This time, the LORD came again to Abraham to specifically re-confirm the time-fulfillment of the promised son. The account continued as the LORD and the two angels came to Abraham as guests who then travelled to Sodom to see its grave sins. Abraham’s responses and interactions with the LORD teach us about the act of hospitality and the attitude of intercessory prayers.
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- In the heat of the day (18:1): Among the Middle-Easteners, the hour of noon is the time of rest (cf. Song 1:7) and the time of meal (Gen 43:16, 25). In this case, Abraham had probably dined and was resting after a meal. [ref]
- Bowed himself (18:2): Such an expression indicates “the complete prostration of the body by first falling on the knees, and then inclining the head forwards until it touches the ground.” This was a mode of salutation practiced by the Old-Testament people towards foreigners (Gen 18:2, 19:1), towards someone with a respected position (Gen 33:3; Ex 18:7;
1 Kgs 2:19) and towards kings ( 1 Sam 24:8; 2 Sam 9:8; 1 Kgs 1:23). Moreover, this mode is also used as a sign of worship towards idols (Deut 17:3; 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 21:3; Isa 44:15) or towards the LORD (Gen 24:26; Ex 34:8; Num 22:31; 2 Sam 12:20; Job 1:20). [ref]
- Wash your feet (18:4): Washing the feet of the guests was a standard act of hospitality in the dry, dusty climate of the ancient Near East (Gen 19:2, 24:32, 43:24; Judg 19:21).
- Three measures (18:6) equal around 7 to 12 liters. [ref]
- A tender and good calf (18:7): Normal meals in the Middle East usually consist of a vegetable or lentil stew made in a large cooking pot, and seasoned with herbs and salt. Rarely the roasted meat, game or fish are presented in normal meals. Only on special occasions such as a sacrifice or festival day, is meat added to the dish. [ref]
- Passed the age (18:11): This phrase can also be translated as “the path as a woman had ceased” –giving an added tone that Sarah’s hope as a woman has ended.
- The age of childbearing (18:11): At this point in time, Sarah was 90 years old. Nowadays, according to the Advanced Fertility Center of Chicago, very few women over 44 are still fertile. Even most in vitro fertilization centers will attempt this method using the female partner’s eggs until about age 43-45.
According to the Guinness World Records, in 1997, a British woman of 59 years old became the oldest natural mother when she gave birth to a son by Caesarian section.
Furthermore, risks associated with childbearing over the age of 50 include an increased incidence of gestational diabetes, hypertension, delivery by caesarean section, miscarriage, preeclampsia, and placenta previa.
In other words, the aged Sarah—in view of our advanced medical technology—was not only considered as high risk in child-bearing but also deemed impossible to give birth naturally or by C-section.
- Looked toward Sodom…went with them (18:16): The distance from Mamre to Sodom is around 38,57 miles and more. This journey requires the three men and Abraham to go across the mountains on the east of Hebron as far as Caphar-barucha. Most likely, Abraham went with the three men as a friendly convoy over a portion of their journey. [ref]
What was the purpose of the LORD’s visit to Abraham?
Describe the way Abraham welcomed the three men.Hide Answer
When Abraham saw the three men standing by him, Abraham ran from the tent door to meet them, and he bowed himself to the ground. Abraham also offered them water to wash their feet and suggested that they rest under the tree. Furthermore, Abraham also invited them for a morsel of bread to refresh their hearts before they continued on their journey (Gen 18:2-4).
How did Abraham actually treat the three men?Hide Answer
After the three men agreed to stay, Abraham hurriedly asked Sarah, his wife, to prepare three measures (7-12 liters) of fine flour to make cakes. Abraham also prepared butter, milk and a tender and good calf to be set before them (Gen 18:6-8). Initially, Abraham only invited them for a morsel of bread. But when the three men agreed to stay, Abraham gave them more than just a morsel of bread. He prepared them a sumptuous meal consisting of three measures of fine flour, butter, milk and a tender and good calf.
Though Abraham was resting in the heat of the day, he willingly welcomed the guests into his place. His generosity toward the strangers was also shown when he presented them with a sumptuous meal instead of just a morsel of bread.
