Text: The Three Visitors, Genesis 18:6-8
“And Abraham hurried into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat.”
The story of Abraham is the story of the Christian spirit.
Abraham is a man who was “called out” by God from a city of idols, beginning from his father Terah. He was commanded to “leave his country, his relatives and his father’s household” (Genesis 12:1) and go to a land that he never saw before. When he received his calling from God, “he went out, but he did not know where to go. He just obeyed” (Hebrews 11:8). He had been a pilgrim, seemingly nowhere to go. He just followed.
From the city his birth, he and his family had been dwelling in tents. They suffered discomforts as they lived in strange countries. In his heart, his only comfort and direction was he “looking for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” (Hebrews 11:10) He experienced the perils of having no permanent address. Nevertheless, God took care of him as a stranger so that he can also share that care to other strangers in the future.
Before he received the award as a “Father of Faith,” the book of Genesis tells us that his life was full of faithlessness and lying. Even after God called Him, He lied to the Egyptians that Sarah is not his wife (Gen. 12:13), he committed sin to her maid (16:4) and he consented mistreatment to her (v.6). But the grace of God continued to stay with him. The Lord did not stop changing him until his faith produced fruit. The series of trials and testings were instrumental to transform his life. The Lord did not give up. (Philippians 1:6)
The promise that he will have a son was repeated to him four times in four different ways: (1) a vision ch.14 (2) a voice ch. 12 (3) an appearance ch. 17 (4) a personal visit ch.18. It’s obvious that God did not give up on His people. God continued to speak with him, and even visited him personally.
God appeared to Abraham. Three visitors showed up unexpectedly and Abraham offered hospitality. Abraham offered them food- and those were not just ordinary foods- they were cow’s meat, milk, butter and cake. These foods were rare. They are special foods in those days because sophisticated storage and technology were not yet present.
Abraham had storage of precious food in his house- this is an ingredient so he could offer godly hospitality. The Bible recognizes that “There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up” (Proverbs 21:10). Godly people are keepers of blessings. Ungodly ones waste them. Godly people think of producing and keeping. Ungodly ones only think of spending and consuming. Christians store up for the future. Like Abraham, righteous people are not greedy. The godly do not overly indulge in hyper-consumerism mentality.
A godly society lives in contentment, yet finds true joy in hardwork. The godly sees work as a meaningful way to reflect God’s image (Gen. 1:28). Righteous people are contented and thrifty. They are not covetous of other people’s belongings. There is always a surplus. They practice delayed gratification. They abound in blessings and graces. Godly people do not indulge in bad debt. But “the wicked borrows and do not repay.” (Proverbs 21:10).
The Psalmists describes the righteous that “wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. (v.3)” “Their hearts are steadfast,” “Their hearts are secure,” “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor.” (Psalm 112)
This is a good hint. Hospitality is a fundamental characteristic of biblical faith. True and pure religion is to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction” (James 1:27). Abraham did not know that these people are angels. The writer of Hebrews speaks, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unknowingly” (13:2). This was the mark of a man under the hands of God.
Hospitality is very important that it was a prime requirement for a church leader: “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach” (I Tim. 3:2). A church leader has to be a good hospitality manager- and that includes having substantial food storage.
The idea of hospitality stands on the idea that God has been hospitable to Abraham. It is also the same with us. We were strangers, yet God entertained us and loved us and made us as His own through His Son. He has shown grace to us. He rewarded us with blessings we don’t deserve.
Hospitality is showing that same grace that God has given to us. It is showing concern and care for the poor or needy of accommodation. It also involves working to gain economic reserves so you have food to share. You have surplus. You have extra. You have things at store in case of unexpected visitors or unforeseen circumstances. You imitate a God who had been a good promise-Keeper for your future.
In a society, hospitality means “love of strangers.” It is showing concern to people outside of one’s own family. It is to recognize that there are people outside the family who need help. This is a universal mark of a good person. It is a light of the world. Hospitality softens the resistance of people towards the gospel. It is faith in action.
In our modern world, today, hospitality by giving food is much easier than in the time of Abraham. We have the technology by which we can store and serve food in much easier ways. We have the refrigerator. We have the oven, the coal, the electricity and so on. These things make saving food so much possible. Food has been the ways of Jesus in meeting and spending time with people. Christians are to recognize this pathway of Jesus.
Abraham is our example both in belief and practice. His faith in God and practice serve as our guide. He was always ready. He had storage of food. He was ready to share. He was always on the ready position to give hospitality.
He was a blessing to His visitors, but it turns out that His visitors turned out to be that greater blessings. His visitor was God. Hospitality is expensive, but we do not know what blessings hospitality has prepared for those who practice it. The visitors brought him great news- First, that Sarah will be pregnant and the promise of blessing will be fulfilled. Second, that Sodom and his family member are about to be burned by a rain of fire.
Without hospitality, Abraham could have never received those very important news: The rescue of Lot, and the blessing for Sarah.