Genesis 18:1-15 NIV

[1] 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. [2] 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. [3] He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. [4] Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. [5] 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.” [6] 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.” [7] Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. [8] 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. [9] “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent, ” he said. [10] Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. [11] Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. [12] So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” [13] Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' [14] Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” [15] Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”



Have you ever encountered an angel? If you had, you might not have realised it because, contrary to popular stereotypes, angels don't float around on feathery wings in white dresses with glowing halos. A good friend shared a story with me not long ago about a holiday she took in France, venturing to stay alone in a country cottage. The house ended up being in a much more remote location than she had expected with only one other neighbour anywhere close by.

On the first night she felt a deep unease and spent most of the night in prayer. The next day her neighbour informed her that the previous evening, in the dark, there had been three dodgy men looking in through my friend's window. She immediately packed her bags and left, walking up the country road towards the town where she would catch a bus or train.

When she arrived at her next destination she phoned the owner of the house she had left to explain that she wouldn't be renting any longer than the one night she had already stayed. The landlord replied with this:

"Yes, I know you've left. My neighbour told me she saw you walking along the road towards town with a tall man this morning."

My friend was stunned. As far as she was concerned she had made the entire journey completely alone.  But the landlord was unconvinced because her neighbour had described clearly the 'tall man' who was with my friend.

This person is not someone at all prone to exaggeration or hyper spirituality. However both she and I have little doubt that God sent an angel to protect her.  

This shouldn't surprise us as much as it does when we consider how often angels show up in Scripture.  In our reading today, Abraham is relaxing in the noonday sun when three visitors seem to arrive out of nowhere. While hospitality was important in that culture, Abraham goes overboard in making them feel welcome. It's almost as if he immediately senses that these aren't any visitors but are messengers sent by God.

We'll look at their interaction more tomorrow but let's be open to the possibility that we may also encounter divine messengers at some stage as we seek to serve God and fulfill His purposes.

As the writer to the Hebrews says this: "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it." (Heb 13: 2)