Entertaining Angels Unawares

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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. 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 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 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.” And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to a young man, who prepared it quickly.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.

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.”

Bee on a Blue Flower | Houston Botanical Garden | July 2021

He was a neatly-dressed young man. He came in, signed the communion register and had a seat in the pews. No one knew him. But…well, let’s say that the interaction I had with him a few minutes later and then not, makes me believe he was an angel. And I didn’t entertain him well that day. At least I don’t consider myself to have done so. I fear I turned away a messenger of God. The particulars don’t really matter for the purposes of this occasion. For the point is that we may have entertained angels unawares. That’s not really my idea. Check out Hebrews 13:2 if you want the Bible’s read on this.

Three men come to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. This is where Abraham has settled. He is still living in tents, but this is his place. Refreshments would be available. Sarah would be nearby in the tent – though apparently and appropriate to that day – not in the presence of Abraham and these three men. 

Some commentators speak of these three men as the LORD and two men. In fact Moses tells us that the LORD appeared to Abraham here. He also says three men visit Abraham. We might think of the three persons of the Trinity taking on human flesh. Most likely to me, however, is that this is the pre-incarnate Christ, the Angel of the LORD, and two angels with him. 

Whoever it is, Abraham greets them warmly and offers them hospitality. He may not be fully aware of who they are. But he is willing to be host to them. They will enjoy his hospitality. Eat his food. Drink his milk. Eat his curds. Enjoy his newly prepared calf. He would watch them eat.

These are not figments of his imagination. They have the appearance of ordinary men. But they carry a message of great importance. They will reiterate to Abraham that Sarah will have a child. She will laugh. They will call her on it. But the message and promise will come true. 

There’s something about real people communicating real truth to real people. On this occasion the angels assume all the properties of real people. And their message is a message from God. We may think of angels as winged creatures with etherial appearance. But the message makes the angel. For the word angel itself means messenger. How many times have we heard a message from God and not recognized the messenger as an angel from God?

I have had to re-think my treatment of people because of the unspoken message of the man who visited our church some 40 years ago. Perhaps you have entertained an angel or two: messengers from God with his message of repentance and faith, forgiveness and salvation. And perhaps you were unaware of just who that really was.

2 comments
  1. David Schultz said:

    My boys and I had just finished a back-packing trip in Colorado. Starting in Durango and climbing to the 14,-000 level, and days later retiring to Durango to go back to Phoenix. Somewhere in New Mexico that night, I fell asleep at the wheel with the boys sleeping in the back seat. Suddenly, the loud slapping of a tire coming apart against the rear fender. I knew that old car did not have a spare when I got out to check. But on circling the car, I discovered all tires were inflated. Puzzled but grateful, I could only surmise the Lord sent an angel to rap on the fender to awaken me. My ministry needed to continue. And the boys lives needed to move forward. Ps. 91:10

    • What a wonderful testimony to the providential grace in care of God!

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