Genesis 18 “Abraham, the Friend of God”

Posted on March 14, 2010. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Redeemer Church Sunday School- Genesis Class

Genesis 18 “Abraham, the Friend of God”

Sunday March 14, 2010

Bryan E. Walker

Read:

 

And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks  of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord,  if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs  of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard  for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it,  saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

 

Pray

 

Introduction and Review: Last week we covered the introduction to chapters 18-19 and looked at the structure of ch. 18 and how closely the two chapters parallel each other. We also demonstrated that there are a lot of similarities between these chapters and the account of Noah in chapters 6-9. All of these similarities show me several things: 1) God is sovereign over history because all of these events actually happened. 2) Moses is the sole author of Genesis (although some minor editing was done afterwards). 3) Moses was a genius as an author, and he was inspired by the Holy Spirit. 4) Genesis was written to the Israelites of Moses’ day to encourage and instruct them, and the book was written in a style that would be easier for them to memorize large sections of it; hence the repetition, the bookends, and the similarities between some of the stories. 5) Genesis is the word of God and is still authoritative for us today as it teaches us sound doctrine and practical ways to live out our faith for God’s glory.

Last week we just looked at the first 3 verse of our text and saw that the three visitors Abraham received included 2 angels and the preincarnate Christ. Abraham did not know who they were at first, so his eager and humble response to their appearing demonstrates his true character of being eager to serve. Today we will find the answer to the question I posed last week: why was Abraham called the Friend of God?

