And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” 6 And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” 7 And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly. 8 Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them. And he stood by them under the tree while they ate.
9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 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.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” 
In Genesis 18, we see Father Abraham in two roles: gracious host, and defense attorney for Sodom. He provides a contrast in how he hosts the visitors and how Sodom will treat them in chapter 19. Also, 18:1-15 reveals to us how Abraham gained his title “Friend of God” – something he is called in three passages (2 Chron. 20:7; James 2:23; Isa. 48:8). In Isaiah 48:8, it is God himself who calls Abraham “my friend.” “But you, Israel, my servant, /Jacob, whom I have chosen, /the offspring of Abraham, my friend….”
Above all other persons in the Old Covenant, Abraham is called God’s friend because of the familiar way he and God speak together here in Genesis 18. This is the only instance before Christ’s incarnation where God shares a meal in the presence of his human creatures. Perhaps St Author of Hebrews had this event in mind when he wrote, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” If so, the reasoning for his rule is a bit of an understatement since Abraham entered not only angels but God himself.
Abraham’s noontime encounter and the night scene to follow in Sodom are, writes Derek Kidner, “in every sense a contrast of light and darkness. The former, quietly intimate and full of promise, is crowned by the intercession in which Abraham’s faith and love show a new breadth of concern. The second scene is all confusion and ruin, moral and physical, ending in a loveless squalor which is even uglier than the great overthrow of the cities.” Abraham and the people of the Early Bronze Age did not live by clocks and watches. Their lives were governed by the dawn’s early light, the noonday heat, and the “cool, cool, cool of the evening.” They worked when the sun was low and took siestas when the heat was at its peak.
This scene opens with Abraham sitting in the shade on his front porch. It’s possible Abraham had nodded off to sleep and did not see the three men approach. But it’s also a consistent feature of Old Covenant appearances of God that he comes suddenly, as if out of nowhere (Judges 6:11-21). Some early Christian authors allegorized these three visitors at the Trinity. However, the plain reading of the text states that only one of them is YHWH. Two of the three were the angles that would travel to Sodom to rescue Lot and his family. One was the preincarnate Promised Seed, come to announce the beginning of his earthly lineage.
FRIEND OF GOD (1)
Moses, as the narrator, alerts us to God’s presence in this scene when he writes in 18:1, “And YHWH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day.” This is the first time Moses tells us that YHWH appeared to anyone in human form. Though, we presume this was how he conversed with Adam and Eve, and perhaps even Cain at the rejection of Cain’s sacrifice. It seems more probable to us after Christ’s incarnation than it ever would have to Moses’ first readers, the Israelites. But God himself promised his people in Isa. 57:15, “For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, /who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: / ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, /and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, /to revive the spirit of the lowly, /and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” 
The life of Christ, our Promised Seed, is a living proof of God’s promise to tabernacle with lowly humans. He said to a hated tax collector, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” He went to Peter’s house and dined with one whom he had raised from gates of death. And after his resurrection, he entered the humble Emmaus home of the two disciples in whose company he had walked from Jerusalem, seeking to dry their tears as they went.
There is no place so broken and so hopeless that He will not come. There is no heart so hardened and sinful that he will grant repentance and enter in. There is no table so plain and bare that he will not sit, turning water into the finest wine, multiplying the loaves and fish, and converting the simple into a sacramental feast. When seated with those he loves, he still takes bread and blesses it and gives it to them (Lk. 24;30). To all, individually and corporately, he says – as he stands holding out white garments, and eye ointment, and pure gold, and the choicest of church lady casseroles – “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.”
If this scene in Abraham’s life says nothing else to us, it should at least teach us that the Lord God Almighty desires to be a friend to us and have us be his friends as Abraham was. If we are not his friends, it is not by HIS reluctance or inaccessibility, but by our own selfish, inwardly curved sin.
ABRAHAM THE HOST (2-8)
As for as Abraham’s part in this friendship, we see him treating his visitors with the highest measure of Near Eastern hospitality. In those times before doors and doorbells, the visitor would stand at a polite distance and wait to be acknowledged and invited closer. But Abraham doesn’t wait for them to come to him. “2bWhen he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth….” He offered them refreshment from the heat of the day. “4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on….” The narrative isn’t clear whether Abraham knew he was entertaining supernatural visitors at this point, but he certainly recognized something special about them since he goes above and beyond the customary wash water and bread offering.
