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Is Anything Too Hard for the Lord? (Genesis 18:1-15)

 

INTRODUCTION

In Genesis 17, God gave Abram several new details regarding the covenant he had made with him in chapter 15. First, Abram was to be the father of not just one nation but many, so God changed his name to “Abraham” which means “father of a multitude”. Additionally, kings would come from him, this covenant would be an everlasting one that included his descendants, and most importantly, God would be their God in a personal way. God also made it explicitly clear that Abraham’s promised child would be born to his wife Sarah.

 

MAIN POINT

Nothing is impossible with God.

 

REFLECT

As Genesis 18 opens, we find Abraham resting in the shade of his tent from the heat of the midday sun. It was the worst time of the day to do work, and yet it’s precisely when he’s visited by three men. Rather than grumbling about having his nap inconveniently interrupted, though, he leaves the shade to greet them.

From this chapter and the next, we know that the visitors are God himself and two angels (19:1), but Abraham probably didn’t know this at first. He at least understands that one of the men especially is prominent (v. 3), and in addition to showing them honor, he begins to attend to all their needs (vv. 3-5).

Abraham’s generosity is enhanced in the meal he provides the visitors as well as the way it’s prepared. The meal is nothing short of a feast, complete with fresh meat and milk. The text also emphasizes the speed at which he’s trying to get them fed (“went quickly”; “‘Quick!’”; “Abraham ran”; “prepared it quickly”). Despite visiting at the hottest part of the day, the visitors were treated to remarkable hospitality by Abraham.

Their conversation then turns to Sarah. After years and years of waiting on God to fulfill his promise of a child, the promise now has an expiration date: “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” (v. 10) If this seems miraculous given Sarah’s barrenness (11:30), verse 11 shows us how an impossible situation has become even more impossible: not only is she barren, but she’s now far too old to bear a child. For Abraham and Sarah, who have long-since accepted her barrenness as the norm, the idea that one year from now they’ll have child seems ridiculous.

Which is why Sarah laughs (v. 12). It’s possible that Abraham never told her what God told him in 17:16, 19 and she’s hearing this for the first time. Regardless, she can’t help but laugh at the sheer impossibility of what she’s hearing and privately asks herself: “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

God’s ability to read and vocalize Sarah’s inner thoughts (v. 13) is a subtle reassurance of his power and therefore his ability to do what she thinks is impossible. After claiming not to have laughed, God assures her that she did, as if to say: “I’m able to read your thoughts. I’m also able to give you a child.” (v. 15)

This subtle reassurance is made explicit in verse 14: “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” Never has a more rhetorical question been asked! The obvious answer is, “Of course not!” “Simply to pose the question shows how ludicrous it is to think of the Lord in terms of human limitations.”[1] 

  • How did Abraham respond to the “inconvenience” of having visitors during his afternoon rest time? How do you typically respond to interruptions in your day to day life?
  • What are some practical ways that you can show hospitality to others?
  • Where in your life do you tend to “laugh” at God? (That is, what situations feel impossible or hopeless to you?)
  • Consider the following three promises God has made to believers today: to work all things together for our good (Romans 8:28); to complete the good work he began in us (Philippians 1:6), and to never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). What are some situations in life in which each of these promises might seem unbelievable? How can Genesis 18:14 encourage us to keep believing these promises in those situations?

 

MEMORIZE

Genesis 18:14 – “Is anything too hard for the LORD?”

Luke 1:37 – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”

Hebrews 13:2 – “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

 

[1] Joyce Baldwin, The Message of Genesis 12-50

 

Click here for a PDF of this discussion guide.