Two things I want to say and then I will step back and let you read this passage in its entirety. First, I am using it as preface to the comments I want to make about the other Old Testament passage. Second, notice that the Lord appeared to Moses as three men – a Trinity!
“The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.
He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, “My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little 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 hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, “Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.” Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and 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 your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” Then one said, “I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.” (Genesis 18:1-10a)
When I read the Old Testament passages for this week, I had the same dilemma as before – which one to choose?! But as I sat thinking about the both, the time that they happened in the history of the called and chosen people, and the people involved . . . . I thought about how God’s people had come from first being called. And it was not in a good way. Listen to the prophet Amos.
“This is what the Lord GOD showed me–a basket of summer fruit. He said, “Amos, what do you see?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come upon my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.” (Amos 8:1 – 2)
The Divine came to Abraham, sought him out I am guessing; and Abraham recognized the Lord God in the manifestation that approached him. Abraham offered hospitality, and it was readily accepted. Abraham did well.
By the time of Amos the people of Israel had so gone astray that the Divine was no longer going to come near them. The Divine’s Holy Presence would be removed from them . . . according to Amos.
“The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,” says the Lord GOD; “the dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!”
Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the Sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” (Verses 3 – 6)
Abraham offered the best that he had, and offered it gladly. Now to be far, Abraham recognized that these three men were not as they appeared. He knew he was in the presence of something beyond his own human experience. It was not the first time. So he had the advantage there.
The people of Israel in Amos’ time did not pay honor and respect to the traditions of their forebearers. The stories of Abraham and other that came down to them were not heeded or internalized. May be if the Divine had come to them as the Lord God came to Abraham their response would have been different. I am reminded of Jesus’ statement that if one has compassion on the least of these . . . . But compassion seems to be unknown by the people Amos is speaking of.
“The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt? On that day, says the Lord GOD, I will make the sun go down at noon, and darken the earth in broad daylight.
I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on all loins, and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son, and the end of it like a bitter day.
The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.” (Verses 7 – 12)
To Abraham the Divine brought the promise of new life, and the beginning of a nation that would be called the people of God. To the people that Amos addresses, the news is of mourning and death, being parted from the Lord God and left to wander in emptiness.
What happened in those intervening years? Well, we can read the bible and learn the stories. But does that answer the question as to how the people of Israel so changed from who they used to be? The reason this is an important question is because I have seen humanity change. How did that change come about? How wide spread is the change? And, can humanity change back to the compassionate and caring members of society that they once were? Or . . . . am I remembering a time that never was? If it never was, does that mean it will never be?
We are on the cusp, beloved reader, of being the very fulfillment of the story of the people of Israel and Judah. And that scares me! Let us all seek within ourselves shalom, and offer it to others! Selah!