Summary: The promise of Isaac's birth to an aged Sarah and Abraham brings laughter
Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7 “True to His Word”
A few weeks ago we talked about faith. From the perspective of Hebrews 11 we learned that faith was “the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen. I pointed out that this is not an illogical faith—one that needs to believe the story of Jonah was a historical occurrence. Rather this is a radical faith in something we cannot prove e.g. God’s love or presence in the world today.
Today we are going to look at faith from the perspective of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of Isaac. We will discover that there are other elements to this thing called faith.
William Carey, who began the Christian missionary efforts to India in the 1790’s is credited with coining one of my favorite quotes, "EXPECT GREAT THINGS FROM GOD. ATTEMPT GREAT THINGS FOR GOD." Abraham and Sarah certainly did this.
THE LAUGHTER OF UNBELIEF5
The Lord had appeared to Abraham and Sarah and called them to follow him to a land that he would give them. God promised the couple land, wealth and descendants—signs of God’s favor and blessing. Today’s story take place sixty or seventy years after God first appeared to them. At age ninety, Sarah is well past her natural ability to bear children. Abraham who is pushing one hundred probably is, also.
The Lord visits Abraham and Sarah on his way to cast judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham being the good host invites God and God’s two angels for a lite meal. During the meal God reaffirms his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they will bear a son. Sarah overhears the conversation and laughs. Her laughter is the laughter of unbelief. She cannot comprehend how she will ever be able to bear a son. God, however, takes great delight in making the impossible possible; in creating Easters out of Good Fridays.
One of the challenges to their faith that Abraham and Sarah faced was the need to wait. They waited years upon years for God to act. During that time their faith wavered. A one-time they thought they would help God fulfill God’s promise. Sarah gave Abraham her handmaid, Hagar, but the birth of Ishmael did not bring about God’s promise.
At various times in our lives we have been led to do great things. It might be to get a new job, move to a different community or serve in a manner that is outside of comfort zone. “We expect great things from God, as we attempt great things for God.” We find, though, that it is necessary for us to wait and sometimes to wait long periods of time before God acts. Certainly that has been our experience as a congregation. We have had to wait a long time—not as long as Abraham and Sarah—but still a long time. Now God is doing great things.
THE LAUGHTER OF FULFILLMENT
A little over nine months later, Sarah gives birth to a beautiful baby boy. The couple name their son, Isaac, which means “laughter.” As Sarah holds her son, she laughs. God has acted and Sarah laughs a laughter of celebration. Sarah’s family and friends laugh with her.
Patience is an important characteristic for the disciple of Jesus Christ. God’s time is not our time. There will come a point in time, though, when we will be able to stop waiting. God will move. The great things that we expected God to do have become realities. The family member who was deployed to Afghanistan returns home. The goal for which we have worked so hard is achieved. Treatments end and health returns. Construction begins on our land.
GOD FULFILLS GOD’S PROMISES
Even though Abraham and Sarah doubted God fulfilled his promise. Even though Abraham and Sarah tried to make God’s promise happen, God fulfilled his promise. God is true to his word. We can expect great things from God because God keeps his promises.
Whenever the story of Abraham and Sarah and the miraculous birth of Isaac is the Sunday’s text, I am aware that there are couple like Abraham and Sarah. There are couples who are also struggling with infertility—and who never able to have children. I realize that sometimes there are those family members who do not come home from war, and there are goals that are not met. I believe that God still keeps God’s promises.
God answer the prayers of one couple battling with infertility by the birth of a little girl in South Korea. In the middle of our pain and grief God keeps his promises to stay with us, to comfort us and to give us strength to carry on. There are times that we discover that even though we did not achieve our goal, the journey towards the goal was an unexpected blessing. There are those times, also, we the only thing we can do is to continue to wait—confident that the Lord is faithful.