In our look at the Trinity in Scripture, we will return to the Angel of the Lord, but another encounter comes before the Angel of the Lord returns and for the Trinitarian, it is one of the most intriguing encounters of Scripture and quite amazing considering it happens so early in the Scripture when we wouldn’t necessarily expect highly developed theology. (At least, not from the liberal point of view.)
Tonight, we will look at Genesis 18. In this passage, Abraham is visited by three visitors. However, as Abraham approaches, he does not address them as “My lords”, but rather “My lord.” (For those concerned about my lower-case, I am going by what my translation has at this point and I agree as I do not believe the identity of these men is yet known.) However, when he describes what he plans to do, the men answer as a whole.
However, when we get to verse 9, we see the LORD being capitalized and asking where his Abraham’s wife Sarah is. Now it could be that this was simply something said in discussion sometime on the part of Abraham, but it could be that this is capped at this point in a translation like the NIV because knowing the name of Sarah indicates some divine foreknowledge. To add to that if such is the case, a prophecy is made and a rather remarkable one, that Sarah in her old age will have a son.
When Sarah asks, we are told that the LORD asked why she laughed. Is there anything that is too hard for the LORD? He promises that he will return at an appointed time next year and that at that time, Sarah will have a son. It could be that the person is speaking of himself in an honorofic sense, or it could be that in saying the LORD, the LORD is referring to another one who is the LORD.
We are told that the men rose up and Abraham was walking with them as they looked at Sodom and Gomorrah and the view switches to simply, the LORD speaking. He asks himself in the text if he should hide from Abraham was he is about to do and says in verse 19:
For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”
Notice that the LORD says he has chosen him, but yet, there is another spoken of as the LORD. Could it be simply the LORD speaking of himself in a glorious sense, or could it be instead that something else is going on in this text?
20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Notice in this passage that the LORD says that the outcry has reached him. This would refer to prayer, so the person speaking here is one who is hearing the prayers of the people who are crying out for help against Sodom and Gomorrah.
Abraham bargains with God over the cities and our last text here will be 23-25:
23 Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked? 24 What if there are fifty righteous people in the city? Will you really sweep it away and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty righteous people in it? 25 Far be it from you to do such a thing—to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating the righteous and the wicked alike. Far be it from you! Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?”
Apparently, Abraham has some understanding of who this is and points to his holiness and goodness and then indicates that this figure is the judge of all the earth, quite an eschatological statement for our first book of the Bible, and says “Will not you do right?”
What is going on?
Some of this will have to wait till our post on chapter 19, but I do not believe the three men represent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Instead, I believe that the LORD in this passage is God the Son. I say this because John 1:18 makes it clear that no one has seen God, in reference to the Father, at any time. Further reasons will be brought out as we look at chapter 19.
For now, keep this passage in your mind as it is the necessary predecssor to what happens in chapter 19, where we will see a quite startling text for a monotheistic faith.