God has made a certain promise a few times now to Abraham. He will have a son by Sarah. From that son will come many nations, so many descendants that if anyone can count the stars, they can also count Abraham’s descendants. Abraham and Sarah are both beyond childbearing years. Yet, God assures them about this promise. When I read this story, I always think about the kinds of people God chooses to accomplish His work in the world.
Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. 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, and said, “My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. 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” (Genesis 18:1-5).
Yahweh appears to Abraham. Moses describes what this meeting was like. Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw three men standing across from him. Moses already tells us that this is an appearance of God almighty. Yet, Abraham sees three men. God is appearing in human form. I’m not sure whether Abraham knows at this point he is bowing before God, but Moses lets us know at the beginning of this chapter. According to his tradition and high view of hospitality, Abraham asks the men if he can get them something to eat and drink and wash their feet while they are on their way. These men are intentionally passing by Abraham on their way to another task. The men agree to stop and visit, showing God’s favor upon Abraham.
I am inclined to believe that every appearance of God in the Old Testament is the preincarnate Christ, the person of the godhead who exhibits particular presence as a unique characteristic–the Voice of God who walked through the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3. Many people will wax eloquent about Abraham’s service to these men, but I believe Moses is setting us up for the disfavor and destruction of Sodom and the demise of Lot’s family. God favors Abraham and Sarah; that is the point to be taken here.
So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.” Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate. Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him (Genesis 18:6-10).
As they were eating the meal Abraham worked to prepare, this person of the trinity who exhibits particular presence rather than omnipresence, reaffirms His promise to Abraham. He reaffirms the timeframe revealed in Genesis 17:21.
Jesus is busy. He is on His way to Sodom to judge the city. Yet, He can be bothered to sit and enjoy a meal. Coming form the perspective that these three men are the preincarnate Christ and two heavenly angels, I am confident that they do not need food or water. They certainly don’t need Abraham to wait on them. Christ makes it a point to be seen by Abraham. He makes it a point to stop. He makes it a point to eat and have conversation. This meeting is entirely gratuitous on God’s part. He has already informed Abraham of His promise. He has already reassured Abraham over again. Yet, He stops. He enjoys the fruit of His creation. He enjoys the presence of His people.
Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.” Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off (Genesis 18:11-16).
Sarah is standing at the door of the tent listening. She laughed to herself because her and Abraham are so old. They do not care about sex. She is most likely incapable of having children. Shall she indeed bear a child?
Jesus asks Abraham why Sarah laughed. Is anything too difficult for Yahweh? Christ promised, again, that she would bear a son by the time He returns in the next year. Sarah starts arguing against Jesus, “I did not laugh.” Jesus replies by telling her that she did, indeed laugh. The men stand up and looked toward Sodom. Abraham walks with them in order to send them off.
Did you notice Jesus’s response. He is on His way to judge and destroy Sodom. Sarah doesn’t know, but she argues against Jesus (against God). Jesus is there for the purpose of judgment and she does something judge-worthy. It wasn’t her laugh. I understand her laugh because Jesus is promising something that really seems impossible to her. But, she lied directly to Jesus even though He knows all things. She refused to confess. She did not believe God. She even argued against God. This is quite different from what we have seen from Abraham. Yet, Christ does not condemn her. He will still use her in spite of her disbelief. He has chosen her, and that’s what matters. I believe she will eventually surrender in response to Christ’s kindness, which results in human repentance (cf. Romans 2:4). Understand this, if you are chosen by God, He will use you positively despite you. We can take great comfort in such a fact. When we are faithless, He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).