It was not her habit to eavesdrop, but when Abraham ran into the tent and said, “Sarah, get out your best flour and bake three loaves of bread, and hurry!,” when she heard him calling the servants to quickly slaughter and prepare their best calf, she was curious. Who were these men who had appeared out of nowhere, and why was Abraham so eager to give them the royal treatment?
Abraham had been sitting at the door of his tent. It was the hottest part of the day, and he had leaned back, eyes half closed, enjoying the shade. The three figures appeared in the distance, blurred by the shimmer of the hot sun on the horizon, and though Abraham could not make out their features, he knew these were not mere men.
Not long before, God had come with unexpected news and a timeline. Specifics, at last. Abraham did not know the occasion of this visit. Was there more?
He ran out to meet them. Bowing himself low to the ground, he said, “My Lord, if it pleases you, stop here for a while.” He gestured toward his tent nestled in the grove of oaks. “Rest here in the shade, while water is brought to wash your feet.”
As he ushered them into the shade, Abraham said, “Since you’ve honored your servant with this visit, let me prepare some food to refresh you before you continue on your journey.”
“Do as you you wish,” they replied.
Abraham hurried to make preparations for a small feast, looking back over his shoulder to make sure the men were still there.
He returned and served the men himself, from trays piled high with milk, cheese, sweet figs, dates, and the meat roasted with savory spices. In the tent behind them, Sarah hovered near the door, observing them through the narrow slit as they ate.
“Where is Sarah, your wife?,” they asked.
Sarah backed away quickly, as Abraham pointed behind them. “There, inside the tent,” he said. The men did not even glance in her direction, but leaned towards Abraham. Sarah inched forward again, straining to hear.
One of the men said, “I will come again, about this time next year. At that time your wife, Sarah, will have a son.”
An involuntary laugh rushed to her lips, and Sarah clapped her hand over her mouth. They had to be joking! Her husband was old. His son by Hagar was already thirteen! She looked down at her own body and shook her head. This body was too old to have a baby. But even as she thought these things, she felt a tiny flicker of hope.
Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”
Behind the tent door Sarah gasped, and Abraham was speechless. But the Lord was not waiting for an answer.
“Why did she say she was too old to have a baby? Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Then he repeated, “I will come again this time next year, just as I said, and Sarah will have a son.”
Then Sarah, afraid and ashamed that they had heard her thoughts, blurted out, “I didn’t laugh!”
But the Lord answered, “I know that is not true. You did laugh.”
Sarah blushed a deep crimson and said no more. She was relieved when the men finally got up to leave. They headed towards Sodom, and Abraham accompanied them as far as the promontory overlooking the lush Jordan valley.
In the cool darkness of the tent Sarah hugged herself and whispered, “A son — this time next year … .”
But a lot can happen in a year.
What came before:
What Sarah Did Not Know
What happened next:
Up In Smoke | A Lot Can Happen in a Year
Note: Though I try to remain faithful to the events and characters as described in the Bible, I take some liberties where the Bible is silent, especially regarding what the characters might have thought or felt. I encourage you to read the original story to separate fact from fiction.