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. 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.
He said, ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 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.’
…While they ate, he stood near them under a tree. ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ they asked him. ‘There, in the tent,’ he said. 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. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’
God has sent messenger angels to Abraham. Again we have the confusion as to whether God has turned up or angels. Our text tells us that the Lord appeared and Abraham saw three men standing by. They turn up in the heat of the day unannounced.
Abraham’s response to the men is that of hospitality – you have come on foot without food, water or livestock. You cannot survive in this heat without refreshment. I have plenty of food – come, let me entertain you with a meal. The men may have looked different – were they taller than average, or more handsome or noble in appearance, which may be a reason why Abraham treats them with such humility and respect? He may have had an inkling that they were special, but we don’t know. He offers water for the cleansing of their feet. I do wonder how much sand or dirt they’d actually have picked up on their journey to Abraham.
Abraham does not join with them in the meal, but he stands nearby as a servant. I asked earlier whether angels need a lunch break. They don’t, but they are able to consume food offered. That does, of course beg questions that I’ll leave to your imagination or the works of Milton.
The angels have been given two tasks. The first is to announce to Abraham that his wife Sarah will have a son within a year. “What a joke!”, thinks Sarah. The joke was on her in the end.
Their second task – the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah were not far away. Destruction and death lay ahead.
Would God create ugly angels?
Could he send angels on an errand in another guise?
What does Isaac’s name mean?
How was God’s promise to Abraham severely tested a few years later?
Father God, what can you not do?! I confess that I have prayed within the limits of what I think rather than what you can do. Dare me to pray bigger prayers. Amen.