Abraham’s Three Visitors, Genesis 18:1-15

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.” – Genesis 18:1-2

You may read Genesis 18:1-15 here: Bible Gateway.

God appears to Abraham again. But this time, He visits Abraham in the form of a man. Many believe that this was Jesus reincarnate (John 1:18) accompanied by two angels (also in human form).

This visit must have been only a few weeks or months after God appears to Abraham in chapter 17 with the news that his eighty-nine year old wife, Sarah, would bear a baby this time next year (vs. 21). For there is no record that Sarah was pregnant yet.



Does Abraham recognize these men’s identities? Although he addresses the leader, “my Lord”, this name was also used as a respectful title for men. But as these men suddenly appear, Abraham—possibly in prayer and reflection of God’s last baby news—seems to sense these men are important and may shed additional insight.

Although Abraham’s hospitality is common in the Ancient East, he goes beyond the call of welcome duty. Instead of handing off all the duties to his servants, he personally caters to these three visitors. First, he runs to the men and bows before them. Next, he attends to any traveling needs, namely feet washing. Then he oversees all the food preparations, ensuring the tastiest meal is served. Finally, he stands nearby waiting attentively.

Abraham doesn’t have to ask twice what The LORD says concerning Sarah: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Sarah—who is at the tent’s entrance behind them—laughs to herself when she hears this incredulous news.

The LORD asks Abraham why she is laughing. “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Then He patiently repeats that she will have a son next year.

Fearful, Sarah denies that she laughed. But God calls her out: “Yes, you did laugh.”


Fear of our motives and/or inner thoughts exposed can pressure us to lie. But God, who loves us and knows all of our struggles, wants our complete honesty.

What impossible situation are you currently facing?

When we come up against seemingly impossible circumstances and/or relationships, God wants to help us. He desires that we seek His guidance and power.

Next week, we’ll explore the remainder of Genesis 18 and learn of God’s mission for the two angels who accompanied Him. . . . I hope you had a great Thanksgiving!

Abraham and the God of Impossibilities, Genesis 17:15-27

The following is a short summary of Genesis 17:1-14, which I broke into my last two posts:

Thirteen years slipped by since Abram last heard from God. Abram had believed God’s promise. But perhaps he misunderstood the piece about many descendants coming from his wife, Sarai.

For Sarai (age 89) and Abraham (age 99) failed to conceive. And their window of opportunity slammed shut, humanly speaking.

But since Abram had followed Sarai’s advice—taking Hagar as his wife—the promise of many descendants would surely come through their thirteen year-old son, Ishmael.

God’s plans, however, rarely line up with ours (humankind).

So God visits Abram again, reminding him of His covenant. After changing Abram’s name to Abraham—meaning “father of a multitude”—He outlines His expectations of Abraham: “Walk blameless before me.” And circumcision will be the sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:1-14).

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

Change is in the air as the clock counts down to God’s launch of His covenant. For God also changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, (the names are two different forms of a word meaning “princess”).  And He declares that she will bear a son by this time next year.

I will bless her [Sarah] and surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” – Genesis 17:16

God’s covenant would be established through this son.

Abraham’s Response

With this crazy news, Abraham falls facedown again. This time—instead of in worship—he tries to hide his laughter.  For at the age of ninety-nine, Ishmael had been his only son for the past thirteen years!

Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”

Ironically, God names their promise baby: Isaac, meaning “laughter”.

As the truth soaks in, Abraham implores God for Ishmael’s blessing in an “if only” sort of way.

God hears Abraham’s plea and outlines both sons’ future in verses 19-22: Although Ishmael wouldn’t be the covenant child, God still blessed him. As Isaac’s descendants would stream from 12 tribes, Ishmael would also have 12 sons/rulers who would become a great nation (see Gen. 25:13-15).

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead." - James 2:26

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” – James 2:26

Chapter 17 ends with Abraham’s obedience in circumcision: a sign of participation in God’s covenant.


Abraham, the man God credited righteous due to his faith, struggled to believe the “how” of God’s plan. Yet, he still obeyed.

The NIV Life Application Study Bible challenges us: “When God seems to want the impossible and you begin to doubt his leading, be like Abraham. Focus on God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to you, and then continue to obey.”

I hope you have a blessed week and Thanksgiving! May we take time to reflect on God’s goodness!

Abrahamic Covenant Terms, Genesis 17:9-14

My last post covered God’s perfect timing as He clarified His covenant with Abraham prior to launch (Gen. 17:1-8). This post covers God’s expectations of Abraham and his descendants in relation to His covenant. We’ll explore Abraham’s reaction to God and the remainder of chapter 17 next week.

