Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jul 15 2011 - E100.8a – Genesis 21:1-7, Laughter

In Genesis 17:17 we read that, after God had confirmed that Sarah would soon bear him a child, "Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, 'shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'" We can imagine the scene with Abraham rolling around on the ground in a fit of helpless laughter at the preposterous suggestion that such a thing should be.

Later, in Genesis 18:9-15 we read of the Lord visiting Abraham and speaking with him as he sits outside his tent. Abraham is now told that about this time next year Sarah will bear him a son. Sarah, who is listening from within the tent, laughs at this suggestion. It just seems plain ridiculous. But the Lord repeats his promise, saying, "Is anything too hard for the Lord?" (18:14).

In chapter 21 we read of the birth of the promised and long-awaited child. He is called "Isaac", as the Lord had instructed in 17:19. The name means, "He laughed", or perhaps, "laughter". It is to be a reminder to Abraham and Sarah of their laughter of disbelief; but that is only half of the significance of the name. With the naming of the child, Sarah says, "God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me... Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? [The Lord had said it – several times!] Yet I have borne him a son in his old age" (21:6-7). His name is also expressive of the overflowing joy of his parents who not only have a son, but who also know that God can be trusted to do what he has promised.

The laughter of disbelief has been turned into the laughter of joy – and a joy that shall be shared with all whom they meet. What seemed a ludicrous suggestion has become a reality because nothing is too hard for the Lord.

Almighty God, I confess that there are times when I doubt your word and am tempted to laugh with disbelief at some of you promises. Forgive my small views of you, Lord. Teach me to see that nothing is too difficult for you. Turn my doubting laughter into overflowing joy – a joy that I may readily share with others.

Peter Misselbrook