This chapter perhaps presents more questions than answers and therefore can be tough to gain any perspective from. First, we open with the fact that the Lord came to visit Abraham. He looked up, and saw three men standing nearby.
This is interesting because we are not told who these men are. First of all, are these men in addition to God, or do they represent Him? On one hand, one of the men tells Abraham that he will soon have a son, but then Sarah laughed and the text tells us that…
The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” (v. 13-14)
The text almost reads as if the same one who delivered the news also responded to Sarah’s laughter.
On the other hand, the men then set out from their meeting place and Abraham followed. The Lord again spoke, so perhaps God was indeed represented by these three men. Or, at least one of them. It seems upon a complete reading that while there were three men, perhaps only one spoke and was referred to as the Lord.
Then of course we have this strange chain of events which begs even more questions: first, the Lord looks upon the city of Sodom and indicates that he will go pay a visit to them…
Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether. (v. 20-21)
Then, the men head for the town but the Lord stays behind with Abraham…
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the LORD. (v.22-23)
So what is going on? Are there four beings presents (the Lord and three men)? Are there only 3, with one who speaks? If so, did two men start toward the city with only the one staying behind? This seems to be the case in the beginning of chapter 19.
It is important that we engage with the scriptures in this manner. We must develop the habit of always asking questions. When we ask questions, we demonstrate an appropriate respect for God’s Word. We in effect treat is as “living” and assume that our unanswered questions do have answers. In that respect, we assume the infallibility of the scriptures. In essence, asking questions of God’s Word demonstrates our theology as much as anything.
It is easy to imagine why God would reveal himself to Abraham as three figures (though two of them may have been angels), as we understand that God reveals himself to man as three persons. It is also easy to imagine why only one would speak, as each person in the Godhead has distinct responsibilities. Little is known at this point in human history about God with respect to any literature written about Him. They do not as far as we know possess any scriptures. However, Abraham’s perspective is perhaps more in-tune than ours with who God is because God had direct contact with him from time to time. This passage says that God “communed” with him, which sounds like an absolutely amazing experience.
With all this in mind, I am willing to commit to these men representing God, and with that, I will relate the experience that Abraham had with God to the experience that God would desire with all of his people.
First, Abraham met with God and we can get a lot from the experience. Abraham recognized the presence of God and invited him to fellowship with him. We should do the same. Abraham prepared for fellowship by getting food ready and even asking those around him for help in respecting this holy time. Finally, it was a time of refreshment, beneath the shade of a large tree, with plenty of food to eat.
Second, God had a discussion with Abraham. Specifically, the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah was on the agenda. I do not believe that Abraham changed God’s mind in this exchange. I do, however, believe that God showed compassion for the things that were important to Abraham. He recognized the mercy and love in Abraham’s heart and it moved him. God is pleased when we worship in love more than burnt offerings.
I remain convinced that God’s Word is always profitable (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that there are rich truths on every page. We just need to keep asking questions. Sometimes the text will provide answers. Sometimes it won’t…yet. The point of it all is that we always expect it to.