You may read Genesis 17 here: Bible Gateway.

God’s Terms

A covenant is a contract. While most contracts require an even trade, God’s terms were quite lopsided.

What exactly were God’s terms?

Abraham’s responsibility: “Walk before me and be blameless. . . . This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised . . . . It will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.” – Gen. 17:1, 10-11

And God’s part?

He would give Abraham property, heirs, wealth, and power (Gen. 17:4-8).

God’s requirement for Abraham to circumcise the males in his household, however, was not conditional to His promise. But disobedience to this command would be costly: “Any uncircumcised male, who has not been circumcised in the flesh, will be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.”

Typically, this is a reference to execution, sometimes by the Israelites, but usually by God, in the form of premature death.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision: The Sign of the Covenant  



The word circumcision means ‘cutting around.’ It refers to a minor operation that removes the foreskin from the male organ. Only males underwent circumcision. In the patriarchal society of the ancient Near East, people considered that a girl or woman shared the condition of her father if she was single, or her husband if she was married. . . . It [circumcision] is to an Israelite what a wedding ring is to a bridegroom.” – Layman’s Bible Commentary

Circumcision was personal for the individual concerned, his parents, and his wife. This outward sign symbolized an inward commitment.


Although following God requires commitment and obedience, His benefits and blessings far outweigh our cost of discomfort or inconvenience.

How does the biblical command for circumcision relate to us today?

Once an individual was circumcised, there was no turning back. Similarly, God wants us to commit our lives to Him, walking blamelessly before Him by not turning back and indulging in sin. Deuteronomy 30:6 speaks of the kind of circumcision that counts—circumcision of the heart—operated by the Holy Spirit. It involves cutting away the old sinful nature instead of mechanically observing the written code.

For more on this concept please see The Meaning of Circumcision. . . .  Have a wonderful week!

God’s Perfect Timing: Abrahamic Covenant, Genesis 17:1-8

Thirteen years passed since Ishmael was born. Although Abram seemed to be doing well financially and Ishmael was growing into young manhood, Scripture is silent during this time. It would be easy for Abram to give up hope of having a son through Sarai and forget God’s covenant promise.

But God—who is not bound to our time table or expectations—didn’t forget. He would carry out His plan in His perfect timing.

And His time was ripe.

Although God had spoken His covenant to Abram four different times (Gen. 12:1-3; 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:5-21) and used the term “covenant” (Hebrew berith) once defining the boundaries of the promised land (Gen. 15:18), God sharpens the focus by using the term “covenant” thirteen times in chapter 17.

The adjectives attached to the word (covenant) are significant. Nine times it is called “my covenant,” three times it is called “an everlasting covenant,” and once it is called “the covenant betwixt me and you.” – Henry Morris (The Genesis Record)


This post covers Genesis 17:1-8. But you may read the entire chapter here: Bible Gateway.

When God appears again, Abram is 99 years-old. He and Sarai are well beyond child bearing age. In response to God’s powerful and glorious presence Abram falls face down.

I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 

"The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob," Gen. 14:1. God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David's family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

“The LORD will have compassion on Jacob; once again He will choose Israel and will settle them in their own land. Aliens will join them and unite the house of Jacob,” Isaiah 14:1.
God intended for the world to be blessed through His faithful people (Gen. 12:3). Through King David’s family line, the entire world would have opportunity to be saved through faith in Jesus Christ.

God’s admonishment to be blameless is not conditional to His covenant. Rather, it is a command.

God sharpens His promise: 1) He would give Abram many descendants. 2) Many nations would descend from Abram. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham “father of a multitude”. 3) God would keep His covenant with Abraham’s descendants. 4) God would give the land of Canaan to Abraham’s descendants.

Only God’s strong arm would accomplish all of this in His perfect timing.

Morris writes: “No action on the part of Abraham’s descendants can ever permanently sever the land from them . . . . ‘I will be their God’: Though many have gone astray, and the history of Abraham’s seed has been long and sad, there has always been at least a remnant in every generation that continues to worship and obey the God of Abraham. . . . This promise no doubt applied primarily to those who are his seed according to the flesh, but also encompassed the spiritual seed of Abraham, who is the father of all them that believe.”


God’s command to Abram, “Walk before me and be blameless” still applies to us today. My NIV Study Bible sums it up: “We are to obey the Lord in every respect because He is God – that is reason enough. If [we] don’t think the benefits of obedience are worth it, consider who God is – the only One with the power and ability to meet [our] every need.”

Next week we’ll look at the covenant terms God gave Abraham (Gen. 17:9-27). Have a great week!