Genesis 18

Sunday Morning Bible Study

March 18, 2007


This man Abraham we’ve been studying was such an interesting fellow.

He certainly wasn’t perfect.  We’ve seen him struggle with trusting God.  We’ve seen him make trips to places he probably shouldn’t have been to (like Egypt).  We’ve seen him to things he probably shouldn’t have done (like marrying Hagar).

Yet through all this, Abraham is known as a man of faith.  Three times in Scriptures He’s called “the friend of God”. (2Chr. 20:7; Is. 41:8; Jam. 2:23)

This morning we’re going to get a little glimpse of why He’s God’s friend.

:1-8 Visitors

:1 Then the LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day.

LORD – God’s name, Yahweh

terebinth tree‘elown – terebinth (a tree that turpentine is made from); other translations are “oak tree” (NLT, NAS), “great tree” (NIV).

MamreMamre’ – “strength” or “fatness”; the name of one of Abraham’s friends

Abraham had originally moved to this area back in Gen. 13:18. The area is Hebron, about 20 miles south of Jerusalem.

:2 So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground,

ran – an odd thing for a hundred-year-old man to be doing

bowed himselfshachah – (Hithpael) to bow down, prostrate oneself; before superior in homage; before God in worship

three men – one will be the Lord in a human form (Jesus), the other two will be the angels that are on the way to Sodom.

:3 and said, "My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant.

:4 "Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.

wash your feet – a simple gesture of hospitality.  In ancient days you walk all day in open-toed sandals on dirt roads.

When Jesus visited the house of Simon the Pharisee, a sinner woman showed up and washed His feet with her tears …

(Luke 7:44 NKJV)  Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head.

:5 "And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant." They said, "Do as you have said."

:6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, "Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes."

three measures – for the three guests.  I learned last week in Israel that in ancient days you didn’t make bread to last for the week, you made bread each day.  In a day without preservatives, bread dries out and goes bad pretty quickly.  Bread becomes as hard as a rock after a day or two.  When Jesus taught on prayer He said, “Give us this day our daily bread” because you made fresh bread each day.  In the ruins of ancient Capernaum they’ve found lots of small millstones for grinding wheat, apparently each house had their own millstone so the wife could grind wheat each day for that day’s bread.

Abraham is simply asking Sarah to make up some fresh bread for their guests.

:7 And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it.

In ancient days, you didn’t have a freezer full of hamburger patties.  In fact eating meat was probably something only done on special occasions.

When the Prodigal Son returned home, the father said,

(Luke 15:23 NKJV)  'And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry;

This is not going to be a quick visit.  Slaughtering, preparing, and cooking a calf is going to take time.  I would suggest that fellowship with God also takes time.

:8 So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

Butter and milk – There’s a strange law in the Law of Moses, repeated three times (Ex. 23:19; 34:26; Deu. 14:21):

(Exo 23:19 NKJV) …You shall not boil a young goat in its mother's milk.

We might see this as a principle of learning compassion and decency towards animals.  The Jews have taken it a bit further.  In their minds, if you drink milk and eat beef at the same time, you might end up “boiling” that beef in your stomach with the milk of it’s mother, and so the Jews will not eat meat and dairy products at the same time.  Hence, in Israel you generally don’t find “cheeseburger” on the menu.

I find it fascinating that Abraham is not serving a Kosher meal.  And even more interesting, the Lord eats it.



(Heb 13:1-3 NKJV)  Let brotherly love continue. {2} Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. {3} Remember the prisoners as if chained with them; those who are mistreated; since you yourselves are in the body also.
The suggestion has been made that the writer of Hebrews was referring to this incident with Abraham and his visitors.  We don’t know that Abraham knew immediately who was visiting him, yet he offered them hospitality.
entertain strangersphiloxenia – love to strangers, hospitality
In the Law of Moses, God reminded His people over and over about how to treat strangers:
(Exo 22:21 NKJV)  "You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Sometimes hospitality needs to be aimed at those who aren’t strangers.
(John 13:1-17 NKJV)  Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him, {3} Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, {4} rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. {5} After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

As we’ve seen, washing feet was a common gesture of hospitality.  But it was also an act often reserved for a slave, not the head of a house. 

Simon the Pharisee didn’t offer to wash Jesus’ feet, it was probably beneath him to wash feet.

