Word Study: Heard The Open Tent



Genesis 18:10: “And Sarah heard it in the tent door which was behind him.”

I was reading in one of the ancient rabbinical works this morning which is a Jewish commentary of this passage. It was noted that there was no preposition “in” in the original text before the word door. Thus Rabbi Shimon translated this as “Sarah heard the opening of the tent.” The word tent in Hebrew is ’ahal. This is simply a word that means a dwelling place. This is not your normal word, however, for a dwelling place. The word is spelled Aleph, Hei and Lamed and is used to indicate that this is a special dwelling place where one may receive a special revelation from God. What Rabbi Shimon is putting forth is that what Sarah heard was not the opening of the tent flap, but that she heard the Shekhinah, the opening of the divine realm. That is fancy rabbinical talk for what we Christians call hearing the voice of God’s Spirit. But a little more than that, it is almost like an opening to heaven, a portal.

In Acts 2:2 we learn that there came a sound from heaven. In the Greek it is literally translated as: “Suddenly there came a sound from heaven as being borne along by a violent wind.” The word sound in Greek is echos (bet you can guess what English word we get from that). It simply means a sound or noise, possibly a roaring noise like the wind. However, in the Aramaic the word used is qala which means a voice. It is almost like the heavens opened a voice came out, or we could call it a portal.

The point here, however, is that the message of Sarah having a child was clearly a message from heaven and yet she still found it hard to believe. That is quite amazing. She is 90 years old. Yeah, having a baby at that age is hard to believe, but consider the fact that she has walked with God for 90 years. In that time she has seen her share of the miraculous of God. Yet, when it directly concerned her, well that was a little difficult to accept.

I am sure you all heard the story of the great Wallenda who would not only walk on a tightrope across Niagara Falls, he would skip across on the tight rope, ride a bike, carry weights on his back and at one point he carried a table and chair, balanced it on the tight rope and had lunch. He performed these feats many, many times and people watched him many many times. When he asked the audience if he could carry a man on his back across the tight rope they all agreed and thought that would be nothing compared to the other feats he performed. Of course you know the rest of the story, when he asked for a volunteer, no one would volunteer. Faith is really easy for someone else. It is really easy to say to someone who is about to undergo life or death surgery that they can trust God, but not so easy for the person about to be put under. Ok, maybe some have that gift, but not me.

There is the story in Luke 1 of a man named Zacharias who was a priest. He was a man of God who faithfully served God. He and his wife prayed for years for a child, but it never happened. One day as Zacharias was alone in the temple, preparing incense, the Angel Gabriel appeared to him. He must have been some sight as Zacharias was filled with fear and fell face down on the floor. Yet the angel assured Zacharias that all was ok, in fact he had good news, he would soon be a father, he and his wife’s prayers would be answered. However, Zacharias and his wife were beyond the child bearing years. So here is an archangel who stood before the throne of God, appearing now before Zacarias and telling him his wife will have a child and what is Zacarias’s reaction. It is not a praise alleluia or even a yippee, he responds by saying: “Give me sign.” The angel responds: “I’m Gabriel for crying out loud, I come right from the throne of heaven. A sign he wants, so what am I, chopped liver?” The old boy was struck mute for his unbelief. I mean what more of a sign can God give. How much of a sign do you need to know God will fulfill His promise to you.

Today I am facing a difficult situation. I faced it in the past and God always came through, albeit at the eleventh hour, but He came through nonetheless. Yet once again I look at an impossible situation and I just don’t see how God can do anything about it.
When I look at myself, I begin to think that I should not be so hard on old Sarah and Zacharias. After many years of seeing God work in my life, experiencing his faithfulness, you would think that when I run up against some difficulty, it would be a simple matter to just trust in Him. But my friend, that is not so easy when the situation looks so hopeless in the natural.

I think the Talmud gives a little clue as to the problem. “A person is shown only what is reflected by his mind.” Berakhot 55b, Sarah and Zacharias were being given something that seemed impossible and because they would not let their minds go beyond the natural realm, they could not be shown the true wonder that God would perform. They could only be shown what was reflected in their own minds. Unless we allow our minds to move beyond the natural world, God will not be able to show us the greater work that He plans to accomplish. Sometimes we just have to believe God for the impossible.

Every word He’s promised is true
What I thought was impossible
I seen my God do.
He’s been faithful to me.
Looking back His love and mercy I see
Although in my heart I have questions
Even fail to believe
Yet, He’s been faithful to me. – Damaris Carbaugh