This chapter finds Abraham sitting at the door of his tent at Camp Mamre. Since we last saw him in chapter 15, a lot has changed for Abraham and Sarah.
They had new names, given by God to better suit their roles as father and mother “of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17:4). They had a new symbol for their covenant with God: circumcision would be a physical reminder that they belonged to God (Genesis 17:10). And they had a new member of the family: Ishmael would be a physical reminder of the consequences of doing things man’s way instead of God’s way (Genesis 16:11-12).
So there is old Abraham, sitting at the door of his tent, waiting. He was waiting for God to fulfill the promise of making him a great nation. Wile he was waiting, the Lord appeared to him. It is interesting that when Abraham saw Him, he saw three men (v.2), possibly a reference to the Triune nature of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Abraham treated them with great respect and hospitality, washing their feet and serving them a big meal.
One of the most humorous scenes in Genesis is when Sarah accidentally-on-purpose heard the conversation in which the Lord promised that she would have a child within a year. Sarah cracked up! What a hilarious thought — an old lady having a baby! Fat chance!
But “is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v.14) No! Sarah would have her baby, and as proof of God’s sense of humor, He had already decided (Genesis 17:19) that the child’s name would be Isaac, which means “laughter”!
I think if Abraham had been about 75 and Sarah had been about 65 when they became parents, people would have said, “That’s kind of unusual, but it’s probably happened before. It’s possible.” Maybe if Abraham had been 80 and Sarah had been 70 and they had a child, people would have said, “That’s REALLY strange! But probably not impossible.” But when Abraham was a dried-up 100 year-old and Sarah was a post-menopausal woman of 90, everyone must have said, “Did you hear about old Sarah? She ought to be a great, great grandmother and now she’s a momma! And Abraham, he’s older than dirt! That HAS to be from God!”
In contrast to this good news, the balance of this chapter deals with the very serious news of the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham’s bold intercession is an example of how we may approach God in prayer. God’s final answer was that He would spare the city if there were ten believers there.
I’ll talk more about this in my sermon Sunday morning, but suffice it to say that God went through with the destruction. The “very grave sin” (v.20) of Sodom and Gomorrah would be severely punished after all.