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Genesis 18:1-15 by Robert Dean
Series:Genesis (2003)
Duration:59 mins 14 secs

Hospitality; Fellowship Meals; Omniscience and Omnipotence. Genesis 18:1-15


Chapter eighteen is another test of the doctrine in Abraham's soul. James chapter two says that it is on the basis of these tests of faith that we apply the Word of God to the circumstances surrounding these tests and that produces endurance. Endurance in turn produces maturity. So this is the basic mechanism that God uses to move us along the path of our spiritual life. The same was true for Abraham. Each test related to some aspect of the promise that God had given him in the Abrahamic covenant. Now, one again, we are going to have a confirmation of the seed promise, but in this chapter it is the most specific of all.


The chapter begins with an appearance of Yahweh to Abraham who then prepares a meal that they share. Following them meal the Lord announces the fulfillment of the promise, that it will be within the next, and Sarah is listening through the tent flap, over hears the promise and laughs to herself, thinking that this is really an impossibility. The Lord rebukes here for that and encourages her at the same time. This is the framework for the first fifteen verses.


In this section we really see two tests. It begins in 18:1 and this entire section extends down through the end of chapter nineteen. Chapter 18:1-15 focuses on this initial phase of the visit where we have the fellowship meal between Abraham and the Lord, the reiteration of the promise of the coming seed, and then there is an intercession. Abraham is going to intercede for Lord actually, not Sodom. That comes in the second part of chapter eighteen, and then chapter nineteen focuses on God's judgment of Sodom and Gomorrha and the five cities of the plain. The test for Abraham's spiritual life is in two parts. The first part occurs when these strangers show up, verses 1-15. It focuses on grace orientation. It is Abraham orienting to the grace of God and how this has impacted his spiritual life in relation to the promise. Then beginning in verse 16 we see another test, and that test also focuses on his grace orientation but in that context it is related to the third provision of the Abrahamic covenant, "Those who treat you lightly I will curse, and those who bless you I will bless." So Abraham is told to be a blessing to those around him and that is what is taking place in verses 16-33. So the first test focuses on grace orientation as it is exhibited in hospitality, and the second test focuses on grace orientation as it is exhibited toward Lot who has rejected Abraham and gone his own way, and the people who live in the five cities of the plain, Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities.


So what orients us to the test in terms of Abraham's spiritual life in these two chapters is grace orientation. What is grace orientation? Grace orientation means that we align our thoughts and actions to God's grace. God's grace is a fundamental principle for living the Christian life. We have to understand that from the start of our salvation, that grace means that God does all the work and we simply accept and receive it. In grace orientation we learn humility, that we can't rely on our own talents, our own abilities, our own strengths at all in order to gain God's approval. It is fully and totally a matter of God's grace. Ten when it comes to the Christian life it is still a matter of God's grace, it never depends on who and what we are. Blessing in the Christian life is not dependent upon who we are, it is dependent upon the fact that we possess the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ.


Genesis 18:1,  "Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks [Terebinth trees] of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day." The Terebinth tree isn't actually an oak tree but is something like it. Remember, Mamre was an Amorite who lived in Hebron. What does this tell us about Abraham? He is home, this is his headquarters, he is oriented to God's grace, and he is resting. We might speculate that he is contemplating the promise of God that has just been confirmed in chapter seventeen and thinking about how God was going to bring this about. "The LORD appeared to him." The verb is the niphal [passive] of ra'a, the standard verb to see or to look, but in the passive it means to be seen or to be revealed, or to appear. It indicates a sudden appearance here because Abraham had not seen the three men (v. 2) coming. He just suddenly looks up and there they are.


Genesis 18:2, "When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw {them,} he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth." So there was clearly something about their appearance that indicated that they were people of prestige, people of significance and importance, and he treats them with respect. This shows his orientation to grace, he is very hospitable here. It is clear from the conversation that goes on that one of them is identified as Yahweh. Here Yahweh is a reference to the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ because John tells us in John chapter one that no man has seen the Father at any time. But who are the other two? In chapter 19 we will see that the other two that are with Him are angels, but they appear here as men. So this leads us to make a few observations here related to angelology.


a)  We have to recognize that angels are created as non-material beings. They are not physically material as we are, they don't have to follow the same laws of biology, the same laws of physics.

b)  From several passages it appears that angels have bodies that are composed of light or something like light. For example, in Hebrews 1:7 they appear as flames of fire.

c)  Angels would have the ability to transform themselves into material creatures that possess all of the characteristics of material bodies. For all purpose, as far as Abraham can tell, they are material creatures. They eat they drink, they rest, they sleep. He is going to wash their feet. Later on we see that when they are trapped inside Lot's home and the Sodomite perverts outside are trying to pull them out into the street their hands are outside the door and they have to pull them back in. These are physical terms. So these immaterial creatures of light are able to transform themselves to have some kind of material bodies.

d)  From this we must conclude that angels are able to take on all biological functions of the material human body. This gives us an indication of what went on in Genesis chapter three when the sons of God (always a reference to angels in the Old Testament) looked on the daughters of men and took them as wives. This is further indicated in Jude 6 & 7. When we do the proper exegesis of these verses it indicates that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrha is imitating the immoral sexual sins of the angels of a previous time. "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire."