We can learn from Abraham regarding hospitality to others. The New Testament books give us several teachings about hospitality. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, praising them for receiving him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus without despising or rejecting his physical condition (Gal 4:14). Likewise, in receiving someone, we ought to do it without judging or despising the person’s outward appearance. In addition, to the Romans, the apostle Paul reminds them that hospitality should not be done in hypocrisy (Rom 12:13). In other words, the love and sacrifice that we give to others should be genuine, not in a grumbling or a complaining way. Lastly, the Hebrew writer admonishes the believers not to forget to entertain strangers and let the brotherly love continue (Heb 13:2). From here, the Hebrew writer reminds us that throughout our busy daily routines, we ought not to neglect caring for other people in brotherly love.
Why did the three men ask Abraham concerning Sarah, his wife?Hide Answer
Their asking Sarah indicated that the upcoming conversation would involve not only Abraham but also Sarah. And the upcoming information or statement given was also for Sarah to know.
What was the specific statement from the LORD to Abraham?
What made Sarah laugh within herself?Hide Answer
Sarah laughed within herself after she listened in the tent door regarding the LORD’s statement of her having a son at a specific time (Gen 18:10). The LORD’s promise made her laugh because physically both Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age. Moreover, Sarah knew that she had passed the age of childbearing and she no longer had the pleasure of intimate relationship with her husband, Abraham (Gen 18:11). With these strong undeniable facts, the thought of bearing a son made her laugh.
How did the LORD respond toward Sarah’s laugh?
Why did Sarah deny she had laughed and how did the LORD reply her?
How can the LORD’s rebuke to Sarah be a warning for us today? See also Mk 9:22-24.Hide Answer
The LORD rebuked Sarah for her unbelief of God’s power in giving her a son during her aged life. This incident can serve as a warning for us today in regards of our attitude in faith. Although we believe in God’s omnipotent power, we tend to belittle His power when we are faced with a situation that we have deemed impossible to be solved.
The writer of the gospel of Mark wrote about a father who had brought his mute-spirited son to the disciples. But when the disciples could not cast out the spirit, the father began to doubt our Lord Jesus’ power. Then, our Lord Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:22-23), reminding him that nothing was too hard for the Lord, as long as the father also believed in Him. In desperate moments, we too may act like the father did, wondering whether God will be able to deliver us from our desperation. As a result, we sometimes measure God’s power and ability through the difficulties that we face. But through the examples of Sarah and the father of a mute-spirited son, we are reminded that nothing is too hard for the LORD and all things are possible to him who believes.
Was Sarah’s laughter different from Abraham’s in Genesis 17:17? Then why did the LORD rebuke Sarah but not Abraham?Hide Answer
Sarah’s laughter was no different than Abraham’s in Gen 17:17. According to Genesis 17:17 and 18:12, both Abraham and Sarah laughed after hearing the LORD’s promise of a son through Sarah, because of their old age. While both of them were reminded by God of His promise (Gen 17:19, 18:14), their responses to His reminder were different. Abraham responded by believing God’s words but Sarah responded by denying her laughter.
After Abraham laughed, the LORD emphasized to him that Sarah would bear him a son. Believing the words of God, Abraham circumcised himself, his son Ishmael and all the men of his house “that very same day” as “God had said to him” (Gen 17:23-27). And for Sarah, when the LORD asked Abraham why Sarah laughed and when He reiterated His promise to Abraham and Sarah for a son, in fear she denied that she was laughing. But the LORD emphasized to Sarah that she did laugh (Gen 18:13-15) for thinking that the childbearing in her advanced age was “too hard for the LORD” (Gen 18:11).
What other act of hospitality did Abraham show to the three men?
How did the LORD think of Abraham and what were the plans for Abraham’s future? See also Jas 2:23.Hide Answer
When Abraham went with the LORD, He was thinking of telling Abraham what He was about to do. The LORD did not intend to hide what He was doing because the LORD had known him. The writer of the book of James even tells us that Abraham was considered as a friend of God (Jas 2:23).
The LORD had planned that Abraham would surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. In addition, the LORD would like to share with Abraham what He was about to do so that Abraham may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD and to do righteousness and justice (Gen 18:18-19).
