A narrative on Genesis 18 v. 1 – 4
As an author on preaching, a tutor on preaching, and a preacher – I am increasingly convinced that people hate to be preached at. However, like a musician’s notes or a poet’s words – story can find its way into the heart and change our minds. When this posts, at about 11am, I shall be retelling an old story and trusting that God will make it new.
Promises, promises, promises. Their lives had been lived on promises since the day when he had made them up sticks & leave their home. They had carried them like survival rations strapped to their bodies. The only trouble was they had run out of water to dilute them & now they were like dry dust – with no flavour & nothing to satisfy. The promises lingered now only like the faded clothes she wore or the ugly folds of skin that flapped about her neck.
Long since the promise of children had come and gone.In the end she’d made him go with Hagar – a vulgar girl; and now she hated all three of them for it. The girl was gone – banished to the desert. But the hurt remained like a sun-baked blister.
The sun was up now – high, high in the sky.He’d gone outside “for peace & quiet” he’d said – but she knew it wasn’t that way. Outside, even in the hottest sun, gave him some shade from her. Its so hard to share a disappointment agreeably. In the end its like hugging a thorn bush between you – it digs in and scratches, but you daren’t pull it way because the thorns are buried deep and it would only hurt more to remove it.
Hearing a shuffle of feet she snatched a glimpse out through the door of the tent and was greeted with the sight of her husband prostrate before three strangers. Years ago she would have smiled, but not now. Did he not know what a fool he looked? Had God not mocked them enough without Abram abasing himself like a common servant? Must he do this with every visitor, just in case this was ‘the one’ as he insisted on calling it? After kneading a little dough she turned away as servants were sent scurrying and a meal was prepared. Maybe she should have done it all herself. Maybe her younger self would have done. But not now, not now.
She sunk her face into the blackness of her thoughts & turned away. She was still turned when she heard her name mentioned by one of the strangers. His voice was clear and commanding, as Abram’s had been so many years ago. Edging closer to the flap she heard him say ‘this time next year Sarah will have a son”. Despite it all, she had to smile. Had Abram infected these strangers with his madness, she wondered? Had they picked up on his tale when her back was turned?
She suddenly had a picture of a very different scene outside the tent. There was music playing and she and Abram were dancing like bright young things The fire threw their whirling shadows across the sand and the baby was sleeping in the folds of a rug beside them. What nonsense! These days she could hardly walk, let alone dance. There would be no need for musicians with all the creaks her aching joints would provide.
Despite herself, she had to smile – maybe she’d not forgotten how to laugh after all. ‘Why did she laugh’ the stranger asked. Instantly the fire, the music, the sleeping baby was gone and she was back in the harsh reality of the present.She felt embarrassed, ashamed, and somehow naked before this stranger even with the tent walls between them.“I did not laugh” she said –but both knew it was not true.
Even after many failings, and some false starts – God brought back his ancient promise…(You can hear how things turned out here)