< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: Genesis 18

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Genesis 18

Genesis 18:1-15 18 The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

6 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” (3 seahs is about 36 pounds of flour!)

7 Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8 He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

There are a couple things I find really strange here! First they prepared a calf and all that bread – so how long did the guests have to sit and wait? Half a day? And they knew Sarah’s name, but Abraham didn’t question how they knew it!

Abraham was eager to show hospitality to these visitors. In his day a person’s reputation was largely connected to his hospitality. Sharing house and food. Even strangers were to be treated as honored guests. My commentary Bible says that even today meeting another’s need of food or shelter was and still is one of the most immediate and practical ways to obey God.

Hebrews 13:2 suggests that we, like Abraham, might entertain angels!

In verse 14 where they ask if anything is too hard for the Lord. It’s a good question to ask ourselves when we have a problem. Because of course the answer is “no, it isn’t!”

In verse 15 it says Sarah lied because she was afraid. Being afraid is one of the most common motives for lying. We’re afraid our wrongdoings are going to be discovered or our inner thoughts revealed. But lying causes greater complications then telling the truth.

Genesis 18:16-33 16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

22 The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the Lord. 23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”

26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Then Abraham spoke up again: “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes, 28 what if the number of the righteous is five less than fifty? Will you destroy the whole city for lack of five people?”

“If I find forty-five there,” he said, “I will not destroy it.”

29 Once again he spoke to him, “What if only forty are found there?”

He said, “For the sake of forty, I will not do it.”

30 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak. What if only thirty can be found there?”

He answered, “I will not do it if I find thirty there.”

31 Abraham said, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, what if only twenty can be found there?”

He said, “For the sake of twenty, I will not destroy it.”

32 Then he said, “May the Lord not be angry, but let me speak just once more. What if only ten can be found there?”

He answered, “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it.”

33 When the Lord had finished speaking with Abraham, he left, and Abraham returned home.

People often read this passage and wonder, did Abraham change God’s mind? Of course not. The more likely answer is God changed Abraham’s mind. Abraham knew that God is just and punishes sin, but he may have wondered about God’s mercy. Abrahams seems to be probing to find out how merciful God is. At the end of the conversation he knew God was both kind and fair. Our prayers won’t change God’s mind, but they may help us understand Him better.

God knew there weren’t 10 righteous people in Sodom. He wasn’t ignorant of the city’s wicked practices, but in His fairness and patience He gave them one last chance to repent. Just like He’s giving us a chance today.

This passage shows us that asking God for anything is allowed with the understanding that God’s answers come from God’s perspective. Only He knows the whole story. Sometimes we miss the answer to our prayers because we are only looking for the answer we expect.

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