This week I’ve been studying out of the new DVD and Discovery Guide Israel’s Mission (Review coming Thursday), and I’ve been kind of shaken by an imagery that I didn’t even know existed. I love when a DVD or a book can help me to make a new connection, and since I saw this connection mentioned several places online, I thought I might as well share it with you guys.
In Genesis 18, Abraham and Sarah are visited by three strangers. When they are visited, Abraham comes running out in the heat of the day to meet the visitors and he offers them a very welcome and generous brand of hospitality.
He has a calf killed for dinner, has Sarah take 3 measures of the finest flour to make cakes and pulls out the butter and the milk to treat his visitors with. This is the essence of hospitality. We actually studied this in the children’s history program about 3 weeks ago, and one of contrasts they make was the hospitality of Abraham with the lack of hospitality the visitors received in Sodom.
The one thing that I’ve never failed to see is how much flour is involved in the word “3 measures” of flour. The measure of flour involved is called a seah, Although there are different interpretations to how a seah should be measured, I found that for the standard interpretation of seah, a seah measures almost 30 cups of flour. That means that the 3 seahs worth of flour that Sarah made for the three strangers would be 90 cups of flour. That’s enough bread for 100 people.
The reason why this hospitality actually stood out to me, however, is because I’ve been reading the book of Matthew. In this book, we read Jesus saying, in Matthew 13:33:
Another parable spake he unto them: The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.
Did you know that Jesus is referencing Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality? It’s unmistakably a reference because this parable (and the parallel passage in Luke) are the only places in the New Testament where this specific measure is mentioned. The only time three seahs of flour are mentioned in the Jewish scriptures is where Sarah is to use the 3 seahs to make cakes for the strangers.
So, I have to say that I was amazed at learning this because I now understand why that parable is placed next to the mustard seed parable. A tiny bit of leaven spreads throughout three large measures of flour and leavens it all!
So, why is this important? (To begin with, every word of the scriptures is important) However, here are two reasons:
- The leaven itself spreading through the 3 seahs of flour reminds us of the inevitable spread of God’s coming reign. Just like the yeast, it starts very small, and we can’t see how it works, but we know it does work and that it spreads and effects the entire batch of flour.
- The reference to Abraham and Sarah gives us an idea of the nature of this kingdom. Just as Abraham and Sarah’s actions toward the three strangers is compassionate and concerned, when God’s will is done, either here on earth or in the life to come, we are compassionate and concerned about others. We act out of a generous desire to fulfill the needs and to welcome others into our lives.
So, what’s a detail that stands out to you about Abraham and Sarah? Or about the parable of the leaven?