Abraham The impossible made possible
The impossible made possible
Call to worship
The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;
the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:22-24)
The Lord’s Prayer
Hymn No 337: “This is the day”
Scripture Reading Matthew 19:16-26
Prayer of Adoration and Confession
Declaration of pardon
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)
Hymn No 413: “Jesus my Lord will love me forever:
Offering and Dedication
While the offering is taken up, remaining seated we sing:
Hymn 473: “The wise may bring their learning” (Tune 536)
Prayer for others
Scripture Reading Genesis 18:1-15
My dear brother and sister in the Lord,
The unfolding story of God’s covenantal plan through Abraham follows the pattern of the supernatural. When we meet Abraham the first time in Chapter 12 we read about how God from heaven supernaturally spoke to Abraham:
The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1)
8 And every time after that when God appeared to Abraham, it follows the line of direct communication between God and Abraham. The events of chapter 15, where God in flames to Abraham, sweeping through the parts of the slaughtered animals, consuming it in the river of blood to establish the covenant of grace, it was once again something between God and Abraham, supernaturally.
The events of chapter 17 to confirm the everlasting covenant with the sign of circumcision was once again as if the heavens opened unto Abraham with direct communication between him and God.
The danger of looking at these events this way, is to ask, “Where do we, living in this day and age, thousands of years later than Abraham, fit in? That was all theology, but we want to be practical, and we want to see how all of this works out in our daily life. Do feed us theology, encourage us with real everyday advice as to how we should true the promises of God in our lives today!”
8 A mundane day at the door of the tent
Abraham could have thought the same way, perhaps! At his tent door he would sit and wonder about the promises God had made to him. It was quite a few times that God had appeared to him with the promise that he would have a family as numerous as the sand on the sea shore and the stars in the skies.
Sarah was up till now not really part of this unfolding plan of salvation of God with Abraham. As a matter of fact the only times we read about Sarah within this context, was that she was barren and beyond her years.
Then there was this other ordinary day. The sun rose. Both Abraham and Sarah would do the daily chores and at noon Abraham would return home. Nothing spectacular to report for the day.
8 Apart from the three men that passed by and stopped for lunch. Abraham saw them passing. They were strangers to him, but in typical eastern hospitality he went out of his way to make them feel welcome in his house.
Look at the whole of chapter 18 and we see Abraham in a role of service to people he did not know. Here the strangers on their way; and later on he would be before the face of God to intercede for the people of Sodom. In both instances he was doing what a child of God normally would have done: 8 showing hospitality – Christian love in action; interceding for the godless city – Christians love in action.
It was the “mundane” of being a child of God that would bring to him the assurance that God is a God of his promise – and that with God nothing is impossible.
8 We come to church to find answers to our “mundane”, every day questions to deeper understanding of the way in which God works in our life. We find ourselves on our knees in our private rooms, searching for answers. There is nothing wrong in communing with God in the presence of his people; there is nothing wrong in praying to God and communing with Him in the privacy of our rooms.
But may we need to understand from Abraham this tonight: God does not always reveal Himself in the formal acts of worship – at least as we see it. It is not always when I separate myself from this world and its hustle and bustle that will hear the voice of God. In many cases we find the instruction of public worship boring, and the act of private worship dry, because we find it difficult to apply it in the everyday way of life. We focus so much on the extraordinary, that we find it hard to see God in the mundane.
In any case, Abraham saw the strangers and offered hospitality. In this he became a blessing to those who crossed his road. Here in Canaan He would show-case the mercy and love of the God who called him.
He attended to their needs and acted like a servant to the strangers. They were his lords and he was their servant. His hospitality to them was as if he doing them a favour - it was no burden to him. He washed their feet – something that was necessary in those days where people would walk for long distances, and as they reclined at tables, clean fresh feet would be an essential. He went out of his way to prepare more than what you would think three men would eat – 22 liters of dough for the bread and also a young tender calf. Then there were the curds and the milk. And typically to eastern hospitality, he did not participate in the meal himself. He looked on, ready to serve, as the strangers enjoyed the meal.
