by Christopher Harbin

This content is part of a series.

To Be a Servant (11 of 52)
Series: Discipleship Part 2
Christopher B. Harbin
Genesis 18:1-8, 16

Hospitality was understood in the ancient world as a basic test of justice. How one treated those who did not belong to society was often viewed as a test of character and an opportunity to judge one's personal worth. For the Greeks, there were stories of Zeus disguising himself while requesting shelter and food from the unsuspecting. For the Babylonians, this was no less a standard to which the high and mighty were to be held. Ugarit had its own myths in this regard, as Job presents a defense of his own character in regard to how he dealt with the poor and foreigners who approached his table.

The world over, people like to pat themselves on the back in defining themselves as being very hospitable. While we rarely measure up to the standards we set for ourselves, there is something in being hospitable to strangers that simply strikes a chord with our sense of character and morality. In the case of Abraham in Genesis 18, however, there is more to this passage than simply a sense of hospitality. If this is a test of character, he passes the test with flying colors.

The narrator tells us Yahweh appeared to Abraham while he sat at the opening of his tent in the shelter of a grove of trees. Abraham was not aware this was God at the time, so we can read this text as a character test. The first question being how he responded to foreigners, unknown travelers who arrive before him. As is normal in Hebrew texts like this one, there is some seemingly confusing language in regard to just how far away these men are and details regarding their number, but as we see Abraham's action, we understand that these travelers are some distance away from him. Looking up, he sees them and determines that he must run out to meet them.

Abraham rushes out and places himself in the role of a servant, bowing before their feet. From that position, he offers himself as their servant. ...

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