There I was in Mamre. A distance way from Ur where we used to live quite comfortably. Sitting in the opening to our tent, under the shade of the great trees, in the middle of yet another swelteringly hot day. I was looking down into the dust and wondering to myself what was going on. My wife, now called Sarah, was inside the tent doing whatever it is that wives do in the middle of a hot day here. A mystery to me, as I am just a mere old male.
I am remembering back to a day when our life changed back in Ur. That was when God said he was going to bless me and made promises to me! Little old me - Abraham of the Chaldees! Not only to me but also to Sarah, my wife!
God told me specifically and with authority:
• I will be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:1)
• I will receive personal blessing (Genesis 12:2)
• I will receive personal honour and a grand status (Genesis 12:2)
• I will be a source of blessing to others. (Genesis 12:3)
What’s more, there will be blessings on those who bless me and the nation which comes from me (Genesis 12:3) just as there will be curses on those who curse me and that nation (Genesis 12:3).
I have been called by God. Personally, and explicitly. Not only me, my wife Sarah as well. That was 25 years ago now. Not too bad for somebody 99 years old is it. It all seems rather inconceivable really seeing as both my wife and I are aged. God made a promise to Sarah too! She would be having a baby. Inconceivable it seems, doesn’t it? Sarah, my wife, is beyond the normal child bearing age to start conceiving a family. The way of motherhood has passed her by. In our culture where we are from, to be a childless couple, the majority of the stigma is cast upon the woman. It is a shame upon her. But regardless, I stepped out in faith, trusted the Lord and here we are on a journey.
Then suddenly!! I looked up from the dust and I saw them. Much to my surprise. How did I not see them coming from a long distance off? Am I seeing things? They seemed to appear out of nowhere. Three men. Three men just standing there looking towards me. I am sure that I recognize the one in the middle. Have I met him before? I still can’t work out how I never saw them approaching. I hurried to them despite my great age and the searing heat. I wanted to show them an even greater welcoming honour than the one my culture usually allowed to strangers. I bowed down as low as I could get. Even lower than normal to convey a great honour upon them. I asked them to come in for a little light refreshment before they continued their journey in the heat of the day.
They replied. “All right. Go and do as you have said.” Their blunt response stunned me a bit, if I am being honest!
So, I scurried back. I ensured water was taken to them and returned to Sarah in the tent. “Quick! Sarah! We have visitors! One of them maybe the Lord again. I am not sure. They are all in the appearance of men. Cook up some of that unleavened bread from the recipe your mum taught you! The bread that doesn’t take long to cook. I will go get a good tender calf and have one of the servants prepare it for eating. While he does that, I will get some yoghurt and milk to accompany it all. I will serve them out under the shade of the trees. As is our custom, you please stay here, my love.”
So, there I was. Waiting on our visitors as per the custom of our day, treating them to the hospitality of our culture. When all of a sudden, out of the blue, our guests asked “Where is Sarah your wife?”
How did these folks, these men, if that is what they really are, know her name? Any doubt that this was the Lord God began to leave me - after all He would know Sarah’s name. He is the one who changed her name!
If it was the Lord, we had indeed met before! It must be! It must be the Lord my God. The other two must be angels in disguise. I guess. If this really is the Lord God, then this is the one who blessed us and honoured us when he changed our names to Abraham and Sarah. He called us out of our life in Ur.
I offered in response to our guests, “She is inside the tent.”
Then almost surprisingly, one of them said that he will return in a year and by then Sarah and I will have had a child, a son! It was then, that my wife Sarah chuckled quietly. Almost silently, she talked to herself. “No way! I am outside the age of normal motherhood and Abraham is also a bit old now too.”
But my guests still heard that quiet laugh and that comment. Then I was questioned! Me! “Why did Sarah laugh mockingly and dispute what I said about you having a child? Is there anything that is too hard for God to do? This time next year you will have a son. Be assured of that and be of good courage, the pair of you. What I have said, I will accomplish. I always keep my promises!”
At which point, my dear Sarah who had clearly been eavesdropping, responded by denying that she had laughed. She did this to cover her embarrassment of being found out.
“Nope! You did, Sarah. I heard you!” the Lord God gently rebuked her for telling an alternative fact.
With that, our guests arose and looked out towards that evil city of Sodom. Being a good host, I arose and walked with them to see them safely away, wondering why they were going to such a place renowned for injustice, oppression of the innocent, wickedness and unrighteousness.
The one I identified as the Lord, started speaking quietly to Himself. He was asking himself a question and then answering it for himself. Or so it seemed. I guess he could have also been talking to the other two. Regardless, I could hear what he was saying.
“Hmmm. Should I tell Abraham concerning my plan for Sodom? He, Abraham, will certainly become a mighty and great nation. Indeed, the whole earth will be blessed by Me through him. Abraham will instruct and direct his family and ancestors in the way to follow Me rightly and justly. I have promised Him and I will do it. I am the Lord, and I keep my promises. I uphold my end of the deal.”
“I have heard such an outcry from the innocents there, that we are going to see if things really are as we have heard. A cry of pain from those being oppressed and violated. An outcry against injustice by those who are weak and oppressed. I don’t rely on gossip or hearsay. I have heard and I care for them. I want to see the full story for myself and see if anything has been left out. I am a compassionate God and I seek to act on behalf of those wronged and put things right. Does the hullaballoo and noise match the reality of oppression and injustice?”
Two of our guests then continued their journey onwards to Sodom. However, the third one, the Lord waited with me and seemingly also waited for me to respond to Him. Waited for me to talk to him.
Therefore, I neared him and said, quite boldly yet humbly, “In that place Sodom, where you heard that outcry from the innocent, will you really deliver judgement upon both those who are righteous and those who are wicked? What about if there are 50 such innocent righteous folk there? Are you going to do away with them as well as those who have transgressed against you and others? Will you not spare the city for their sakes? How can you, a righteous yet just and merciful God, destroy both the wicked and the righteous together? Why would you want to do such a thing? You are the Judge of the whole earth and you should do right, surely? Can you, O God, deny yourself and do contrary to your very nature?”
Then I went silent, allowing the Lord to respond. “Abraham. If there are 50 righteous people there, I will spare the city.”
“Ok Lord. I know that compared to you, o Righteous and Holy One, I am but mere dust and ashes. I am not worthy to be speaking to you. However, what if there were only 45? Surely you won’t decimate that city because of 5 people short of your number?”
“Nope. Not for the sake of 45 people.”
“Forty folk?” I asked yet again.
“Nope. I the Lord, won’t destroy the city if we find 40 righteous and innocent people.”
Ok, I was really still concerned for those people. I imagine that it’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of God! So plaintively I progressed: “30 righteous people?”
“Nope. Not if I find 30.”
“Ok Lord, in my boldness, how about 20?
“No, Abraham. Not if I find 20.”
Then I thought to myself, one last push, Abraham. “Lord God. Do not be angry with me, I am concerned for the innocent ones. One more request, a final one. How about if there are only 10 found there?”
“Abraham, I will not destroy for the sake of 10 innocent & righteous people.”
With that, the Lord God finished his conversation with me, and went on to meet his companions. Meanwhile, I went back to my tent and pondered all these things further. Lot, my nephew was near Sodom. I hope that he and his family are ok and will be ok.