He asked Sarah not just to rustle up some of yesterday’s bread but to take 6 gallons of flour and bake it. That’s a lot of tortillas! The sleepy siesta abruptly ended at Camp Abraham as he flew into action and roused the servants. The minimum “morsel of bread” was turning quickly into a feast. Abraham ran out to his cattle heard and selected a young calf to be butchered. He didn’t select the normal and less expensive young goat for some cabrito. He picked out the most expensive meat he had to offer – veal! Along with the veal and the tortillas, he served them yogurt and milk. This had become a royal feast according to the standards of the day. And Abraham, being the consummate host, humbled himself to serve rather than sitting down with his guests and snarfing down some veal tacos.
This was a covenantal meal. Later, the elders of Israel would accompany Moses up Mt Sinai to ratify the Covenant of Works by eating a meal before God (Ex 24:5). Here God ratifies his Covenant of Grace with Abraham by eating the meal himself before Abraham. God alone passed through the bloody covenant path. God alone ratifies his COG by eating with his holy angels under the shade trees of Mamre as Abraham stands and watches. As R. Kent Hughes writes:
“the covenantal function of this meal was to restate the promise of a son through Sarah. What better way could there be than the familial intimacy of a meal to communicate the close relationship on which the promise was based. Later the same day, when the two angels departed for Sodom, the Lord stayed behind with Abraham, and they talked face to face as the Lord explained what was to follow (cf. vv. 16-33).”
The New Covenant, the full realization of the COG made with Abraham, was celebrated with a covenantal meal when the incarnate Promised Seed, the Lord Jesus Christ, took the cup and said, “19 This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. …This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” Abraham needed this assurance because the next few hours of his life would see his relationship with his nephew Lot stripped away. Lot would confront the edge of doom, see his wife judged, his family lost, and his possessions destroyed. He would move even further from his uncle and, so far as we know, they would never see one another again.
THE ANNUNCIATION (9-15)
This feast, as we read on, wasn’t simply for Abraham. It was also for Sarah. According to the social norms of her time for a married woman, Sarah remained inside the tent as the three male visitors ate their meal. She remained out of sight but not out of earshot. So, when the visitors had finished their meal, they asked Abraham about Sarah. “9 They said to him, ‘Where is Sarah your wife?’ And he said, ‘She is in the tent.’” How do these strangers know Abraham has a wife and that her name is Sarah? And, notice, they call her by the name God has recently given her – removing a vowel and adding an “h,” a breath, to the end of her name.
God wants Sarah’s attention. No doubt he has it when he mentions her new name to Abraham within her earshot. God’s annunciation becomes specific and clear. Notice the shift in verse 10 from the “They said” in verse 9? “10 YHWH said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.” Though we readers have known since verse 1 that YHWH had come, only now does Abraham realize that he is speaking face to face with the Lord, who uses Sarah’s divinely given name and restates his specific promise to Abraham from the previous chapter. The Lord uses the singular, “I will,” to let Abraham know this is a personal visitation from YHWH.
Sarah is inside the tent and the Lord is sitting outside with his back to the tent entrance. There was no human way he could have observed how Sarah reacted to this news. It may be that Abraham didn’t tell her about his previous encounter with El Shaddai and the specific promise that she was going to be a mother by year’s end. That may be the reason God shows up to ratify his covenant with a meal – not for Abraham’s sake but for Sarah’s sake. At this point, in case we’ve missed it, Moses adds an author’s note to the story. “11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah.” Sarah has not only been infertile her whole life, but now she was past menopause. Human observation told all rational people that it was impossible for her to have a child. The promise she would have a child within the next year was ridiculous. It was impossible!
Her response to this statement by the visitor was silent and inward. “12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’” Abraham doesn’t hear Sarah smirking to herself, much less does he hear her thoughts. Her response was melancholy, hopeless, trustless, and private. But in an instant her unbelief is both exposed and stripped away by the God who sees (as he had seen Hagar’s distress):
13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 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.”
His first question is about Sarah. His second points to himself. Now, Sarah knows what had just dawned on Abraham. This is no mere man. This is YHWH himself sitting just outside her tent. He heard her smirk. He saw her silent thoughts. He knew her heart. In that context, he responds, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Hagar learned that God sees her. Sarah learned that God sees inside her. Her future son, David, would sing of this fact:
1 O Lord, you have searched me and known me! / 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; /you discern my thoughts from afar. / 3 You search out my path and my lying down /and are acquainted with all my ways. / 4 Even before a word is on my tongue, /behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. 
