When Abraham Offered God a Meal (Genesis 18:1-8)
Genesis 18:1-5 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.” “Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”
In our reflection this week, we find Abraham and his generous and hospitable spirit exhibited in how he welcomes the LORD and two of his angels. What he did was extraordinary, and as we study the small details in the story, we will come to recognize some important truths on the location, the plea, and the actions of hospitality.
The Location: the Great Trees of Mamre
Now if we peek back to Genesis 13:18, this location of great oak trees of Mamre is also identified:
Genesis 13:18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.
The whole setting of hospitality of welcoming the LORD was not just a place where Abraham decided to live but it is also a place where Abraham decided to worship the LORD. His place of worship is also his place of hospitality. The great oak trees of Mamre had now been transformed from just being a park with shade to a public place of proclaiming God's character.
Bringing this to our time today, have our homes become places where we can also worship God and show His love to others? Will the fruit of Godly hospitality be seen in our churches today if God were to visit? I believe that true worship of God would make us generous and hospitable to everyone.
The Plea: "Do not Pass your Servant By"
It was a hot day and Abraham was enjoying the shade that the tree was giving, but as he lifts his eyes and recognizes three men, he quickly address one of them as LORD (Adonai) and asks that he does not pass his servant by. He moved the spotlight to the LORD and quickly identified himself as a servant. This was not about Abraham or his wealth, it was about God being His guest.
When we have a God-encounter in our lives, do we also carry this attitude of not letting the moment slip by without us being able to bless God? In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews expresses this truth in this way:
Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.
Abraham then proceeds to offer three things to the LORD:
Water to wash their feet (Remember Jesus' washing of the disciple's feet?)
Rest in the shade of the tree
Food for refreshing before they go on their way
All of what was offered was non-transactional - Abraham didn't ask for anything except for the opportunity to serve the guests! It was give, give, and give! And to Abraham's delight, the LORD grants Abraham the opportunity to actually provide water, rest, and food. Let us also reflect on our own hospitality culture. Suppose God were to visit you today, what would you immediately offer Him?
The Actions: Giving His Best
Genesis 18:6-8 So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.” Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.
Abraham hurries back into his tent to get Sarah involved in this act of hospitality. He asks Sarah to prepare 3 seah's of the finest flour (this is estimated to be 16 kilograms of flour) to be made into bread. I'm not sure how big the loaves must have been in Abraham's time, but supposing it is similar to our modern day bread, 1.5 kg of flour usually yields close to 2kg of bread once water and other ingredients are added in. For a meal Abraham does sound like he was preparing enough for them to also take with them on their journey.
Abraham's next step was to go and personally select a choice, tender calf and gave it to his servant to prepare it. He was involved in ensuring the quality of the meat that was going to be offered had to be the best. After handing over the meat, he brought curds and milk with the calf and offered them to the LORD and the two angels.
Hungry Chaplain: "I believe this is Biblical evidence that God ate veal steak. Praise the LORD!"
He then remains, like a good host, being attentive to the needs of the guests as they ate.
Abraham gave of his best, and without reservation. In our own opportunities for hospitality, have we been calculative in what we offer? What have our attitudes been like in how we treat others? In a meritocratic culture, we often find it hard, even detestable, to offer our best to just about everyone. There is a mindset that would seek to proportionate the hospitality offered to the office or honor of the guest. If it was the president or the CEO of some company, surely I would bring out the best. If it were just my secondary school friends, yeah, maybe whatever's in the pantry. If it were a stranger we bumped into, probably just something plain and basic. In a selfish way, we often reserve the best for ourselves. "We deserve our best!"
My friends, what if we adopted a different mindset?
What if we offered our best to everyone as God sends them our way? You may ask: "But what happens to us then? Won't this attitude of generous giving impoverish us?" Hoarding our wealth and our blessings is itself a poverty. Borrowing (and modifying) some famous quotes, we can come to realize that true wealth is not measured by how much we can keep for ourselves but how much we can give with joy, and true spiritual wealth is not just measured by how much we give, but as Mother Theresa says, "by how much love we put into giving." May God grant us wisdom to overcome our fears with God's love so that indeed we may in love, freely give!
1. So in your life today, would you consider yourself a hospitable person? How can we give rest and refreshment to others?
2. Has your faith in God made you more a joyful and loving giver or a hoarder of blessing?
3. In your moments of hospitality and giving, have you given of your best? What is stopping you?
4. Have you seized every opportunity to bless God through blessing others? How can you start/seize more opportunities moving forward?
Our Generous LORD, thank you for reminding us of a good example of welcoming you. Grant us ways to welcome You and bless You, LORD, and indeed, do not pass your servants by. May we work diligently that we may be able to give generously in love to others and in so doing worship You with our lives. In Jesus' Name we pray, Amen. Hungry Chaplain
FOOD Update - will resume soon! The Christmas weeks have been quite busy for the chaplain. I haven't had enough time to cook the chicken yet with a good recipe! But stay tuned!
Weekly Prayer before Meal (Janet Morley, "Christian Aid" and Anglican Church of Canada, "Blessed Be Our Table")
Use these prayers in your next family meal!
"God of the just weight
and the fair measure,
let me remember the hands
that harvested my food, my drink,
not only in my prayers
but in the marketplace.
Let me not seek a bargain
That leaves another hungry."
"For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord. Amen."
Adapted from: Rachel Marie Stone and Norman Wirzba, Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food (Westmont, IL: IVP Books, 2012).