point, I worked in a print shop for a Christian printing organization called Cornerstone Print and Design. This small printing company served missionary agencies as well as other churches and Christian organizations in England by printing all kinds of literature that would help them to reach the world for Christ. On the wall of the print shop, they had a sign that said: “A drop of ink will make a million think!” At that time, I didn’t see myself as a Bible teacher; I was more of an evangelist that would share the message of Christ whenever I had the opportunity. But the sign on the wall grabbed my attention. God used my time at that printing agency for me to get a vision for spreading His Word to others, even in other countries. I could see the need for Christian tracts, and God began to stir my heart for the needs of other nations that had little resources to learn of the Lord. God began to show me His vision to reach the world, and that is what I am still seeking to do today.

What is vision? I have heard it described as “foresight with insight based on hindsight.”  We ought to look into the future and begin to see with the eyes of faith what God wants us to do. Vision also focuses on one’s present circumstances and asks the question: “how do I get there from here?” Also, vision takes into account the learning that one has accumulated from the past. A vision is a clear mental image of a preferable future that is given to a man or woman of God, to enable him or her to work toward that particular goal that he or she has seen. When a person has obtained a clear vision of what God wants to do, then the man or woman of God should go to the Lord in prayer for practical steps to reach that goal or vision. Without concrete steps toward the preferable future, there is difficulty in stretching beyond the present reality. Abram is shown a picture in his mind’s eye of the future that he is waiting for and holding onto in faith.

How does God envision us? What methods does He use today? How can you tell if a vision is from God?

God will often use His Word, or a message through a dream, through song, encouragement from another, a mentor, or someone who inspires us to do what they are doing. It can also be a need which we want to meet, or a strong desire to do something. It can be as simple as a natural God-given talent mixed with a strong desire.

If a vision is from God, it will always be in line with Scripture. Test your vision to see if it matches up with the Word of God. Ask God to give you the first step in understanding how to bring your vision into reality. Be ready to take steps of faith. Often, there is an excitement that comes when we see what God has for us to do. Paul the apostle writes: 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:13). What vision sustains you while you wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled? If you do not have a clear perception or vision, go to the Lord and ask Him what He wants for your life. Keith Thomas

The God Over All Impossibilities

15God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” 19Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him (Genesis 17:15-19).

Imagine what that was like when Abraham and Sarah had to tell their neighbors and friends that their names had now been changed to mother of princes and father of many with Abraham being 100 years old? Do you think they were ridiculed? Sometimes the people of God, in order to follow Him wholeheartedly, must endure ridicule in their walk of faith.

Moses, the person who wrote the Book of Genesis, spells it out plainly to us, the person leading the team of three is YHVH. In the English translation of the Bible, whenever the name LORD is capitalized, as it is in verse one, thirteen and fourteen, the Hebrew word is YHVH. We have added vowels to the name to help us to pronounce the name more clearly, making it JeHoVaH, or YaHVeH. YaHVeH says that He will return to them about the same time next year and that when He does, Sarah will be a mother to a son (v. 10).

Inside the tent, Sarah, when she heard the LORD say that she would be a mother at ninety years old, laughs within herself (Verse 12). She thinks of the impossibility of it all, a woman of ninety that is worn out with age and long past childbearing ability, and Abraham being even ten years older than her, how could this be possible? Inside her mind she laughs at the thought. She utters not a sound, but the Lord knows her thought. He asks Abraham:“Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” 15Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh” (Genesis 1813-15).

God is omniscient, which is a word that means that He is all knowing. He knows all things in the universe and in all creatures at all time, whether it is something in the past, present or future. God knows them all perfectly. God’s knowledge is absolute and unacquired. He never has to learn anything. This is omniscience.

29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:29-31).

The writer, A.W. Tozer, has spoken of God’s omniscience in this way:

“God knows instantly and effortlessly all matter and all matters, all mind and every mind, all spirit and all spirits, all being and every being, all creature hood and all creatures, every plurality and all pluralities, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, all enigmas, all feelings, all desires, every unuttered secret, all thrones and dominions, all personalities, all things visible and invisible in heaven and in earth, motion, space, time, life, death, good, evil, heaven, and  hell.”[1]

This is an appearance of YaHVeH in human form that is visiting with Abraham along with two of His angels. Most scholars believe that this divine being that is talking with Abraham is the Lord Jesus before His birth by Mary. The Lord Jesus is revealed as the divine YaHVeH (John 1:1-3), who hears every thought, and knows all things:

30Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God” (John 16:30).

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you” (John 21:17).

There was a gentle rebuke about Sarah’s laugh of unbelief. How would you feel about hearing from a total stranger that you were going to have a baby next year, when you have been waiting for a baby all your married life? Oh yes, and now it is physically impossible, and you hear that it is going to happen at the age of ninety! Sarah realizes that this being called YaHVeh has heard her thought while in her tent—her laugh was not audible, and He is speaking about her personal future and the dream that she has waited for all this time! To realize that God knows her every thought is to also know that this same God can do anything. She is told by the messenger, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Verse 14). Whatever you are dealing with, know this; God understands your frustration, unbelief, and your struggles, and is aware of your thoughts. It does not stop Him from being able to provide the answer. Keith Thomas

[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York, Harper and Row, 1961) p.63.