“And the LORD appeared to [Abraham] 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 favour 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 of 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.’ 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 them.”
This is a rather curious account. The Lord appeared to Abraham as three men. When He speaks, it first says “they said,” then it says “the LORD said.” I want to say this is a clear indication of the Holy Trinity, for why else would the Lord appear to Abraham as three men with three men somehow speaking as one voice? At the same time, while they speak to Abraham and then the LORD speaks to him, Abraham speaks only to one of them. This would speak to the reality of the Trinitarian Godhead as one Being. I know one of the rules I’ve made for myself for this Pastoral Thoughts series was not to consult any commentaries, but I had to see what Luther had to say about these verses.
Luther spends significant time talking about Abraham’s lesson of hospitality here, but Luther also makes a noteworthy remark about the Trinity. In his lecture, he has a rather lengthy argument about whether or not the Church Fathers used this Scripture as proof of Abraham’s knowledge of the Trinity and whether they were correct in their interpretations. He concludes, “Concerning the testimony of the saintly fathers one must assuredly declare that they were right in stating that because God appeared in these three persons, Abraham had a knowledge of the Trinity from this appearance; for this argument is rhetorical and persuasive, yes, even profitable, after the foundations of the Trinity have been laid on the basis of other passages of Scripture” (AE 3:195; emphasis mine). Such passages include Matthew 3:13-17; 28:19; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:1-3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; 1 John 5:7-8; etc.
Yet, once again, this is not my main focus for my thoughts; it’s merely a fascinating detail. Rather, my focus is, as usual, on God’s promise. Previously, we’ve seen God repeat His promise that He would make Abraham into a great nation by the oaks of Moreh and Mamre. Recently in the story, God promised Abraham He would give him a son in 17:17-21. Just as God repeated His promise of fecundity to Abraham by the oaks of Moreh and Mamre, so God repeats His promise again by the oaks of Mamre that He would give him his firstborn son, Isaac.
Time and time again, we’re seeing God repeat His promise to Abraham. Therefore, I repeat the same lesson from a previous pastoral thought:
But what about us? We certainly need constant reminding of God’s promise to us as well. Is there somewhere we can go, like Abram’s altars by the oaks of Moreh and Mamre, that we can remember God’s promise to us? There is! It’s a little 6-lettered word called church. If you go to church regularly, you can probably recall your pastor calling you to remember your Baptism, and hopefully you receive the Lord’s Supper regularly as well.
Having your baptismal promise and receiving that promise repeatedly in the Eucharist can never be done too often. God’s promise always bears worth repeating, for we are forgetful creatures.Pastor’s Thoughts – The Oaks of Moreh & Mamre: God Repeats His Promise (Genesis 12:6-7; 13:14-18)
There’s a reason why you always hear your pastor (hopefully) calling you to remember God’s promise in Christ, your Baptism, and the Eucharist—because His promise always bears worth repeating. You might get sick of hearing the same-old Law/Gospel paradigm in your pastor’s sermon, but it always bears worth repeating because we always forget that God has already fulfilled His promise in Christ and that His promise depends not on your meagre works or limited human understanding but solely on Christ alone.
Theology Terms Used
- Holy Trinity: God is one Being yet three Persons. This is not a mathematical existence but a mysterious ontological one in which human reason is incapable of comprehending.
- Ontology: the nature of one’s existence.
Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works. Vol. 3: Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 15-20. Ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999.