Read Genesis 18:1-8
At the end of Genesis chapter 17 we saw Abraham and all the males of his household circumcised. Circumcision in the Old Testament is a picture of the circumcision spoken of in Colossians 2:11: Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ…
So here in chapter 18, as we observe Abraham after circumcision, we get a look at what life looks like after the Lord has circumcised a man.
Right off you the reader are told who the visitor is as it says in verse one that the Lord appeared to Abraham. But Abraham had no way of knowing. We see in verse two that to him the three appeared to be three men. Some have said that the three represent the three persons of the Trinity. My own belief is that this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ along with two angels. As Matthew Henry says, “the appearance of God to Abraham seems to have had in it more of freedom and familiarity, and less of grandeur and majesty, than those we have hitherto read of; and therefore more resembles that great visit which, in the fullness of time, the Son of God was to make to the world, when the Word would be flesh, and appear as one of us.” Regardless, Abraham’s response to, what to him were three strangers, is very instructional.
To start with, it’s worth mentioning that the Lord appears to Abraham in the heat of the day. Most of the time, that seems to be the case in life. It’s when the heat is on in life, it’s when we’re in the midst of problems that the Lord seems to draw near. The deeper the trouble, the closer He seems to come. The hotter the fire, the nearer His presence. But it’s important to remember that we’re better off in the furnace with Him, than out of the furnace without Him. The heat that we experience in this life, is nothing compared to the heat you could experience in eternity, should you choose to live apart from Christ.
So the Lord draws near to Abraham in the heat of the day — appearing along with a couple of angels as three men, three travelers. I wonder if this was a test from the Lord. A test to see if Abraham was circumcised in his heart as well as in his flesh.
When I was in school I was a crammer. If I knew a test was coming ahead of time, I could study at the eleventh hour, even all night if necessary, and I could pass the test. Well, I’m still in school today but now I’m in God’s school, as are you. And God doesn’t seem to schedule or forewarn of His coming tests. The afternoon is beautiful, you’ve set some time aside to relax at the entrance of your tent, or at the park, or on the beach, or at the pool, and you’re interrupted. Your son or daughter wants to play, your wife needs a hand with something, or your phone rings and it’s a friend or family member who needs a listening ear. What will you do?
Let’s take a look at what Abraham did. Abraham, in the heat of the day and in spite of the heat of the day, which could be in the 120’s Fahrenheit in that part of the world, hurries to minister to these strangers. He hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. (v. 2) He hurried to help and he presented himself in humility. Those who are truly great before God tend not to present themselves as great before men. “Christ Himself taught us to wash one another’s feet.” (Matthew Henry) Post circumcised Abraham demonstrates this principle of humility. Then he invites, even insists, that the strangers stay with him to rest and take refreshment. The strangers agree to stay and Abraham is off hurrying again. He hurries inside the tent and has Sarah quickly bake some fresh bread. He runs to the herd and selects the best calf and has one of his people prepare it. Then he brings the calf, the bread, some cottage cheese (curds), and some milk and sets them before his guests.
He didn’t offer a coke and a cookie. He didn’t offer a snack. It would be like what I’ve seen my wife Kathy do so many times for guests in our home. She’ll cook up some steaks and serve them with twice baked potatoes, some corn, some peas, some salad with what seems like twenty different vegetables in it, some fresh bread. There’s a choice of five or six different types of dressing. She’ll have a choice of five or six different types of drinks — juices, milk, sodas, lemonade, iced tea. All that is followed by a couple of choices of dessert.
That’s what it was like for Abraham except that he even had to have the cow slaughtered right there on the spot, and Sarah had to bake the bread from scratch! Wow! All that in the heat of the day. Abraham couldn’t have treated them better. He passed his test, he really did have a circumcised heart, living according to the Spirit and not after the flesh. Living for others.
Ray Stedman has told the story of a speaker at a conference who commented on the trend in our culture of increasing apathy toward those in need. This speaker said that he and a colleague were walking down the street and they came upon a drunken person, laying on the ground, half on the sidewalk and half on the street. They were appalled at how the people were walking over and around him, ignoring his plight. “And you know,” he said, “when we came back from lunch he was still there!”
But seriously, God wants us to live for others. This is the pure religion that God tells us about in James 1:27.
Serving others with a circumcised heart is what Jesus was talking about when He said that the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:34-40)
So the test for you and the test for me is the same as the test for Abraham. Our culture today pulls us inward. We’re more selfish than ever. We don’t want our Facebook time, or our TV time, or our video game time to be interrupted by three strangers or by anything else for that matter. But God says that we’re to answer when the three strangers approach us. We’re to open the door of our tent to the Lord. Jesus said, Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Christ is knocking. Open the door as Abraham did and let Him in. Live your life according to the Spirit with a heart that’s circumcised of the flesh.
Live for others.
Live for Christ.
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 favor 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.”
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.”
Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 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.