It was a typical day for Abraham. He was sitting in the shade of his tent under or near the great trees of Mamre, with the view stretching out before him of the Jordan Valley, also known as the Dead Sea Valley. The day of Abraham and Sarah's annunciation had arrived, and they were finally going to have the baby of their dreams. The good news would come from the Lord YHWH Himself. The English word LORD is capitalized (v. 1), showing us that the Hebrew name of God, YHWH, is used in the text.
1The 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. 2Abraham 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. 3He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5Let 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.” 6So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” 7Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. 8He 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 (Genesis 18:1-8).
Abraham did not realize that it was the LORD until later in the afternoon. As soon as he saw the three men, YHWH, and two angels, Abraham sprang into action and hurried from where he was sitting to meet them. He bowed low to these three strangers. In Middle Eastern culture, visitors to one's home are a big deal. When the three men came to Abraham, he did not know the reason for the visit. To Abraham, these men were just strangers. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament has something to say about the proper treatment of visitors:
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).
The writer to the Hebrews was perhaps thinking of the visit to Abraham by the LORD and His two angels. Abraham insisted that they sit down and rest under the shade of the trees while he brought food and water to wash their dirty sandaled feet (v. 5). The visitors were pleased to stay awhile. It is beautiful to think that the LORD of heaven and earth would come and eat and be refreshed by His people. Wouldn't it be wonderful for Jesus to come and dine with us! Of course, these visitors did not need the provisions Abraham brought to them, but they stopped and ate for Abraham's sake. It was Abraham who received what he needed that day. Abraham's service to these strangers was all at a hurried pace (vs. 2 and 6). He was careful not to waste their time.
The LORD and His angels waited patiently while Abraham and Sarah served them wholeheartedly. It should gladden our hearts that the Creator of the whole universe should come and have lunch with Abraham and Sarah. What about you today? Can you serve those around you as if they were the Lord and His servants? Can you put your heart into it as Abraham did that day? You never know who you may be serving. It may be the Lord visiting you. Keith Thomas.