Sarah laughed. She really couldn’t help herself. She had heard something remarkable; no, she’d heard something impossible. That’s the danger of being an eavesdropper, of trying to satisfy curiosity with the strain of the ear toward a conversation. In such a case, one can never be quite sure as to what will be heard.
A promise was what Sarah heard, a promise spoken to Abraham, her husband, a promise that directly involved her. “The Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son’” (Genesis 18:10).
Just to experience the joy of the marriage bed would be miracle enough she thought. “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (See Genesis 18:12).
A Plot Gone Awry
A little background information may help us understand the reason behind Sarah’s giggles. At this time, Abraham was 99 years old; Sarah was 90. Her barrenness was something she had long endured. It was the reason behind her scheme to bring an heir into the home through one of her maidservants.
Sarah contrived the very plot that involved Hagar. To muddy matters even further, the presence of Hagar in Abraham’s house is tied to his own obfuscation. He used a half-truth about Sarah as a means of protection for himself as he travelled with his beautiful wife.
The couple agreed to present Sarah as his sister, which she really was, being the daughter of his father, but not the daughter of his mother (see Genesis 20:12). This way Abraham would not be killed and Sarah stolen away into a ruler’s harem.
This secret got a real test in Egypt, where the Pharaoh saw Sarah and sought to add her to his collection of women. Abraham was paid off in a way: “And for her sake [Pharaoh] dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, male donkeys, male servants, female servants, female donkeys, and camels” (Genesis 12:16). Pharaoh’s household, however, fell under a plague, and he came to understand that Sarah and her marriage to Abraham was the reason behind it.
So the ruler sent them away and Hagar went along for the ride.
Sarah convinced Abraham to take the maid as a sort of surrogate wife. Through Hagar, Sarah would discover motherhood and raise a boy to take over leadership of the family.
The cultural context of that time blew up the arrangement. A wife’s inability to conceive was viewed as a supernatural curse related to one of the parties in the marriage. Hagar became pregnant at once and, thus, she despised Sarah, seeing her mistress as the cursed one among them. This all served to stir a load of tension into the family.
The contention grew so strong that Hagar fled from the home. In the wilderness, she was met by the Angel of the Lord. What an interesting encounter this is to read about. God shows Himself to Hagar of all people. Remember, however, that God also showed Himself to Cain after he slew Abel.
The Father of all mercies came to meet a woman in distress, a woman whose pride and contempt had gotten her into trouble. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me’” (Genesis 16:13).
Hagar was to be the mother to Abraham’s first son. She would go on to give birth to Ishmael, whose history as a wild man with wild descendants is a whole story in itself.
Help for Unbelief
All of these things had to have been upon Sarah’s mind and heart as she listened to what the Lord told Abraham. Was God playing a joke on her? Perhaps that was her thought, and she came to find the whole thing all too humorous.
The Lord was serious about it, however – so serious that He played along with her. The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
A bit fearful, Sarah denied laughing. “No, but you did laugh,” the Lord answered. Here, I can see the Lord saying this with a smile and picturing the very day when she would hold her son.
Isaac – laughter – would be the name given to this son of promise. His coming would mark the beginning of a great joke that the Lord would play on this world and its ruler. From a handful of dust He would make man in His image. From a barren woman came a baby in her old age. From this little family we can draw the line of descent to the Son of God, to the Savior of the world: “… Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham” and Sarah.
The story began with a promise and a chuckle. It will climax with praises and shouts and glory.
Let us have a kind opinion of Sarah. Don’t belittle her for her moments of unbelief.The Lord is with us. There’s nothing too hard for Him. He sees us in our wildernesses and he sees us on our mountaintops. He is the very present God of our now. The past is the past, and the future is yet to come. Click To Tweet
Don’t we have such moments? Don’t we laugh at what God says He will do? It is all too easy for the Gospel story to become familiar to us. We have heard the promises related to His coming. We read them and wonder, “How long, Lord, how long?”
Yes, we have been waiting quite some time for the Lord to answer in victory. We suffer through political struggles, natural disasters, family squabbles, plagues and problems and poverty and oppressions.
Consider this: the Lord made the promise to Abraham and Sarah en route to Sodom and Gomorrah. Judgment was coming to those places, just as judgment will come upon this world as it is today.
In the midst of this mission, the Lord stopped to visit Abraham and Sarah. He paused for a time at their table and to reaffirm His purpose for this couple, a husband and wife who had left everything behind in answer to the call of God.
The Lord is with us. There’s nothing too hard for Him. He sees us in our wildernesses and he sees us on our mountaintops. He is the very present God of our now. The past is the past, and the future is yet to come. We have these moments. Let’s laugh it up as He helps our unbelief. Let’s rejoice in the Lord always for His time is drawing near.