STRANGERS AT THE DOOR
Preparing for a talk I’ll be giving this afternoon on Genesis 18:1-15, I stumbled across some interesting insights from the text. I thought to share them with you this morning:
For one, the Lord appears to Abraham in the form of three persons. Its an interesting decision on God’s part to arrive at Abraham’s camp as a trio; perhaps giving us a little peek into the mysterious community that exists in the Godhead – One Essence, Three Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Its also interesting that God arrives in the unfamiliar form of an unannounced guest. Abraham has no idea who these three are. There is no announcement like past revelations where God has declared: Abraham, it’s me, YHWH … Rather, God shows up as a stranger in Abraham’s midst. Maybe reminding us of Matthew 25:37-40
“Lord, when did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? – and the King will reply, Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Abraham sits down to a meal with the three strangers. A lot of work is put into describing the meal and all the hard work Abraham and Sarah put into laying out a table. There’s a powerful image in this meal as well – the presence of God in the flesh, breaking bread with Abraham; the friend of God. You can’t miss the foreshadowing of a meal that will take place a long ways down the road; where Jesus will sit with his disciples and say, “I no longer call you slaves, but I call you friends … this meal is my body and this meal is my blood.” God is with us in the breaking of the bread!
Then there’s the fascinating contrast pictured between Abraham’s gracious hospitality to these three strangers and Sodom’s ruthless inhospitable treatment – to put it mildly – of the Lord’s messengers to Lot. There may be a hint there of the uniqueness – or might we say, holiness – of the covenant family; in the midst of a wasting world, Abraham has been shaped by a God who invites the stranger in. The promise is confirmed in the context of generous hospitality.
Finally, Sarah laughs out loud at the promise of God. Perhaps Abraham is skeptical himself. The two of them are old! What possible hope is there to have a child in their old age. I can imagine both Abraham and Sarah building up, after many years of waiting, a natural defense mechanism against wild promises, “Sure, I’ll believe it when I see it!” For years they’ve been waiting on the Lord and for years they haven’t seen the fruit of his promise. They’ve even tried to speed things up a few times, only to make matters worse.
The beauty of the whole thing is that they indeed DO have a child as announced by these strangers! They name him Isaac, which comes from the Hebrew word ‘he laughs’ – as if to say, what once was a skeptical laugh concealing years of pain will now be the joyous, childlike roar of breathtaking excitement! God has opened wide the windows of our dark, shuttered imaginations; he has let in the light of His promise.
God of hope, shine your light on us – make known your way anew.