  1. II.                Honey…Guess Who Is Coming for Dinner? 18:1-8
    1. A.       When God Shows Up
      1. 18.        Vs.4 “Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree…” This is exactly what weary travelers on a hot day would want: a drink of water, having their feet washed, and resting in the shade of the tree with, possibly, a light, cool breeze blowing.
      2. 19.        In vs.4 we get a shift to the plural as Abraham now addresses all three of the visitors. This shift from the singular in vss. 1-3 to the plural has perplexed theologians and translators for centuries. This ongoing debate involves whether or not Abraham knew that the Lord was one of these three visitors. Some commentators believe he knew right away, others that it took a while. Heb. 13:2, if it is interpreted to mean that it is referring to this account in Abraham’s life, would therefore mean that Abraham did not know who the three visitors were.
      3. 20.        Vs.5 “while I bring a morsel of bread..” Abraham promises only a morsel of bread, yet, as we shall see, delivers a feast. Gordon Wenham writes, p.46, “…presumably something like a flat Arab pita roll, sounds quite modest, even mean. But it shows his anxiety to persuade his visitors to stay. Had he disclosed what a feast he was going toput on, they might have felt they were imposing on him and declined his invitation. So he only mentions part of what he will provide. Such understatement is characteristic of generous people in Scripture.”
      4. 21.        “…since you have come to your servant.” Wenham translates it as “for this is why you have come, for your servant’s benefit” and gets at the real meaning. To put it in modern day terms, “Your visit has made my day!” But it is also prophetic in that the LORD has indeed come to bless and benefit Abraham and Sarah.
      5. 22.        Vs.6-7 “And Abraham went quickly…And Abraham ran to the herd…” Notice the eagerness to serve his guests; he runs in the hot afternoon sun.
      6. 23.        vs. 6-8 Abraham tells Sarah to use “3 seahs of fine flour”, which is a huge amount of flour with each seah being about 1 ½ gallons. This was to be “fine flour”, the best quality of flour for the best of breads not the coarse, everyday kind of bread for poor people. Moses only uses this “fine flour” elsewhere in the cereal offering to the Lord and the Bread of the Presence in Lev. 24:5. Thus, with this bread, we see Moses pointing out subtly who the guest of honor is. Vs 7 “took a calf…prepared it quickly” Vs 8 “curds and milk” Abraham is here preparing a banquet, not a quick meal of a morsel of bread! A lamb or a goat would have sufficed, but he goes to the fatted calf for these three visitors. Somewhere in the process he may have started having suspicions of the greatness of his visitors. At the least he is displaying the kind of generosity and hospitality that belong to a great sheik of Abraham’s stature.
      7. 24.        Vs.8 “And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.” This was again considered to very polite and proper for the host to remain standing while his guests ate the meal.
      8. 25.        “…they ate.” Angels eating real food? But aren’t they spiritual beings? Yes, but they can apparently take on flesh, appear fully human and eat real food. Here is the pre-incarnate Christ, eating real meat and milk, yogurt and bread.
    2. B.       The Covenant Fellowship Meal
      1. 1.          Ch.17 was the formal covenant between the Lord and Abraham, sealed with the sign of circumcision. Now with ch.18 we have what amounts to a Fellowship meal signifying peace and sweet fellowship between the members of the covenant. It is during this covenant fellowship meal that the specifics of when Sarah would have the baby are given.
      2. 2.          Allen P. Ross writes, (p.342), “A good case can be made that the visitation to eat in Abraham’s tent was meant to convey intimate fellowship, and on the basis of such a close relationship, the Lord would guarantee the imminent birth of the child of promise. Covenants in the ancient world were often arranged with meals (see the treaty with Abimelech in 26:28-30). To eat together was important for peaceful agreements in covenants and treaties. And so, at the ratification of the covenant at Mount Sinai, the people of the covenant ate and drank in peace before the Lord (Ex.24). Then, in the Levitical code, the peace offering was intended to signify that the worshiper enjoyed a peaceful relationship with the Lord (Lev.3, 7:11-21). This sacrifice was a meal to be eat by the congregation in the sanctuary as a celebration of the Lord’s provisions for them in his blessings. But it was not simply a communal meal- it was a holy meal. No one could eat it if defiled or in sin. It was meal that brought people together who shared one thing- peace with God.”
      3. 3.          Judges 6:11-27 Gideon prepares a meal for the Angel of the Lord.
      4. 4.          John 6:53-58 and Matt.26:26-30 shows the Lord’s Supper, and our union with him being dependent upon eating his flesh and drinking his blood. Look at Luke19 and the story of Zacchaeus, Jesus wanted to eat with him that day. Rev. 3:20. And Look at the marriage banquet which is to come in Rev.19:7.
      5. 5.          The big idea of Gen. 18:1-8 then, is that Abraham is the friend of God, the recipient of this amazing covenant with God and the promise of a son by Sarah. The next covenantal meal is with Israel around Mt. Sinai in Ex.24; hence the relevance of this portion of the chapter for the Israel of Moses’ day. God had a covenant and meal with father Abraham, the Friend of God, and now we are having a covenant and meal with God.
      6. 6.          What does this all say about God? God desires to have sweet, covenantal fellowship with each of us. From the richest to the poorest and most humble of his children we can see Jesus walking up to our homes and knocking, seeking hospitality, seeking to fellowship with each one of us.
    3. Abraham, God’s Friend, and Our Ministry (the outline below comes somewhat from Warren Wiersbe)
      1. 1.                  A Willingness to Minister to the Stranger- Again, some scholars will disagree, but I believe that Abraham did not know who the three visitors were right away and that he was acting in his normal humble, eager to serve manner, typical of an oriental sheik. How eager are we to minister to the stranger?
      2. 2.                  As it turned out, he was ministering to the Lord; all ministry is first to the Lord. At the turn from the 19th century to the 20th, a lot of mainstream denominations lost their way due to bad theology that focused on man and his needs in the inner city or in the mission fields first, and right thinking about God faded. The hope of many focused on this world and righting the wrongs here and now. Ministering to people’s needs is important, but we must realize we are ministering to the Lord first and foremost. This goes back to the golden rule in Matt. 7:12 “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matt.25:31-46; Col.3:23f. We must remember that a humanitarian mission, though helpful in the short run, if it is not done in faith in Christ, for the glory of God alone, it is not serving the Lord. When we do good deeds for others because of what the Lord has done for us, we are then serving with a proper attitude. Abraham seems to have had this attitude.
      3. 3.                  Abraham, served the Lord personally. In other words, though he enlisted the aid of Sarah and the young man, he did more than just give orders. Abraham was a man of action and he too personal involvement in this situation. Abraham was a wealthy man and could have simply given more orders to his staff, but he got personally involved.
      4. 4.                  In Churches there are always people who linger in the background and never get around to actually serving anybody. Some may feel that if they contribute financially, that is enough. And while certainly some people have the means to give more and the joy of giving, there is much more we are called to do than just giving.
      5. 5.                  Some people never get around to serving because they are not asked. This is a two way street in the sense that God has created some of us with a more shy or humble nature and we do not want to put ourselves forward as we are genuinely thinking we have very little if anything at all, to share that would benefit the church. But others withhold serving out of a pride that demands to be begged to serve. This is not right nor healthy.
      6. 6.                  In serving the Lord and others, some people like to exercise control, and be in charge, and use their service to show God how good they really are, to bargain with God, “See God, I did this for you, therefore I can get away with this particular sin because I have earned it.” Or, they use their service to put others down or make them indebted to themselves, using service to build themselves up and enslave others, manipulate them or control them.
      7. 7.                  In the story of Jesus healing the 10 lepers in Lk 17 Jesus heals all ten of the men with leprosy, but only one comes back to worship and thank the Lord. 1 out of 10 did the right thing and offered praise and thanksgiving to the One who healed. Jesus knew that 1-10 ratio before he healed them all. Yet, he still healed all of them. When we serve the stranger, the foreigner, the alien, we serve knowing that there will, in all likelihood not only be little given in return, but we are likely to receive persecution for serving in the first place. In Mark 3 Jesus heals a man with a withered hand in the synagogue on the Sabbath, knowing that it would incense the Pharisees, who, after the “worship service” got together with the Herodians to plot to destroy Jesus. Nice worship service.
      8. 8.                  Abraham served with eagerness, as I have already mentioned. This meant he moved with a sense of urgency and purpose, he did not procrastinate. He did not wait to be asked.
      9. 9.                  In applying this  let me revisit what I said earlier about how some of us are naturally shy and do not regard ourselves as having anything worthy of offering in service. In a lot of ways, this describes me. When my family and I came to Redeemer, I was broken and wounded, having spent 1 yrs serving as pastor of a very dysfunctional and sinful church that left me utterly depleted. I came here to recover knowing that I would finally be among like minded believers, but I assumed my ministry days were over. Then, one day, out of the blue, Tim asked me to start this Sunday School class. There are many others in this church who are more gifted and better educated than me who could have done a much better job. But Tim did what he knew would minister to my broken heart; he took a risk on me and served me by giving me an opportunity to serve. I did not seek it, it came to me. Next, one day brother Gary called and offered me the chance to serve with Wayne as a Care Group leader. Another opportunity I did not seek, but when offered, I served. Then, somehow, the elders came to me with the opportunity to serve this church as a Deacon. Again, I did not seek that out, but chose to serve when the opportunity came. Did I deserve any of these opportunities? No. Always, I look around and see more gifted people than myself. But the key point in this is that as opportunities for serving others came up, I responded. I think the first things I did at this church before any official job came my way was to serve as a greeter and usher, to make meals for our care group and for some sick folk, to visit people in the hospital. Those opportunities came first, and I did not let them pass me by. I showed up for a couple of church work days and did some cleaning and painting. So often we just do not even look around and see what needs doing. We need to just open our eyes and see the opportunities that God sends our way all the time.
      10. 10.              Abraham served a lavish meal. He gave abundantly to the three strangers. Granted he was a wealthy man and had the abundance to share, but he served with excellence. It is that spirit of excellence in serving strangers that we need to cultivate. When we realize that we are serving the Lord as we serve the stranger, we will understand why we should do our best. We should not fall into the trap of comparing what we can do with what someone else can do, that leads to pride or depression. But we take the opportunity God has given, we look at the resources and skills God has already provided, and we serve with joy and excellence.
      11. 11.              Abraham served with a genuine servant’s heart and with humility. He bowed low before the men when they arrived in the typical middle eastern fashion and he addressed them as his superiors. He acted as a servant and considered others as being more important than himself. Phil.2:4-8 “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
      12. 12.              Abraham did enlist the aid of others in his service; he could not do it alone. He got Sarah’s help and the young man in vs.7 who butchered the calf, and likely there were others involved as well. Sometimes in ministry we can get the idea that we are the only ones who care, we are the only ones who can do the job, we are the only ones competent for the job, and out of pride or simply out of an overeager heart that agrees to do too much, we leave out others who would like to serve and could do just as good if not better job than we ourselves. Jesus did not minister alone, he had the twelve and then the 72. He enlisted the aid of others. As we serve the Lord and others, we should seek to be efficient and use others who are likeminded. Abraham did not get to where he was financially by being a poor manager.
      13. 13.              In vss.16-33 we see God at first deliberating within himself about including Abraham in his thoughts of Sodom, then he goes ahead and shares with Abraham his plans. Abraham, the friend of God, was the type of man that God Almighty could share a deep conversation with.
      14. 14.              Finally, we see Abraham interceding for the lost people of Sodom and for his nephew Lot. The friend of God is a prayer warrior, deeply involved in intercessory prayer for the lost. How often our prayer lives focus on our needs instead of including the lost people whom we know.