At the Last Supper, none of the disciples wanted to be in charge of washing the feet.  After all, they were always too busy arguing over who was the greatest.  And the greatest does not wash anybody else’s feet.  He has slaves to do that.

But here is the Master humbly washing the feet of His disciples.

{6} Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" {7} Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." {8} Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." {9} Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!" {10} Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." {11} For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, "You are not all clean."

Jesus doesn’t want the guys confused in thinking that this is what salvation is. Jesus is giving an example of serving one another, of refreshing one another, of loving one another.  He’s not setting up some sort of ritual that saves people.

{12} So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? {13} "You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. {14} "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. {15} "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. {16} "Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. {17} "If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

God wants us to learn simple, decent hospitality.  God wants us to learn to “refresh” one another.

(Rom 15:32 NKJV)  that I may come to you with joy by the will of God, and may be refreshed together with you.

I’d say that Abraham “refreshed” the heart of God with his hospitality.  Abraham is “the friend of God”.

:9-15 The Promised Son

:9 Then they said to him, "Where is Sarah your wife?" So he said, "Here, in the tent."

Abraham never lived in a house, he lived in tents.  Today as you drive from Jericho to Jerusalem, you still see Bedouins living in tents alongside the road, along with their flocks of sheep and goats.

:10 And He said, "I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son." (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.)

time of life – in nine months

I wonder if she had an upside down glass to her ear listening through the tent …

:11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing.

Abraham is 99, Sarah is 89.

:12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, "After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?"

laughedtsachaq – to laugh, mock, play; This is the exact same Hebrew word used to describe Abraham’s response the last time the Lord told him he would have a child:

(Gen 17:17 NKJV)  Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed …

:13 And the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh, saying, 'Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?'

:14 "Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son."


Is anything too hard for the LORD?

Frankly, I think that sometimes I unintentionally pass on my own human limitations to my concept of what God is able to do.  What seems hard to me must seem hard to God.
I was talking the other day with a friend named Eric who works for Gospel for Asia as a computer tech.  He was telling me about his trip to India.  GFA likes their employees to visit the mission field to better understand what they are working for.  He said that in one village a man came up to him and said through the translator that he wanted Eric to pray for his leg to be healed.  Eric said he didn’t quite know what to do.  Eric said he was afraid to touch the man’s leg so he just put his arm around the man and prayed.  After he prayed they were both standing there looking at the man’s leg.  I’m not sure anything happened right then and there, except that a line of people started forming of people who wanted Eric to pray for them.  I understand Eric’s reluctance.  We don’t often see miraculous things happening when we pray here in America.  But they do in India.  I don’t think it’s that God doesn’t like to work in America, I think it’s because we don’t expect Him to.
Why don’t we pray more for difficult things?  Are we afraid that God won’t work if we pray?  Why should we be afraid of that?  It certainly shouldn’t be because we’re not sure if God can answer that prayer.  I imagine it’s usually because we don’t want to be the one who looked foolish and “failed”.
I wonder if we’d see more answers to prayer if we stopped worrying about looking foolish and just learned to ask God.  And then leave the results up to Him.
Paul prayed,
(Eph 3:20 NKJV)  Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,

:15 But Sarah denied it, saying, "I did not laugh," for she was afraid. And He said, "No, but you did laugh!"

It seems that most folks feel that when Abraham laughed about having a baby (Gen. 17:17), it was a laugh of faith, but when Sarah laughs, it’s a laugh of doubt.

Perhaps that’s so, since Sarah was afraid to admit that she laughed.

But don’t be quick to think that God is rebuking her for her laughter.  It seems all the Lord wanted was for her to admit her laughter at it.

Sarah did have faith.

(Heb 11:11 NKJV)  By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

I wonder if one of the reasons these three visitors came was to encourage and build the faith of Sarah.  Abraham had already heard this promise of a son back in Genesis 17:17. It might be that God wants to reiterate the promise to Abraham, but in the process, Sarah gets to hear for herself about the promised baby.

How about you?

God had a promised son for Sarah.  God has a Promised Son for you.

When it came to Isaac, Sarah laughed perhaps because she thought it too impossible that God would do such a wonderful thing for her.

