Saturday 27 June 2009

Bible Book:

"The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, 'My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.'" (v.1-4)

Genesis 18:1-15 Saturday 27 June 2009


The identity of the three visitors is not clear. Yet Abrahamrushes to meet them. His offer of hospitality is modest. The actualpreparations exceed his offer. Abraham stirs the tent into actionto prepare the meat and bread.

Early Christian and Byzantine tradition believed the three visitorsto have been an image of the Holy Trinity (the Father, Son and HolySpirit). Andrei Rublev's famous icon, The Old Testament Trinity(c.1420) continues this tradition. Sometimes the visitors speak toAbraham and Sarah, and sometimes the Lord speaks directly.

The pace of the narrative slows once the meal has been eaten. Thisheightens the tension. The attentive reader knows that somethingunexpected and important is about to happen.

In the previous chapter (which was yesterday's passage) we saw Abraham presented as a model ofdisbelief rather than faith. But now Abraham is silent. The focusis on Sarah who listens at the door of the tent and dismisses whatshe hears as absurd.

The word of the Lord does not come to Sarah directly but viaAbraham. Customs of the day would not have allowed male visitors tospeak with her. This indirectness can serve to heighten the tensionfurther and draw Sarah into the scene.

"Is anything too hard for the Lord?" The text translates the Hebrewword pala' as 'wonderful'. The word can mean either 'to be beyondone's power or difficulty' or 'to be marvellous or extraordinary'.The question sits like a gem in its narrative setting.

This portion of text leaves the matter unresolved. In verse 16, thevisitors leave and journey toward Sodom. Verse 15 has notes ofhumour and pathos. The question for Sarah is whether to trust thelimits of her experience, and her old negative certainties, or theword of the Lord.

The visitors leave with Sarah's questions unanswered. She isafraid. The word yare' carries connotations of trembling.

To Ponder

What is your response to the question, "Isanything too wonderful for the Lord?"

It is not clear whether Abraham and Sarah couldfinally have said no to Yahweh. God's sovereign power is clearlynot limited to their expectations. What do you make of this?

In the New Testament, similar tests are put toMary, and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:36). Suchverses, says Walter Brueggeman in his commentary on Genesis, "donot permit a casual triumphalism". How do you think you would havereacted to tests such as these?

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