The tent and God’s promise
Why this story in the Bible? How does it fit in with the rest, the spectacular of the appearance of God, the direct communion with the God in the previous chapters of the story of Abraham?
Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. (Hebrews 13:1-3)
Do you search for God in maybe the wrong places? Do you search for answers while you are restricting God and limiting him the church building or the privacy of your room only?
God sometimes answers our questions in the everyday outworking of our dealings with this world around us.
As Abraham looked on with the strangers enjoying the meal set before them, one looked up and enquired about Sarah. “Where is your wife?” This is not an abnormal question to ask while you are enjoying good food in abundance. Surely there must be a wife who had a hand in all of this.
The stranger this did not then say, “Well tell her we enjoyed her food very much, and please thank her on our behalf.”
The Stranger had more to say than that. “I’ll be back next year and your wife will then have a son.”
Sarah stood on the other side of the canvass and she could here the remark of the stranger. In some cases in those days, strangers by expressing their gratitude towards hospitality, would utter some sort of blessing upon the hosts.
It is nice of your to say such a thing. Thank you, but look is sounds a bit hollow. Abraham was old and Sarah was past the age of child-bearing. Sarah laughed: I am worn out and my master, Abraham is old. I will never have the joy you are talking about.
8 Now, what follows, is a hinge in this whole chapter. The author under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, wrote down what had happened because he knew what had happened and who had talked to Abraham. But there in that tent that day, things seemed different.
That Stranger, was the Lord – JHWH – the God of the covenant. Don’t laugh! Is anything too hard for the Lord?
Too hard: “to be marvelous, be extraordinary, be beyond one’s power to do, do wonderful acts.” As can be seen from the suggested meanings, this verb is not easy to define. As a denominative verb, it is based on the noun for “wonder, marvel,” so it expresses the idea of doing or making a wondrous thing. Although something may appear impossible to man, it still is within God’s power:
“… the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalm 118:23)
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 8:6)
“Who among the gods is like you, O Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders? (Exodus 15:11)
Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)
I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted. (Job 42:2)
God promised to Abraham that he would be a blessing to the nations of the world. That day in a very fresh and unexpected way God intervened in the life of Abraham. In amongst the canvass of the tents, the cooked calf and the curds and milk, God was no the guest, but the host. He communed with Abraham and Sarah, his friends. He promised that He would make true his word in and through the establishment and confirmation of the covenant.
8 Both Abraham and Sarah were amazed and filled with fear. God was in our home. He was at out table. And like the men of Emmaus they would talk about this for the next year: until the day Sarah announced that she had fallen pregnant. And, according to Genesis 21:1-2 God did as He had promised:
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. (Genesis 21:1-2)
Is anything too hard for the Lord? No! But let’s be honest, we don’t see it very often in our lives. Perhaps we limit God to our little world. Perhaps if we take our faith and start living it in the everyday, the “mundane” duties of the Christian, like hospitality and showing mercy to those in need, that we will see God at work. 8 Job was in misery for many years of his life. God took him through many trails and tribulations. But there is a verse towards the end of the book of Job that amazes us. He argued with his friends, but could not change their thinking or theology. This went on for years. In between he had an extraordinary vision of the greatness and majesty of God. The friends of Job were told by God to take a sacrifice to Job to be offered on their behalf. Job would pray over that sacrifice as a priest would. And then the following:
After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before. (Job 42:10)
8 What about the salvation of hundreds of those who still do not know the Lord? That young rich ruler turned away from the Saviour and his disciples were amazed. Who will be saved? The Lord pointed out that:
Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 19:23-24)
The disciples were astonished: “Who then can be saved?” Jesus answered:
“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)
8 Does God save in the church? Yes, but it seems more likely that when Christians start living their daily lives as children of God in each and every aspect thereof, being salt and light to the world, that God will do the impossible: He will use his children to draw the elect into the kingdom.
Go, be a brother, show mercy, give a glass of water, visit the sick and the imprisoned, clothe the naked and feed the hungry, show hospitality and love with the love of Christ. He will do the impossible: He will save the lost. Leave it to Him. Amen.