What can we learn from Abraham’s closeness with the LORD and his future responsibilities?Hide Answer
The book of James describes that Abraham was considered as a friend of God not only because of his faith in God but also through the works shown in his deeds to reflect his faith (Jas 2:23). The apostle John tells us that we are considered as the Lord Jesus’ friend if we do whatever He command us (Jn 15:14). In other words, being a friend of Jesus requires us not only to believe in His words and promises but also to carry out His commands accordingly in our daily routines.
By being a friend of the Lord Jesus, we have the benefit of knowing what He is about to do and knowing all the things that He has heard from His Father (Jn 15:15). Just as the LORD was telling Abraham that He was going to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, the Lord Jesus has told us about the impending judgment upon this world (Mt 24).
Apart from the benefit, as a friend of the Lord, we also have responsibilities to be fulfilled. The LORD wanted Abraham to command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the LORD and to do righteousness and justice (Gen 18:19). Likewise, being a friend of God, not only we should do His commands but we also ought to teach and to pass on the way and the statutes of the Lord to our children and to the generations after them.
List the three categories in the LORD’s sayings to Abraham: The promise;
The blessing;Hide Answer
The LORD would bring to Abraham what He had spoken to him, i.e. the LORD would make him exceedingly fruitful and kings would come from him. And He would established His covenant between Him and Abraham and Abraham’s descendants, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to him and his descendants. Also, the LORD would give him and his descendants all the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession (Gen 17:6-8).
What did the LORD say to Abraham while they were on a journey?Hide Answer
While they were on a journey, the LORD said to Abraham, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave, I will go down now and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry against it that has come to Me; and if not, I will know” (Gen 18:20-21).
How did Abraham react after hearing the words of God?
What was the content of Abraham’s intercession?
How did Abraham pursue his plea with the LORD?Hide Answer
Abraham pursued his plea with humility. In front of the LORD, Abraham referred to himself as dust and ashes (Gen 18:27), a term used for self-abasement (Job 42:6) and worthlessness (Zeph 1:17; Zech 9:3). Repeatedly in his prayers, Abraham also pleaded with the LORD not to be angry with him (Gen 18:30, 32), knowing that he was not worthy to challenge the LORD’s decision.
What can we learn from Abraham’s attitude of humility in prayers? See also Lk 18:10-14.Hide Answer
In his prayer, Abraham considered himself as dust and ashes in front of God. Likewise, we ought to imitate such an attitude in our prayers, realizing and understanding our insignificant status compared to the Creator of the heaven and the earth.
In the gospel of Luke, the Lord Jesus shares with us the parable of a Pharisee and the tax collector. Just as the tax collector felt unworthy and did not dare to exalt himself in his prayer (Lk 18:13), we ought to humble ourselves in front of God. We may have exalted ourselves because of the servitudes that we have done for the Lord, yet without His mercy and grace, we are but nothing and doomed for judgment.
Whom should we intercede for in our prayers?(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What can we learn from Abraham’s intercessory prayers?Hide Answer
Abraham prayed for God’s righteous judgment, not slaying the righteous with the wicked—so that the righteous should be as the wicked (Gen 18:25). Through the successive dialogs, Abraham also prayed to God, hoping He would spare the city if a minimum of ten righteous people were found (Gen 18:32). In replying, though there were less than ten righteous people, God still sent His angels to personally rescue Lot and his family and waited until they were in the safe place before the judgment came upon Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen 19:16, 22). The Lord had shown both His righteous judgment and His loving mercy to Abraham and Lot, Abraham’s nephew.
In his intercessory prayers, Abraham only asked for God’s righteous judgment and mercy to be done, not insisting the Lord to follow and to do his personal wish. Likewise, in our intercessory prayers—whether a prayer to heal the sick or to comfort the heavily-burdened, we ought not force or insist that the Lord do according to our request. Rather, we should plead for God’s righteousness and mercy to be shown to us, and we should give the honor and the right to the Lord for the end-result.
Share a moment of your experience regarding the power of intercessory prayer.(The answer is empty)Hide Answer
What can we learn from God’s successive replies to Abraham: About the people of Sodom and Gomorrah;
About God’s mercy;Hide Answer
God’s mercy was given not only to Lot but also extended to his family—namely his wife, two daughters and two sons-in-law—whom the latter rejected the offer and considered the warning as a joke. Although Abraham did not specifically mention about Lot and his family, the angels of the Lord came to Lot and rescued him and his family (Gen 19:14, 16).