Perhaps when it comes to Jesus, you might find it amazing that God would love you so much that He would do the impossible in order to reach you.  You might think that no one could take away the guilt you feel over the life you’ve lived.  You might think that no one could fill the emptiness you feel inside.  But it’s true.

God loved you so much that He gave His only Son to die for you.  And you, just like Sarah, simply need to trust God.

:16-33 Interceding for Sodom

:16 Then the men rose from there and looked toward Sodom, and Abraham went with them to send them on the way.

Hebron is up in the southern hills while Sodom is down at the southern end of the Dead Sea.  Perhaps Abraham walks with the three men until they can get a glimpse of Sodom down at the Dead Sea.

:17 And the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing,

:18 "since Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

:19 "For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him."

God is going to show Abraham something because of Abraham’s walk with the Lord.

Abraham’s walk with the Lord involves how he raises his family.

Because of this, God is going to reveal some things to Abraham.

:20 And the LORD said, "Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grave,

outcry – who is crying out against Sodom and Gomorrah to God?

Lot may be crying out –

(2 Pet 2:7 NKJV)  and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked

The victims may be crying out.

their sin is very grave – we’ll see this in chapter 19.

:21 "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."

:22 Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD.

Two of the men, the angels, continue on toward Sodom while the third man, the LORD, stays to talk with Abraham.

:23 And Abraham came near and said, "Would You also destroy the righteous with the wicked?

Abraham knows something about Sodom.  Remember that Abraham was the one who rescued the people of Sodom and Gomorrah from the eastern kings (Gen. 14).  Most of all, Abraham is thinking of his nephew Lot, who is living in Sodom.

:24 "Suppose there were fifty righteous within the city; would You also destroy the place and not spare it for the fifty righteous that were in it?

:25 "Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"


God is a righteous judge

I may not always understand why things happen.
A plane flies into a tower filled with people.  A mother dies of cancer.  An innocent girl is raped by her father. A friend dies and we don’t know if they were right with the Lord or not.
But this is one of the things that I lean on – that God knows what He’s doing, and He will always do what is right.
This becomes the root of the argument that Abraham uses to haggle with God over the fate of Sodom.

:26 So the LORD said, "If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes."

:27 Then Abraham answered and said, "Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord:

:28 "Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?" So He said, "If I find there forty-five, I will not destroy it."

:29 And he spoke to Him yet again and said, "Suppose there should be forty found there?" So He said, "I will not do it for the sake of forty."

This all sounds just a little bit like the haggling that goes on in a market place, the buyer getting the merchant to lower the price.

:30 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak: Suppose thirty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not do it if I find thirty there."

:31 And he said, "Indeed now, I have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose twenty should be found there?" So He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of twenty."

:32 Then he said, "Let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak but once more: Suppose ten should be found there?" And He said, "I will not destroy it for the sake of ten."

:33 So the LORD went His way as soon as He had finished speaking with Abraham; and Abraham returned to his place.

I wonder if Abraham stopped at ten because he felt pretty confident that there had to be at least ten righteous people in Sodom and Gomorrah.  After all, there was his nephew Lot and his wife, the two daughters, perhaps Abraham heard that the daughters were engaged, that that made at least six people.  There had to be at least ten!

There weren’t ten.  But God still did not destroy the righteous with the wicked.  God removed the righteous before He destroyed the wicked. 

I wonder if Abraham’s prayer played into that at all.

I think this principle will play out with the rapture of the church.  Before God brings judgment on the world, He will remove the righteous just like He removed Lot from Sodom.


Intercessory prayer

Keep in mind who Abraham is praying for.  He’s not just praying for Lot, he’s praying for Sodom.
Charles Spurgeon said: “If they [lost sinners] will not hear you speak, they cannot prevent your praying. Do they jest at your exhortations? They cannot disturb you at your prayers. Are they far away so that you cannot reach them? Your prayers can reach them. Have they declared that they will never listen to you again, nor see your face? Never mind, God has a voice which they must hear. Speak to Him, and He will make them feel. Though they now treat you despitefully, rendering evil for your good, follow them with your prayers. Never let them perish for lack of your supplications” (Metropolitan Pulpit, vol. 18, pp. 263–264)


God’s Friend

God’s friend runs to meet Him.
God’s friend bows in humility.
God’s friend is gracious in hospitality.
God’s friend ministers to his own family.
God’s friend prays for the lost.