God Will Keep His Promises in Christ
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
Genesis 18:1-15
July 21, 2019

I invite you to draw your attention to the Old Testament reading for today from Genesis 18.

There is Abraham, sitting at the door of his tent. It is probably the middle of the afternoon when the sun is high in the sky and really heating things up.

You can see him sitting there, looking out. But then maybe he looks down and away at something in the tent. Then he looks up again and, behold, suddenly, three men are standing right in front of him.

There is no indication in the text that Abraham is startled by this. I think this is because this is not the first time something like this has happened. In Genesis 15, “the word of the Lord” came to Abram in a vision. This “word of the Lord” carried on quite a personal conversation with Abraham. In Genesis 17, it says that the Lord appeared to Abraham to talk to him. He says to Abraham, “I am God almighty.” Then it says that “when [God] had finished talking with [Abraham], that God went up from him” (Gen. 17:22).

When we follow the narrative of Abraham’s life and the Lord’s encounters with him from Genesis 12 onward, the Lord often speaks with Abraham and appears to him. This happens often enough that it looks like Abraham was accustomed to it.

This is supported by an important detail in verse 3 (Gen. 18:3). In that verse Abraham says, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant.” When Abraham says “your sight” and “your servant” in that verse, the pronouns “your” at this point are singular, not plural. Thus, he knows one of the men who was standing in front of him and calls Him Lord. Abraham has seen Him before, as the Lord, God almighty.

Fast forward, for a moment, to when Jesus comes on the scene. He proclaims to the Jews that “before Abraham was, I Am” (John 8:58). He says that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (John 8:56). “I Am” is the name that comes into English as the Lord. It is God the Son, in a preincarnate manner, that is standing before Abraham with the two other men.

We learn later in the narrative, in Genesis 19, that the two other men were angels. They were being sent by God to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The wrath of God is real.

In any event, Abraham immediately springs into action. He springs into the action of providing customary hospitality, especially for very important guests.

“Sarah, make some bread.”

“Young man! Get the choice lamb from the herds that we may prepare it for my guests.”

Abraham makes a meal for them. They sit under the oak tree and eat.

Now the story of Abraham began with the Lord calling him to leave his father’s house and to go to a land that the Lord would show him. The Lord then promised that Abraham would have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky, and that he would become the father of many nations. He also promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed in Abraham.

These promises required that Abraham have a son with his wife, Sarah. One big problem. Sarah was unable to have children, and now she is old.

After the three men had finished eating, they asked Abraham where Sarah was. She was in the tent. Then the Lord reiterated the promise: I will return to you next year and Sarah will have a son.

This is not might have, or there is a good chance she may have, or she might probably have a son. No. This promise is that she will have a son. The Lord has spoken it. The Lord has promised it. It is as good as done. It will happen.

Now as we read a little farther, we get Sarah’s reaction. The text states:

“And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, . . . , and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He [the Lord] said, [now speaking to Sarah], “No, but you did laugh.”

By all accounts that human experience and reason can understand, the Lord’s promise about Sarah having a son was impossible. Pursuant to human strength, anything that we human beings are capable of, and the ways of nature, there is no way that the Lord’s promise could be true.

So Sarah laughs. Impossible. She doesn’t believe it.

But the Lord says Sarah will have a son. He calls out her unbelief. He calls her out of unbelief into faith. Is anything too hard for the Lord, He says.

This is the Lord who made heaven and earth. It is the Lord who calls things into existence out of nothing. Can anything be too hard for Him? Not at all.

Fast forward again to a time when the Lord through an angel made a similar, though importantly different promise, to another woman. This woman was a great granddaughter of Sarah. Her name was Mary, the mother of Jesus. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and that she would have a Son, who would be the Son of the Most High. And the Lord through the angel said the same thing to her, nothing shall be impossible with God.

It is an interesting fact of history that no philosopher, speculating on the existence and omnipotence of God, ever came up with an old woman giving birth to a son of promise when she was beyond the way of women. No philosopher, speculating by use of human reason, ever came up with the virgin birth of God’s Son as a man from Mary.

It has been just the opposite. Those who have used human reason to try to understand the ways of God have judged such things in the Scripture to be fables and fairy tales and myths. They may have some significance, they say, but cannot be true, strictly speaking.

Tell Abraham, however, that the promise was not true when Isaac was born, and they named him Isaac, which means laughter. Not the laughter of scorn this time, but the laughter of joy, because God had done the impossible; He had kept His promise. He brought life from death, hope out of hopelessness, redemption out of sin, by the power of His promise, by the power of the One who speaks, and it is so.

But now consider how God speaks His promise. Does He speak it in Himself so that we somehow must find God in His invisible majesty to know it? No. He appears to Abraham in the form of a man, limited, so Abraham could grasp Him. And there He speaks to Abraham in human speech, speaking His promise, telling Him what He is about to do for blessing, for joy, for life from death, for redemption, for hope.

Likewise, when the fullness of time had come, the Son came from Mary, our own flesh and blood, limited, yet in His limited-ness, omnipotent. And He fulfills all of God’s promises to us. In Mary’s Son, Jesus, we find God as our friend. He hears you. He is with you. He is working for you, though often we do not see it. He forgives and promises us life from death through the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We find this God in His appearance as the man Jesus, and the promises He spoke and that He has authorized to be spoken to us in His Name. This was prefigured when the Lord appeared to Abraham under the oaks of Mamre.

What a wonderful story the life Abraham is for us. It is the pattern of how God deals with us for salvation. And this pattern is fulfilled for us in Jesus. And one day, in the promise of forgiveness of sins, life eternal, and resurrection from the dead, we too will laugh. It will not be laughter of scorn over an apparently impossible promise. It will be the laughter of joy, because God has done what He promised He would do. Is anything too hard for the Lord? No. He has promised. He will do it.

Amen.



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