The Last Laugh – Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:2-3,5-6

LastLaugh“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ … So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac….Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.'” (Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:2-3,5-6, NASB).

The name Isaac means, “He laughs.” And, each time the verb “laugh” is used in these verses, it is a wordplay on the name “Isaac.” So, this extraordinary and somewhat humorous story of the miraculous birth of Isaac is actually a story of who gets the last laugh!

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When God Pays You A Visit – Genesis 18

JesusAtTheDoor“Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him…He said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son’…Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?…Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, ‘Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’” (Genesis 18:1-2,10,16-18,22-23,25, NASB).

Genesis 18 is a critical juncture, a pivotal point, in biblical history in my view. It’s a theological nexus that reveals the link between God’s mercy and wrath, between human rebellion and redemption. And it does so in a most dramatic and memorable way. Three defining moments occur in this chapter that reinforce the interaction between mercy and wrath, rebellion and redemption: 1) the announcement of the birth of Isaac; 2) the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; and 3) God’s restraint for Lot and his family.

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Can It Be Ishmael? – Genesis 17:18

“So Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael were acceptable to You!'” (Genesis 17:18, HCSB).

Ishmael was Abraham’s son by Hagar, his wife’s servant. Ishmael’s birth was planned by Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as a way to have children in order to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham: “Now the word of the Lord come to him… ‘One who comes from your own body will be your heir… Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous'” (Genesis 15:4-5, HCSB).

Since Sarah was old and had not borne Abraham a child, she offered her Egyptian servant to Abraham so that they could have a child by her.

Abraham consented to a marital arrangement taking Hagar as his second wife when he was 85 years old. Customs of the time dictated that any child conceived by Hagar would belong to Sarah and Abraham.

When Ishmael was thirteen years old, God reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham and decreed that male circumcision would be the sign or seal of this covenant. Then God informed Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, who he was instructed to name Isaac. God told Abraham that He would establish his covenant through Isaac.

When Abraham inquired as to Ishmael’s role, God answered that Ishmael has been blessed and that He “will make him fruitful, and will multiply him greatly… and I will make him into a great nation” (vs. 20).

Abraham was ninety-nine and Sarah was ninety when God made this promise!

Naturally, Abraham was skeptical and he instead proposed to God that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian slave, be the acceptable heir of God’s promise.

When my youngest son was just a toddler, he was fascinated by sirens and emergency vehicles. Whenever we would see an ambulance, fire truck, or police car rushing to the scene of an accident with sirens blaring, he would ask, “Can we be them?”

Now I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the question but assumed he wanted permission to pretend to be the people riding in the emergency vehicle. Not wanting to stifle the child’s imagination, I always answered in the affirmative!

“Yes, Son, we can be them!”

Abraham seemed to be asking God a similar question in this verse…

“Can it be Ishmael?”

Can we do this covenant on the pretense that the promises you have made to me are fulfilled through Ishmael?

Twenty-five years had passed since God told Abraham to go to the land of Canaan and almost fifteen years since God had promised him a biological heir. Abraham was now an elderly man who seemed to have God’s plans and purposes for his life behind him.

So, it would be much more convenient if it could be Ishmael.

And therein, lies the difference between our schemes and God’s plans.

Our schemes are always void of God’s supernatural intervention into our lives. Our schemes are usually a convenient pretense of God’s will.

Like Abraham, we want to make counter-proposals to God in which He accepts our will and what’s convenient for us as His will and we avoid the stress of obedience.

But God was undaunted by Abraham’s well-intended suggestion regarding Ishmael.

And God is not deterred from working His will through us when we obey as precipitously and precisely as did Abraham the light that God gives us regarding His plans for our lives: “He circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, just as God had said to him (vs. 23).

“The one who does God’s will remains forever” (1 John 2:17, HCSB).

The One Who Sees and Hears You- Genesis 16:11,13

“And the angel also said, You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means God hears), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress…Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, You are the God who sees me.” Sarah, Abraham’s wife, gave Hagar, her servant, to Abraham as a concubine so that she would have Abraham’s child as was the social custom for a barren wife. God had promised Abraham and Sarah they would have a son and and the number of their descendants would be as numerous as the stars (vs. 15:5). Because they were both elderly (Abraham was 99 and Sarah was ten years younger), they were skeptical that God’s promise could be fulfilled through them so they tried to work it out themselves. When Hagar became pregnant, she began to treat Sarah with contempt. In return Sarah treated Hagar harshly and Hagar ran away. Hagar was beside a spring of water when an angel of the Lord appeared to her and told her to return and submit to Sarah and promised that her son, whom she would name Ishmael, would also have more descendants than she could count (vs. 15:9). Hagar named the well Beer-lahai-roi, which means “well of the Living One who sees me.” The name of the well and the name, Ishmael, which means “God hears” were reminders to Abraham and Sarah that God sees affliction and hears the cries of those in need. Sarah and Abraham should have asked God for help (as did their son Isaac in Genesis 25:21) rather than taking the fulfillment of God’s promise into their own hands. What seems like impossible difficulties can be resolved through God’s intervention. God sees the difficulties and hears the cry of the afflicted and can miraculously resolve the problem. God is the One Who Sees and Hears you. He sees your difficulty and hears your cries for help and He will answer and intervene on your behalf.