The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot. Looking up, Abraham saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground, he said: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”
There is so much symbolism in these few words of scripture.
This is one of those moments where an Old Testament encounter foreshadows the truth of the Holy Trinity revealed in Jesus. That is something great in and of itself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit come to Abraham’s camp and God is revealed as He is.
God is acting as if He is passing through. Abraham feels the presence of God and extends hospitality. He asks nothing more than that the Lord stay awhile. We can certainly understand and connect with that. We want God present and active in our lives. Lord, just stay with me awhile. Take hold of me. Abraham states it in words we might use: “Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.”
The terebinth of Mamre is a large oak tree. Terebinth is translated oak. We know that is where Abraham established his camp. The oak – symbolic of strength, courage and power – the most powerful of all trees, the mighty oak stands strong through all things. We desire God as our strength. Hold me up Lord, support me, and guide me through al things.
Abraham had their feet washed. He ran to Sarah and asked her to prepare bread. He had a servant prepare meat. He ran to fetch curds and milk – Abraham brought both fresh milk (probably from the camels) and sour milk (from the sheep – which is particularly refreshing in a hot climate), and this with the cakes and the calf made a stately meal. With noble courtesy he waited on them under the tree while they ate. We want to serve God in our charity towards others and through our worship.
This is most particularly a beautiful, heartwarming, and comforting encounter between man and God. Very appropriate for the season too; Abraham was trying to catch a little rest and coolness as the day grew hotter. Suddenly God was there, at Abraham’s doorstep. Key to us is God’s desire to encounter and be with us; to refresh us. Our God visits His people – not through weird visions and a Jesus with rays beaming out of Him – but in a very real way. He is with us in our homes, on the road, in good times and tragedy. He is not, as the song states, ‘looking on from a distance.’ Rather, God is revealed, present and active, strong and supportive, alive in all we serve. Not far. Here as He is!