 

In Conclusion: What we see here is that God condescended to fellowship with Abraham at his tent in a way that served as a fellowship meal following the making of a covenant. We see the servant’s heart of Abraham who proves himself to be the friend of God. We have expanded our understanding of Christ and angels as this situation presents us with the pre-incarnate Christ and angels in some kind of physical form where they can be perceived as men and even eat real food. By way of application we can see Abraham as an example of being a friend of God, a servant with a humble heart, and we can be motivated to serve the Lord by serving others, and, who knows, maybe as Heb.13:2 tells us, we too can serve angels unawares.

Bibliography:

James Montgomery Boice. Genesis: An Expositional Commentary, vol.2. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1985, (pp. 146-151).

F.B. Meyer. Abraham. Christian Literature Crusade: Fort Washington, PA. 1979 (originally late 1800’s) (pp. 92-97).

Warren W. Wiersbe. Be Obedient. Victor Books: Wheaton, Ill. 1991, (pp. 73-79).

Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 11:27-50:26, Volume 1B in The New American Commentary. Broadman&Holman: Nashville, TN. 2005.

Waltke, Bruce K. Genesis: A Commentary. Zondervan: Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001.

Wenham, Gordon. Genesis 16-50, Word Biblical Commentary, vol.2. Word Books: Dallas, TX. 1994 .

Calvin, John. The Geneva Series of Commentaries. Genesis. Translated and edited by John King, 1847. Banner of Truth Trust: Edinburgh, Scotland 1965 (originally published in Latin, 1554. 2 volumes in one, vol.1 584pp. and vol. 2 523pp.)

Currid, John D. Genesis volume 1: Genesis 1:1-25:18. Evangelical Press: Darlington, England 2003 (476pp.)

Keil, C.F. & Delitzsch,F. Keil&Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament, vol.1, Pentateuch “The First Book of Moses (Genesis)” translated by James Martin. Hendrickson: Peabody, Mass. (Reprinted from the English edition originally published by T&T Clark, Edinburgh 1866-91).

Victor P. Hamilton. The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, MI 1995.

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