Genesis 18: 1 - 15
God never despises small things. In fact, the most important things God is doing today are unseen, unknown and usually unappreciated! If you read this chapter carefully, you will discover that it describes a very homely scene. This is grace and groceries!
1. God in Disguise v. 1 - 5
As Abraham tries to keep cool, he notices 3 strangers standing nearby. If you saw 3 men standing near your house, you might ignore them or you might keep an eye on them but you certainly wouldn't invite them in. They might be thieves and you can't be too careful these days.
But in that culture everyone gave strangers the benefit of the doubt. That's why Abraham walks over to greet them.
Later he will discover that one is the Lord and the other two are angels, but he doesn't know that now. They aren't wearing halos and sporting wings and they don't look particularly heavenly.
Abraham is not expecting the Lord to drop by for lunch. But that is indeed what happens.
Why would God disguise himself? Why not appear with a great flash of light and a blast of trumpets?
We must have eyes of faith to see God.
Jesus said a similar thing when asked why he taught so much in parables. Those simple stories were given so that unbelievers would be baffled but his followers would understand.
If you knew Jesus was coming to your house for supper tonight, you'd spend the rest of the day frantically getting ready for the Son of God. But what about other people. Would you show the same concern for them? "Whatever you did for the one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25: 40).
2. Abraham in a Hurry v. 6 - 8
Why the rush? Because in that culture hospitality was very important. It didn't matter that Abraham had no clear idea whose these men were. What mattered was that he showed them proper respect.
What else does the NT have to say about hospitality?
Romans 12: 13 "Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality." That is a command of Scripture. If we are Christians, we are to earnestly practice showing love to those who are strangers to us.
1 Peter 4: 9 "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling". He's thinking about those times when you show kindness to people you don't know very well.
Hebrews 13: 2 "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." In the back of his mind is this story where Abraham welcomed three strangers who came to visit him. One turned out to be the Lord himself and the other two turned out to be angels. The writer is suggesting that such a thing might someday happen to us.
Why is hospitality so important? It's easy to be religious but more important to be practical. Abraham didn't know who these men were but he offered them the best that he had anyway. Hospitality is the best way to break down barriers between people. Hospitality opens doors for the gospel. There are people you can reach over a cup of coffee who will never come to church on their own.
3. Sarah in Doubt v. 9 - 15
As the meal draws to a close, it suddenly dawns on Abraham who these men really are. He's been talking to the Lord and his angels! These strange visitors have come from heaven, not from some village down the road.
The real emphasis of the last section of our text is on Sarah's doubt. While Abraham and the Lord are having a conversation, she is listening at the entrance of the tent. When she hears the promise that Abraham will have a son "about this time next year," that thought is too much for her. They had already waited 24 years since God's original promise. Why should next year be any different?
Fundamentally, Sarah doubted God. In her mind, he had waited too long. Maybe, just maybe, it might have been possible 10 or 15 years ago. But not now. Once upon a time she had believed the Lord only to have her faith dashed on the jagged rocks of reality, not once but time and time again. No, she wasn't falling that old line again. A child next year. No way. It required a miracle just to believe that it might happen.
Peanuts - recurring story line in which Lucy holds a football for Charlie Brown to kick. Each time she pulls it away at the last second, causing him to fall on his backside. One year Lucy solemnly promised Charlie Brown that this time she wouldn't pull the ball away. Encouraged he took a long run at the ball only for her pull it way at the last second. As he lay on his back with a dazed look his face, Lucy peered down at him and said, "Charlie Brown, your faith in human nature is an inspiration to all young people."
Sarah is a cynic. She won't try to kick that football again! God has pulled it away one too many times. So Sarah lied to God. When God asked, "Did you laugh?" she flatly denied it. "I did not laugh." Why did she lie? The Bible says she was afraid. Of what? She was... Afraid of being exposed publicly - Afraid of what else God might know about her - Afraid of what Abraham might say to her.
Probably many of us would have done what Sarah did. Better to try to cover your tracks (or so we think). But, now, look at God's tough love toward Sarah. He … Reads her mind - Confronts her sin - Reminds her of his power - Reaffirms his promise - Exposes her unbelief.
Why do this and why do it publicly? Because as the mother of the nation, she would have enormous influence in the history of Israel. Before God can send Isaac, he must bring her to the end of herself so that her confidence would be in God alone. I'm sure Sarah didn't particularly appreciate this rebuke from the Almighty but it was absolutely necessary in order that God's plan could go forward. In a sense, God could not bless her until he had rebuked her.
This event was recorded so that no one could think that Abraham and Sarah had somehow produced Isaac on their own, or that God had rewarded their great faith. What faith there was, was not very great.
God's Ultimate Argument
"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The answer, of course, is no. But we need to be reminded of that fact over and over again.
"What is faith?" Hebrews 11: 1 "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." One of the Greek words in that verse actually means "title deed." Faith is the "title deed" to the things we do not yet possess. It's the "guarantee" of that God will one day give us.
Here's another definition of faith based on Abraham's experience: Faith is believing that God will keep his promises despite our circumstances!
2000 years after Abraham lived, Paul summarised Abraham's remarkable faith - Romans 4: 19 - 21 "Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."
Abraham decided that God could do what he said he would do - that made all the difference.
What Would You Like God to Do?
If you could ask God to do one thing for you spiritually, what would it be? -Break a bad habit -Forgive someone who hurt you - Your child to come back to God -Loved one to come to Christ -Change your character -Deliverance from discouragement -New enthusiasm for God -Power to overcome temptation -Boldness for Christ. No matter how impossible your request may seem to you, it's not too hard for God.
"The only thing that hinders God is our unbelief." You have to stop and think about that for a moment because it doesn't sound right to say that anything "hinders" God. In the literal sense, nothing does. He is the Sovereign Lord of the universe. No one can stand against him. Yet in his wisdom, he has ordained that he will limit his work in the world in accordance with the faith of his people. In that sense, it is perfectly proper to say that our faith or the lack of it either opens or closes the door for the Almighty.
What do you believe deep in your heart? Is there anything too hard for the Lord? Anything in your life so big that he can't handle it? You already know the answer is no, but I'm asking it in a different way. What problem seems so impossible that part of you doubts that God can take of it?
He Dares Us to Trust Him!
God wants us to believe in him. Shocking, isn't it? The God of the universe wants us to believe in him. He begs us to believe in Him. He dares us to trust him.
Is your problem too hard for the Lord? If you answer yes, then there truly is no hope for you. But if you say no, then you have a bright future!
The choice is yours. Thousands upon thousands times many thousands of believers across the centuries have put God to the test. They have trusted him and he has come through for them. What about you? Are you willing to trust him with your problems?
I close by reminding you once again that the most important decision you can ever make is the decision to put your life in the hands of Jesus Christ. You may think you can't be saved … that that your sins are too great. I have some good news: God loves to save sinners.
God says, "Though your sins are like scarlet they, they shall be white as snow" (Isaiah 1: 18). 1 John 1:7 declares that "the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, purifies us from all sin."
Do you feel unworthy of God's grace? You are. But the good news is that no one is worthy. Consider the record of the "great" men of the Bible: Abraham was a liar - Moses was a murderer - David was an adulterer - Peter denied Christ - They will all be heaven! What about you?