One hot summer afternoon Abraham was sitting by the entrance to his tent near the sacred trees of Mamre, when the LORD appeared to him. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. He quickly ran to meet them, bowed with his face to the ground, and said, "Please come to my home where I can serve you. I'll have some water brought, so you can wash your feet, then you can rest under the tree. Let me get you some food to give you strength before you leave. I would be honoured to serve you." "Thank you very much," they answered. "We accept your offer." Abraham quickly went to his tent and said to Sarah, "Hurry! Get a large sack of flour and make some bread." After saying this, he rushed off to his herd of cattle and picked out one of the best calves, which his servant quickly prepared. He then served his guests some yogurt and milk together with the meat.
Abraham knows the importance of hospitality. When strangers appear, you serve them. In sparsely populated places and in urban concentrations the same unwritten law applies. When a stranger comes by you invite him in. For the traveller every place you stop by is a place of welcome. For the tent-dweller or the householder the prospect of a stranger or a traveller coming by is an opportunity to honour your traditions and serve them.
These particular strangers were not the usual travellers. It’s clear from reading the account that they are special. Two are angels and one is God himself. Abraham certainly recognises them as being different. He provides them with his finest food. The best flour, the most succulent calf.
It takes time to prepare the food, of course. The guests would have been given something to drink, and the host would spend time with them, ensuring that they were comfortable and entertained while food was being prepared.
Because Abraham offered hospitality to God and his angels God blessed him firstly by promising him a son within a year. Sarah thought this was hilarious. A laugh broke out from within the cover of the tent where she was preparing the bread. Perhaps Sarah should have been aware of who it was who was talking. Perhaps she was just getting on with her work and had not even seen the visitors. We can only speculate. It seems she may have come to realise God had spoken because she tried to backtrack and cover up what she’d done by lying. Her disbelief had caught her out.
The guests are given the finest food and drink that Abraham has to offer. He has served God with the very best he has. He even walks with them as they go on their journey. It’s during this walk together that God makes the decision to reveal to Abraham what He is about to do. If you don’t know what it is, then read on in Genesis 18 and find out. Abraham is given a special privilege, not only to know what God is about to do, but also to plead with Him with a reasonable request that God does not do what he is about to do. If you read on, you will also discover how Abraham’s nephew, Lot, also presses hospitality onto these travellers.
What would Abraham have prepared for any other traveller who was passing by?
What would Abraham and the visitors have talked about while they were waiting for the food to be prepared?
Have you ever lied when you’ve been confronted by the truth?
Have you ever been tripped up when your disbelief has been confounded?
Do you differentiate what you give others according to your perception of their worthiness to receive from you?
Father God, as we embark upon these reflections, I pray that I may take up and continue the ancient practice of hospitality. Guide me in seeking people that I should approach, and bless our meeting together. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.