Genesis 18:3, Abraham exhibits his grace orientation to these visitors, "and said, "My Lord [Adonay], if now I have found favor [grace] in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by." In other words, stay and let's sit down and have a meal together.  

Genesis 18:4, "Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant." And they said, 'So do, as you have said.'" What is the purpose for this meal? We have to recognize that there is an important background to this. Eating together is a picture of fellowship that extends throughout the Scripture from the Old Testament to the New Testament. Eating is also a recognition that there has been a covenant arrangement made and we are celebrating this covenant, this contract between the two parties, that there is now peace. We recognize that this eating of this meal occurs after the reconfirmation of the covenant in Genesis chapter seventeen. We see a similar event in Genesis 26:28-30 where there has been a covenant sealed with Abimelech the leader of the Philistines, and he and Isaac sit down and have a meal together. It is a picture that there is now peace between the two parties involved in the covenant. That is the main idea.

Think about that as we go through Scripture. Israel ate a meal at the foot of Mount Sinai after initially hearing the words of the law from Moses—Exodus 24:11. It signified that there was peace between them and the Lord. In the Levitical offerings one of the offerings described in Leviticus chapter three and then expanded in Leviticus chapter eleven verse 21 is a peace offering. This is when the individual would bring meal to the tabernacle. It was a peace offering and they would eat this on the site of the tabernacle. This would signify that there was now a peace the worshipper and the Lord. It was a symbol of fellowship, intimacy between the Lord and an individual. Another example is in Judges chapter six where the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon and is calling Gideon to a specific role to function as a judge and to lead the Israelites in victory over the Midianites. At the conclusion of that Gideon brought a meal offering to the angel of the Lord, prepared the meal, laid it out on the altar, and it is consumed by fire. At that point, the Lord said, "Peace," and Gideon names the altar "The Lord is Peace," v. 14. In the New Testament the Lord Jesus Christ picks up the same analogy and said that salvation was symbolized by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. That is not literal, what He is talking about is appropriating Himself or receiving or taking Himself in to your person. It is a picture of salvation. Eating and drinking is a picture of receiving the Lord, accepting Him as savior. This is what is going on symbolically in the Lord's table. The Lord's table is the idea of having a communal meal of fellowship with the Lord, a symbolic meal representing the fact that there is now peace between us and God because of what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross. We see that eating is a picture of Christian fellowship in Revelation chapter three, verse 20, which is not a salvation verse but a verse addressed to believers in the carnal church of Laodicea.

In Genesis 18 Abraham is exhibiting hospitality. Hospitality is a manifestation of grace orientation and impersonal love for others. It is a sign of personal generosity for others, not just to those we know but to those we don't know, to strangers. 1 Peter 4:9.  Notice Abraham is functioning like a servant. This is part of grace orientation.

Then in vv. 9-15 we get at the heart of the visit. Genesis 18:9,  "Then they said to him, Where is Sarah your wife? And he said, There, in the tent." Genesis 18:10, "And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son."

Genesis 18:12, "Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" The word "laugh" is the Hebrew word which is the root for the name for Isaac. So for the rest of their lives whenever they called for name Isaac they would be reminded that Sarah had a little skepticism that God could bring about this particular miracle.

Genesis 18:14, God says, "Is any thing too hard for the LORD?" The word translated "too hard" is the Hebrew word which means to be marvelous or wonderful. It is a word that is only applied to the Lord in the Old Testament, and it is applied in Isaiah 9:16, "He will be called Wonderful Counselor." It indicates that God is able to do the impossible, that no matter how difficult things may be in our life, no matter how overwhelming circumstances may be, whatever the negatives might be God is able to bring about the impossible. Matthew 19:26, "With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." This is the omnipotence of the Lord. Luke 1:37, "For with God nothing shall be impossible." Omnipotence means that God can do anything that He wills to accomplish.

So what we have learned in this chapter so far is the importance of grace orientation, that when we are oriented in our thinking to grace it exhibits itself in kindness to others, in good manners, courtesy, generosity and hospitality. Abraham's grace orientation is revealed in his hospitality toward strangers. Even though he suspected it was God it was more than that, he goes beyond that. The meal itself signifies the fact that there is this covenant between Abraham and the Lord. He is at peace with what God is doing in his life, and he is in fellowship with Him.