The Divine Visitor
Our Associate-Editor, W. Ross Rainey, has favoured us with another interesting article, an article to challenge all of us, to alert us. How often we have failed to recognize the presence of the Lord!
Scripture Reading: Genesis 18:1-15
Guy H. King in his little book entitled, Salvation Symphony, relates a quaint story which took place in the reign of King George V. A certain London hospital was informed that England’s beloved monarch intended making an informal visit. It is easy to imagine the excitement this news occasioned, and not the least among the children. One small boy could hardly contain himself. As the afternoon wore on, many people passed in and out of the hospital. About 4:00 p.m. a large party of people came in and one gentleman was ever so kind, even going over to the small boy, patting him on the head, and speaking so nicely to him. Then the group disappeared, and still more people passed in and out. Settling down for the night, the little lad was bitterly disappointed, and said to the attending nurse, “The King hasn’t come.” She replied, “But sonny, don’t you remember a kind gentleman who came and patted your head and spoke so nicely to you, and you loved him so?” “Yes.” “Well, that was he.” The boy’s eyes opened wide in wonderment, and with a frown he said, “But he hadn’t his crown on!”
How well this little incident illustrates the opening verses of Genesis 18! The Lord does not always appear with His crown on (see Isa. 53:1-3), and so it was here on that hot afternoon that the Divine Visitor arrived quite unassumingly and unexpectedly at Abraham’s home.
Do we always recognize the Lord when He comes to us in our homes and circumstances? How He delights to do so, and what condescending grace on His part (see Prov. 8:31; 1 Kings 8:27 with Isa. 57:15; Mark 1:29-31; Luke 19:1-10; 24:28-31; John 2:1-11; Rev. 3:20).
The Lord’s Presence (18:1-8)
His revelation (18:1-2). Once again the Lord appeared to Abraham, this time accompanied by two angels. He is always present, but on this particular occasion He made Himself visible. Theologically, this event marks what is called a theophany, that is, a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who is often called “the Angel of the Lord” in the Old Testament (see Gen. 16:7 with 1 Tim. 6:16; John 1:18). As always, when the Lord shows Himself to His people, it is for the purpose of promise and blessing. Notice the time of His appearance here — “in the heat of the day” (v. 1). All activity had ceased and Abraham was at rest, thus in a position to receive the Lord. Sometimes the “heat” of various circumstances causes us to cease from activity, forcing us to be quiet and rest (Psa. 23:2; 46:10), and at such times we should expect that His hand is at work, preparing us to receive some blessing or further revelation of Himself.
It may be that Abraham was in a state of expectancy (v. 2) and, if so, he was not disappointed. He forgot about the “heat” and “ran” to meet the Divine Visitor and His heavenly companions, and his first act was that of worship.
Abraham’s response (18:3-8). Abraham’s address, “my Lord” (v. 3), does not necessarily mean that he immediately knew his Visitor’s identity, since this form of greeting was used of man, as well as God. Furthermore, if Hebrews 13:2 is a reference to this incident, then Abraham was not immediately aware of his Guest’s identity.
If we are inclined to be spiritually lazy, how easy it is to let the Lord pass by. Had this been the case with Abraham that particular day he would have missed out on some tremendous blessings. The great lesson of verse 5 is that Abraham was so in touch with the Lord’s mind that his suggestions and proposals were divinely commended and commanded to be carried out. The urgency of Abraham’s service is clearly revealed in verses 6 and 7 (see 1 Sam. 21:8), and after his service was finished we observe that he “stood by them under the tree” (v. 8), ready to attend their needs (Psa. 123:2). Resident in the expression “under the tree” is a spiritual suggestion that no service is acceptable to God except as the sinner has looked to Calvary and taken his place under the shelter of the cross.
The action of the Lord and His angels reveals condescension and fellowship (see Luke 24:41-43), and as W. H. Griffith Thomas has said, “The supreme characteristic of a believer’s life is fellowship with God.”
The Lord Jesus Christ often comes in the guise of a stranger (see Matt. 25:35-45). F. B. Meyer tells the story of a little German lad who left the door open for the Lord to enter and sit with his mother and himself at their frugal supper table. When a beggar appeared at the door the lad said, “Perhaps the Lord could not come Himself, and had therefore sent this poor man as His representative.”
The Lord’s Promise (18:9-15)
His inquiry (18:9). At this point, Abraham could have had no doubt as to the identity of his Visitor.
His promise (18:10). “He,” referring to the Lord, gave them the promise that they would become parents, even though Abraham was 99 years old, and Sarah 89 (cf 17:17; 21:5; see also Rom. 4:18-22; Gal. 4:22-23; Heb. 11:11). One thing certain, whatever we do as unto the Lord, He never leaves us in His debt. In time of drought and famine He sent Elijah to lodge with a widow and her son, and provided meal and oil for all of them for many days. He accepted an invitation from friends to a marriage feast, and then returned their simple kindness to Him by earthen jars brimming with water turned to wine. He used Peter’s fishing boat, and then gave it back nearly submerged with the weight of fish He had driven into the nets. He used a lad’s lunch of five barley loaves and two small fishes, and not only provided the lad with an ample meal but fed at least fifteen thousand other people (a conservative estimate), with twelve baskets full of leftovers.
Sarah’s unbelief (18:11-13). Sarah was separated from the Divine Guest and Abraham by a thin tent-flap, so she easily overheard their conversation. She was probably still ignorant of the Divine Visitor’s identity, but following the words of 18:13 she knew (see 1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 11:11; 4:13). Abraham could have done her a real favor if he had just whispered through the tent-flap, “Psst, it’s the Lord!”
We can scarcely wonder at Sarah’s unbelief.
His question and reaffirmation (18:14). The only fitting answer to the grand question of this text, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”, is found in Jeremiah 32:17 (see Matt. 19:26; Luke 1:37). It is interesting that the word for “hard” is literally, “wonderful” (see Isa. 9:6).
Sarah’s denial (18:15a with Prov. 9:10).
His rebuke (18:15b). Sarah passed from unbelief to belief (Heb. 11:11). She did not challenge the Lord’s statement, her denial having been because of fear, realizing that it was indeed the Lord speaking to her. That Sarah’s spiritual life was not closely akin to her husband’s is evident, but, like all of us, she was rebuked and taught.
It was C. T. Studd who said, “Faith laughs at impossibilities, and cries, ‘It shall be done!’” God grant us that kind of faith in these days (see Heb. 12:1-3).
The very name of Sarah’s son would remind her of her unbelief, for Isaac means “laughter” or “to laugh” 18:12-13, 15). Was Abraham’s laugh one of unbelief (see Gen. 17:17 with 15:4-6)? Let us assure ourselves that walking by faith, and taking to heart what God has to say to us through His Word, is no laughing matter, yet such a walk issues in untold heavenly joy and blessing.
Today, multitudes of unrepentant sinners laugh in unbelief, but some day God will laugh at them in their calamity (Psa. 2:4), for it is well to remember that in relation to all such unbelievers, He will have the last laugh.