READ GENESIS EIGHTEEN VERSES ONE THROUGH FIFTEEN
When we met Abraham in Genesis twelve, God called him to leave his home and follow where God would lead. But the call included a promise.
Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
Look back at Genesis 12:1-3 (above). What does God promise to Abram?
God promised Abraham descendants that would eventually bless the entire world. We have the privilege of reading Abraham’s story from the vantage point of Matthew one. We know that he will have many, many descendants, and that his family tree will eventually lead to the coming of the Messiah – the Savior of the world!
But Abraham doesn’t know that. Like you and I, Abraham doesn’t have the benefit of seeing the outcome of his faith. All he can see is the call to obey right in front of him, and the promise of God held before him. And right now, he doesn’t have any children.
Before you can have a family tree, you have to have a family. And Abraham and Sarah do not.
While Abraham and Sarah are sojourning to the place God will lead them, three visitors come to them. Abraham immediately recognizes that he is being visited by God Himself.* As such, he jumps to practice hospitality – he prepares them cakes made with his finest flour, butchers one of his best animals, and offers them the finest part of the milk he collected from his livestock. As they sit and eat with Abraham, the visitors give Abraham a glimpse at how God is going to fulfill His promise: Sarah is going to have a baby.
*Theological fun fact: The theological term for this kind of manifestation of God in visible form is “theophany.”
What is Sarah’s response to hearing this?
Why do you think she responds this way?
The text goes out of its way to tell us Sarah’s (also called “Sarai”) situation. Giving us intimate details about her body and life, the text lays out her personal history and struggle.
What do each of these phrases tell you about Sarah’s – her life, heart, grief, and laughing response to God’s promise:
“Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years”
“The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah” (this is a tactful way to speak about Sarah’s cycle)
“So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’”
Tomorrow, we will look at the rest of this narrative, but for today, consider the grief Sarah carried in her heart. Perhaps you know the ache of an empty womb in your own life or marriage. You can painfully relate to month after month of hoping, wishing, praying, and waiting, only to realize that you are not pregnant. Perhaps you have walked through this pain with a spouse or close friend, and you know all too well the helplessness and grief of unanswered prayers for healing and children. Sarah has an empty womb, empty nursery, and empty cup. And into this pain, God speaks a life-giving promise that she will bear a child.
Suddenly, Sarah’s laughter doesn’t seem so strange.
Grief has a way of teaching us not to hope. Disappointment after disappointment often renders our hearts unable to believe. But what Sarah is about to learn – and what you and I are about to see – is that our hopes are only safe in the capable and faithful hands of God.
Spend some time reflecting on Sarah’s story. Consider grief in your own life. What has this grief taught you to not be hopeful for? Tell God about it. Ask Him to give you the strength of faith to trust Him with your broken hopes and dreams. Ask Him to show you His character and to meet you in your grief.