Three visitors come to share good news with Abraham, but someone overhears and reacts in a way that reveals the truth in their heart.
This sermon is based on Genesis 18:9-15.
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*not a word for word transcript, but the sermon manuscript*
I DIDN’T DO THAT
Text: Genesis 18:9-15
Early in my ministry I was tasked with teaching youth group on Wednesday nights and the teen Sunday School class on Sunday mornings. One Wednesday night, I had ended the service with candles for some reason. The lighter remained in the youth room for Sunday School that week. That Sunday my younger brother, Travis, happened to be home from college. At the conclusion of class, it was only natural for me to do something to harass him.
I grabbed the lighter and decided that I would light it right behind his ear. The plan was for him to feel the heat and generate an entertaining reaction for myself and the students still in the room. I did not factor in that Travis had come dressed ready for church, meaning his hair should have come with an EPA warning. When I ignited the lighter the small flame shot off like something from Super Mario Brothers. The flame met Travis’s product conditioned hair and extinguished into a puff of smoke that rolled up the side of his head and vanished into the ceiling. Imagine the opposite of what happened on Pentecost.
Travis was like, “did you just light my hair on fire?” “No,” I responded as I pushed the lighter into my pocket. The students in the room were like, “Yes, you did! We saw it!” “No, you must be hallucinating,” I replied as I left the room. Everyone saw what happened and knew the truth, but I denied it because I did not want to get in trouble.
Our text today has a similar element to it. Three visitors arrive to meet with Abraham. They share good news with him, only someone else overhears. That person’s reaction will be our focus.
READING OF THE TEXT
9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” Abraham answered. 10 The LORD said, “I will certainly come back to you in about a year’s time, and your wife Sarah will have a son!” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were old and getting on in years. Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. 12 So she laughed to herself: “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I have delight?” 13 But the LORD asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I’m old?’ 14 Is anything impossible for the LORD?’ At the appointed time I will come back to you, and in about a year she will have a son.” 15 Sarah denied it. “I did not laugh,” she said, because she was afraid. But he replied, “No, you did laugh.” (CSB)
(v9-10) God talks with Abraham
God has promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, in chapter 12 when God called Abraham to leave behind his father and go to a land only God knew. Time passed, enough for Abraham to begin to doubt, so God mentions the promise again in chapter 15. Now, these three visitors arrive to tell Abraham that he would have a son.
While there are three visitors who meet with Abraham, reading the text you will notice one of these visitors. In verse 9 the group asks, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And verse 10, the CSB has as “the LORD” because this one seems to know the intimate details of the covenant between God and Abraham. This was a very patriarchal period, while the wife’s name may have been known, it was uncommon for men to be concerned about the whereabouts of another man’s wife. The group, especially one visitor, care enough to ask.
(v11-12) Sarah overhears God
Sarah was not far; she was listening at the door. She overhears the visitor labeled “the LORD” say to Abraham, “Your wife will have a son.” Whether Sarah knew of God’s promise to Abraham (and her too) before this point can debated, but just because one spouse may believe does not mean the other shares in it.
When Sarah hears the good news shared with her husband, she laughs. Abraham is ninety-nine years old at this point, Sarah is old herself. Through the natural processes of life, certain things change. The probability of conception at this point is highly unlikely. Impossible by human standards. While this was God’s promise, the improbability of reality drowned it out. So, Sarah laughs.
Presence of God
Verse 13, in most English translations, recognize these words belonging to “the LORD.” God is visible as one of the visitors have a conversation with Abraham. This is what is called a theophany, and some consider this what is called a pre-Christophany. In the New Testament, when Jesus appears after His resurrection it is called a Christophany. There are some instances in the Old Testament when God visibly appears that it can be argued as being Jesus pre-incarnate.
The LORD hears Sarah laugh. But what is also known by Him is the thoughts and heart behind Sarah’s laugh. “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Can I really have a baby when I am old?’” God knew her response was from unbelief. He corrects her by asking, “Is anything impossible for God?”
Denial of Sarah
God calls out Sarah for laughing. Her response to God in this moment is how we know it is not a chuckle that is taking the LORD at His word. In verse 15, Sarah says, “I did not laugh.” She attempted cover up sin. The Bible tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please God,” (Hebrews 11:6) anything that falls short of God’s standard is sin. Sarah responded to her sin being found out before God with the typical human response. Denial and cover-up. Essentially, trying to cover up sin with more sin.
First, God rebukes her laugh in verse 13. When Sarah attempts to deny and hide her unbelief, God does not let it slide. He immediately called Sarah’s sin for what it was. No matter how much she denied it, God heard it and He would not let Sarah brush off the truth.
How does this apply to you and me? Hebrews 4:13 says, “No creature is hidden from God, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” In other words, God is all-knowing. His eyes see the truth in every situation, the external and internal. Not only does God see our sinful actions and reactions, but He knows the intentions and attitudes from where the originated.
When I lit Travis’s hair on fire, I did my best to deny it happened, but Travis experienced it and the students were witnesses. Sarah laughed because of her unbelief, then tried to tell God, “I didn’t do that.” We can put on a show for others that can fool them, but God sees through all our smoke and mirrors. You and I can stretch the truth, even lie, as much as we want. However, God does not buy it, nor will He allow the truth to be brushed off.
Again, the reason you and I do that is because when our holy God confronts our sin with truth, we are afraid of getting in trouble. Adam and Eve responded that way in the garden, the rest of us have followed their example. In our minds we know God is just and will not allow sin to go unpunished, and the punishment for sin is death. With this image of God, we think denial and cover-up is our best option.
But doing this ignores one important characteristic of God. Yes, God is holy and just. However, God is loving and forgiving. Jesus already paid the punishment for sin in its entirety, and by his blood we are forgiven. No matter what the sin, God wants to forgive us. When He confronts our sin, it is not from a desire to punish us, it is out of His love that wants to humble ourselves. “Humble yourselves before God, and he will exalt you.” (James 1:9) It is fear of God’s wrath that leads to denial and cover-up, dragging down into the pit of guilt and shame. That heart laughs out of unbelief, hides the lighter in a pocket, and says to God, “I didn’t do that.” The humble heart looks into the mirror and accepts the truth. In humility, we must look in the face of God and admit our actions and reactions were sin. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
The type of worship God desires is for us to worship Him in spirit and truth. Humility and honesty are the way of holiness, the way we must live to worship God in spirit and truth. If there is any unbelief in us, that is not of God and is displeasing to Him. God does not want to punish you or me for unbelief, He wants us to confess it to Him so we can experience His grace and mercy. No matter what the sin is, you and I cannot get away with, “I didn’t do that.” The good news is we do not have to try. Should we confess whatever it is to God, He says to us, “For I will forgive your wrongdoing, and I will never again remember your sin.” (Hebrews 8:12)