The Apostle John wrote, “God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.” St Author of Hebrews said, “…no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  God knows every thought – the thoughts of all angels (elect and non-elect) and all human beings. He has known our thoughts since before he formed one particle of the universe. He has known your thoughts before you were ever alive to think them. He is never taken by surprise. He needs no backup plans. He has never forgotten anything. He has never been mistaken. He doesn’t know simply because he created all things and watches over them, he knows because he decreed absolutely everything – every being, every plan, every contingency, all law and every law, all relations, all causes, all thoughts, all mysteries, every unspoken secrete, all things visible and invisible in heaven and earth.
We can fool other people, but we cannot fool God. He knows what that gunk is under your fingernails. He knows your thoughts before you form them. Sarah may not have comprehended all of those things about God. But she did ultimately come to realize that if God could know her thoughts, then he really could do anything he pleased. God was tilling the soil of her spiritual life to grow more trust in her struggling heart. God was trying to shift her obsession beyond her own hopeless situation and her own limited resources to his limitless resources. Note that God IS going to do what he promises regardless of Sarah’s level of trust. His plan for the line of the Promised Seed is in no way dependent upon her faithful works or working faith.
But still, she tried to hide her unbelief. “15 But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. He said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’”  In an attempt to cover up her sin of distrust in the direct promise of God, Sarah sins yet again by lying. She is rightly afraid that she has directly questioned God’s promise and, rather than repent, she doubles down. Entrenching ourselves in distrust always leads to more and more sin. John wrote in 1 John 5:9-10,
9 If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. 10 Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. 
Unbelief is not a misfortune to be pitied. It is a sin to be deplored. Her unbelief attributed falsehood to the One True God who alone is the source of all truth and every truth. Think about the thoughts you’re able to hide from your family, your co-workers, neighbors, and friends. You leave them unspoken because to speak them would be hurtful to you or those around you. Such thoughts are always based on distrust of God and his plan for your life. He has brought those people and situations into your life for your good and his glory. At the heart of every hateful, envious, contentious unspoken thought is distrust in God. It a refusal to be curiously expectant to see what Jesus does next in your life. And, like Sarah, what you can easily hide from other people, you cannot and will not hide from God.
God said, “No, but you did laugh.” It may seem harsh to us that God refuses to let our unbelief remain hidden. James Boice writes of this verse, “We sin, and hope that God will ignore the sin. Then we are puzzled when the details of our lives go badly and prayer seems like pounding against a stone wall. How slow we are to learn! Has God not said, “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1–2). Many millions are hindered and even miserable in their Christian lives simply because they will not deal with sin severely, as God does.”
God could have destroyed Sarah as surely as he was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. But, for the sake of his Promised Seed, he dealt kindly with her. Sarah’s unbelief could not turn his purposes aside. At the very moment Sarah is standing out of sight laughing to herself and God knows she is listening and laughing, God is making his sure and certain revelation that the Promised Seed is coming. “14 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.”
Out of the dry and dusty soil of impossibility, God brought forth his Promised Seed to live a life of perfect unwavering trust that none of us can ever live, and to die the death our distrust deserves. But he did not remain in death. He rose again, breaking the bonds of death like a dry twig; he ascended to his heavenly throne to reign and rule over all things until he returns to make all things new and finally and fully destroy all unbelief. Is anything too hard for the Lord?
It may seem to boarder on the verge of impossibility that God would ever keep his word in the conversion of that loved one or friend for whom you faithfully pray to see their heart regenerated. It may seem impossible for God to restore and vindicate your reputation when others are so anxious to destroy it. It may seem unlikely to you that your evil nature can be kept in the place of death, drowned in the baptismal waters. It may seem too hard for your nature to ever become sweet and gentle, humble and loving – impossible for you to produce the fruits of love and holiness.
It IS impossible for you to accomplish any of those things. But nothing is too hard for the Lord. As Sarah would learn, all things are possible – indeed all things are certain – when God wills them.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 18:1–15.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 41:8.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 13:2.
 Kidner, 142.
 Carmichael and Mercer, 1951. (Academy Award for Best Original Song).
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Is 57:15.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 19:5.
 Boice, 599. Quoting F.B. Meyer.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 3:20; Boice, Id.
 Hughes, 255. Kindle Edition.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 22:19–20.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 18:9.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 18:12.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 139:1–4.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 3:20.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Heb 4:13.
 Hamilton, 14.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 18:15.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Jn 5:9–10.
 Boice, 606–607.