Avraham and God were sitting in the shade of the tent flap, talking. God was in the process of telling Avraham something important. Maybe it was the meaning of the universe; maybe it was how to accomplish a lasting world peace. Whatever they were discussing, while God was mid-sentence Avraham said, “Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, please wait right here for your servant.” (Gen 18:3) Then he walked away from God. Imagine the effrontery. This is the Creator of the Universe. This is the One that promised you a son in your old age. This is God. And Avraham chooses to walk away from him during a conversation? Moreover, he even asks the Lord of Armies to wait for him. What could cause one of the most righteous followers of God in history to do such a thing?
He saw three travelers. That is it. That is all. God was just going to have to wait while he went to wait on three hot, weary, dusty, smelly wanderers. And God let him. God waited while he slaughtered, dressed, and cooked a calf. God sat and watched Sarah bake bread. God calmly sat by while Avraham stood waiting on these three guests until they were done eating a sumptuous meal. The God of gods, who was about to tell one of his few followers that his nephew was facing certain destruction, waited while a simple man played host to some travelers.
Why? Why did God not tell Avraham to hurry, he had something important to say? Why did he not just roast the calf with a word? Why did he not tell Avraham that if he set one foot out of the shade of the tent he would smite him dead? Maybe it was because God is patient. Even more, maybe it was because Avraham was doing what he had to do and still claim to be a follower of God.
Hospitality was a part of who Abraham was. It was his nature. God knew this, and admired it. Hospitality, a lover of strangers, was important to Abraham, because it was important to God. How did he know that these three were really angels of God? How could he know that God may even have had them appear at just that moment? He didn’t and he couldn’t. The scripture doesn’t even make it clear that Abraham ever knew that these three were not mere men.
We can know that if Abraham had not done just as he did, God would have been displeased. We can suspect, even, that this was a test. Even after all that Abraham did, God still asked the travelers if he should tell Abraham what would happen. (Gen 18:17-19) It was apparently Abraham’s hospitality that showed God that he would truly merit being the father of many people.
There are those today who are not children of Abraham. There is the person who passes someone on the road in obvious need of help, just because it might make him “late for church.” A friend says that the only time he can study Bible with you is on Sunday morning, so you say you just can’t do it (or, almost as bad, just ask him to go with you). Worship is important. Assembling with the saints is supremely important (Heb 10:24-25) But God understood when Abraham walked away from him to serve others. God created us for good works. (Eph 2:10) What would he think if we refused to do what we were created for, and used him as an excuse? He commands otherwise. “Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matt 5:24) Hospitality is greater than mere worship. Hospitality is one of the greatest forms of worship.