As I stated in the last devotion, Genesis 18 to 19:29 is one great story with intriguing storylines which invite our contemplation. In this devotion, I would like to invite us to reflect on the passage from 18:1-8. Please pause and read the passage before reading further.
How do you feel about Abraham's lavish welcoming towards the three strangers after reading the passage? Do you find him too humble and too courteous? After ran to receive them, he bowed down to the ground, washed their feet, then he rushed the entire household to threw a feast for them. He certainly didn't just give them a "little water" (v.4) and "something to eat" (v.5, NRSV rendered "little bread") like he said in the first place. Did he know the divinity of these strangers from the very beginning or did he do it purely out of hospitality? These questions are relevant because they help us to understand Abraham's motivation to accommodate the visitors. The quick answer is, most of the Bible translators and commentators believe that the contextual evidence shows that at first, Abraham didn't know the real identity of his guests. Welcoming travelers into their homes is a practice which nomadic desert people would do even today. The reason he acted apologetically was that he felt terrible for failing to spot them approaching until they were already nearby. According to the custom, he should have greeted them as soon as they appeared in his eyesight. That being said, the hospitality he provided was still excessive. The way he addressed and waited for his visitors, the quantity and the quality of the feast reaches the level of a royal banquet, which is quite fit for serving his divine guests. One piece of evidence is when he addressed the leader of the three as "my lord" in verse three. According to the rendition of Masoretic Text (the authoritative Hebrew and Aramaic Bible which only includes our OT), it is "appropriate in addressing God." (Gordon Wenham, WBC: Genesis 16-50, p.46) To many Bible scholars, the way Abraham treated his guests were prophetic. For he unconsciously gave the appropriate honor to God though he thought he was only welcoming three exhausted desert travelers.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus Christ reveals the secret of how He is going to separate His righteous sheeps from the cursed goats. (NIV) Those who take care of "one of the least of these brothers and sisters" are serving the Lord Himself. When Abraham insisted on providing the best hospitality to three strangers walking in the desert during the hottest hours, he was indeed serving God Himself.
Share an experience when a stranger's (or someone in need) heart is comforted by another person, whether you were on the giving or receiving end. Pray for each other that we will be more sensitive to the needs of others and will attend to their needs with open arms.