In this chapter, we see three strangers approaching Abraham. According to the custom of the day he rushed out to offer them food, drink and accommodation (bearing in mind it was the hottest part of the day, and so it was likely that they would be in need of all three – hospitality was freely offered in this culture, not least to keep one’s ‘friends close, and one’s enemies closer’). As we read this chapter we see that Abraham, despite his failings, was aware of the sufferings and needs of others, and sought to relieve their discomfort. This is entirely fitting behaviour for the patriarch. It’s something we should be doing today also because the Bible says: ‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it,’ (Hebrews 13:2 NASB). Two of these visitors were angels, the other was in fact a theophany, an Old Testament appearance of Jesus the Messiah. Jesus pops up quite often in the Old Testament. Abraham was the model host. He was attentive, prompt and honoured the guests by spending time with them and sharing the best of what he had with them. This is what we need to do, not only with others, but also with God.
The three visitors came with a message for Abraham and Sarah, that the time was coming when the promises God had made them were to start being fulfilled. Sarah laughed in unbelief. The visitors noticed and she denied that she had laughed – but she did laugh, and the unbelief meant either she thought God was wrong, or that God was unable to to do what he had promised. Either is serious. But the response was ‘Is anything too hard for the Lord?’ Of course it’s not, but especially today we see huge evidence of unbelief from people who call themselves Chrsitians. Not taking the Bible seirously, denying literal fulfilments of prophecy, allegorising passages instead of taking them as they are, are all ways that people try to cover up the fact that they don’t believe God either tells the truth, or is able to do what he says.
The next way that we see Abraham concerned for the welfare of others is in interceding for the people of Sodom. Jesus told him that the situation was desperate there and that they were descending too far into sin. Abraham didn’t argue with that, he was concerned for the righteous people, and didn’t want them to get tangled up in the judgment of Sodom. Bravely he challenged the Lord to reserve judgment, whittling the numbers down to only 10 righteous people – if there were so many righteous people, God promised not to destroy all of Sodom. In the event of course, Sodom was so far gone that there weren’t even this many people that were righteous in the city.
In this one chapter we see the various roles Abraham takes on as he belongs to God – he provides for the needs of strangers, he involves his family and household in this ministry, he develops an ever closer relationship with God, and he intercedes for the needs of others.