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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. 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.
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.” – Genesis 18:1-3, 9-15
Much of what she said almost qualified for the Captain Obvious awards. Seldom were there profound truths. But you could always count on wise and gracious comments. Even her criticisms were kindly provided while clearly stated and with moral clarity. When Arleen spoke, people listened. At least I did. And often her comments would sway the decision for the better. People who do not presume or posture are more often able to make a lasting impact for good. God speaks more often in those kinds of ways than bombastic thundering pronouncement.
When God shows up at Abraham and Sarah’s tent, there is little fanfare or fury. Just grace and truth: a powerful, life-changing and soul-shaping combination.
Sometimes God shows up in power and might. Think Elisha and the prophets of Baal. Or Isaiah in the year King Uziah died. Or God talking straight with Job. Think the crossing of the Red Sea. There can be no mistaking the power, majesty, glory, and dominion of God in those moments.
But think, too, of the still small voice. Remember Jesus’ silence before Pilate. Call to mind God walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and asking simply, “Adam, where are you?” This moment in Abraham’s life is an encounter with God. And God somehow manages to interact with him in such a way that he does not die (Exodus 33:20).
When God shows up some 2000 years later he would do so in an even less presuming manner. A baby boy would be born. A young man would gather a group of 12 followers, and the attention of the multitudes, and the ire of the religious leaders, and the sentence of death from Pilate. This is God’s way. He can show up in might and power. And sometimes he does. But his most powerful and profound work is done in the moments of heart access. It is there we see God’s love. It is there God shapes our souls for eternity. It is there God would woo us, direct us, and grow us.
This is one of those kinds of encounters. In the end, when the LORD says, “No, but you did laugh.” This seems not to be spoken bombastically. But gracious truth was spoken. I suspect both Abraham and Sarah would remember that comment for some time. That’s what happens when God speaks to our souls.