The Angel of Jehovah Visited Abraham With Significant News
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God’s Sixth Appearance to Abraham
At the Terebinth of Mamre where Abraham was sojourning and recovering from his circumcision as well as that of the males in his entourage, Jehovah God appeared for the sixth time. Two angels accompanied this appearance of God and they appeared to Abraham in the early afternoon (heat of the day) when the Middle Easterners eat their main meal. This is another preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ with His angels.
As soon as Abraham realized that he had visitors he ran out to meet them. As he approached them he bowed himself to the earth. The Hebrew word for bow is שְׁתַּ֖ח shatach, which is used here for the first time in Scripture. It begins to show a contrast to the reception Abraham gave them and what would follow with the visit to Sodom, and attempted molestation. Abraham when out of his way to provide for them while the men of Sodom, as we will see wanted nothing more than to have homosexual relations with them (molestation). The moral states of Abraham and Sodom are then contrasted by their different treatments of strangers. Abraham’s peaceful, quiet visit contrasted greatly with Sodom’s outbursts of brutality and inhumanity, which we will see in Genesis chapters 18-19. The fact that the God of the universe wanted to have a meal with Abraham indicates His close personal relationship. Abraham addresses the Lord Jehovah with the proper Hebrew word for God which is Adonai אֲדֹנָ֗י. In the Hebrew language this word always refers to God Himself. If it was referring to a man that has power or position over another that would be adon אָדוֹן. The two words while sharing the same root system are very different. Adonai always refers to God Himself.
It is important to view Abraham’s manner of serving these three visitors. He hurried over to them then hurried back to the tent, ran to the herd, enlisted his servant as well as his wife Sarah and hurried back to them after he had water brought to wash their feet. He served them freshly baked bread, a choice tender calf, curds and milk and finally he stood as if to wait on them while they were eating. He wanted to please them and let them know they were welcome. The New Testament addresses visitors that come to us in Hebrews 13: 1-2 and commands us to welcome them similarly into our fellowship as they might be angels sent by God.
The Angels First Purpose for Visiting
As they were enjoying the fellowship with Abraham they asked where Sarah was and he responded by saying that she was in the tent. It is additional affirmation that this was God Himself since the visitors knew Sarai’s new God given name, Sarah because they called for her by that name. Jehovah God, The Angel of the Lord then commences the discussion by stating the promise of the covenantal heir would come through her in one year (according to the time of life). The writer of this section of Genesis (perhaps Shem) now digresses to tell us that Sarah and Abraham were physically too old for producing children. Now Sarah was in the tent right behind them and heard the promise. Her response is to laugh within herself and not out loud. In doing so she speaks to herself too inwardly stating in question form that she and Abraham are too old to have the pleasure of children. God in His omniscience knows she is laughing at the promise of having a child in one year asks Abraham, “ Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?” God know the answer, He is simple letting Abraham know that He knew her unbelief. Here unbelief will not cancel the unilateral unconditional provision of the Abrahamic Covenant. God then reveals an important fact about Himself, His all-powerful ability to do anything (hard) He promises. This particular promise refers to one of those acts that are outside of the normal natural order of things on earth. The Hebrew word for hard is pelé פָּלֵ֥א. It always refers to a characteristic of God in Scripture to do hidden things. That is, those supernatural actions that only God can achieve. It is never used to refer to man, only God (Judges 13: 18; Psalm 139: 6; Isaiah 9: 6, 28: 29). It sometimes gets translated as wonderful, extraordinary, surpassing or as in this case hard. We see Jesus bringing this characteristic of His divinity out in His discussion regarding a rich man’s difficulty in entering heaven (Matthew 19: 26).
Christ here is affirming what He said to Abraham and that is you must trust God to do what He said He would do. We must listen to this and apply it to our lives when our anxiety is increasing over worldly cares that God said He would solve.
God confronts Sarah when He says again that he will return in one year and Sarah will indeed have a son. She says I didn’t laugh after God rebuked her and He says “Yes you did!”
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The Angels Second Purpose for Visiting
The three visitors rose from the meal and fellowship and looked toward Sodom where they were next to visit. Abraham the host went with them as custom dictated to escort them on their way. God brings out a rhetorical question in verse seventeen. He asks shall I hide from Abraham that which I do? The obvious answer is no. God is now choosing to provide Abraham with His intention to destroy Sodom. God summarizes the Abrahamic covenant in verse eighteen and if to say He must be told because some of the Gentiles will never receive the blessings of the Covenant. But Abraham must know which in the Hebrew means an intimate knowing. It will be revealed because Abraham is a friend of God (II Chronicles 20: 7; James 2: 23). All of the retinue of Abraham according to God must be taught to obey the Lord through His commandments. Finally God tells him that he will fulfill all the promises He made to him. The predominant theme of God’s action is justice. It grows out of the preceding verses. We know that God is able to do whatever He chooses to do. What is most important for us to realize is that it is just. He is perfectly just and what He does is also perfectly justified even when we don’t understand it. He is going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. He says their sins are very grievous. He then says that He will go down and evaluate it. As God He already knew what they had done and what He was going to do to them. He is letting Abraham and us know that He does not carry out destructions without careful evaluation. No massive judgments that God carries out are done in ignorance. We must realize this when we don’t understand why God has done something we do not understand. His ways are not our ways (Daniel 5: 23).
God’s decision to destroy came about for the fundamental sin that took Lucifer down, pride (Ezekiel 16: 49). It was Sodom’s pride not just the commonly held homosexuality that brought God’s judgment on the city. They had too many material things, led lives of leisure and refrained from helping the poor.
Daniel E Woodhead