Genesis 21:1-8 (He Brings Laughter and Laughter is His Name)

Genesis 21:1-8
He Brings Laughter
And Laughter is His Name

Introduction: We finally come to the birth of Isaac today. We’ve seen God’s promise to Abraham about this son given and then given again. We’ve also seen that prior to him, came another son – Ishmael who was a picture of the bondage of the Law. Isaac, on the other hand, is a picture of freedom from that law by faith in Jesus.

Every story, and every detail within each story, is a wonderful testament to the faithful dealings of God with man and a picture of the coming Christ. When we feel like life is overwhelming us and things are spinning out of control, all we need to do is pick up the Bible and read and we can see God’s hand of care and protection for us all throughout its pages.

By faith in Christ Jesus, we are brought near to God and we are adopted as His children. What great love has the Father lavished upon us that we might be called children of God. Hallelujah and amen!

Text Verse: That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. 9 For this is the word of promise: “At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” Romans 9:8, 9

God is faithful to keep His promises, and He is abundantly pleased in those who have faith in them and rely on them in their daily walk. In fact, it’s the only thing that we can truly offer Him – faith.

If we love Him, praise Him, or worship Him for who He is, it is because we have faith that He exists and that He has revealed Himself to us. When speaking of God, praise without faith isn’t praise. Worship without faith isn’t worship.

Everything about our relationship with God ultimately comes down to faith; it is based on faith – proper faith. Misdirected faith is, after all, wasted faith and so… May God speak to us through His word today and may His glorious name ever be praised.

I. The Lord Visits His People

In the Old Testament, there is a word used that we translate as “visit” or “visited.” It often indicates divine intervention on behalf of God’s people or for the fulfillment of His plan. The word is paqad and can mean to “visit graciously.”

Depending on the context, it can mean a host of other things as well, such as someone being an overseer. But even that hints at a watchful eye and careful attention. God has carefully watched over Abraham and Sarah and He has carefully attended to them thus far.

Today, we will see more attention doted upon His cherished creatures.

1 And the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken.

Here is the first use of the word paqad in the Bible. The Lord “visited” Sarah. It is a divine visitation to meet His perfect plan in His perfect timing. And how did He visit her? He “…visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken.”

She’s mentioned twice in a row because it was she who laughed at the promise and then she lied about having laughed. Here is the short account and it explains why Sarah is addressed and why twice in this first verse today –

13 And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh!” Genesis 18:13-15

So what’s happened here is similar to what happens to Peter after he denied Jesus. He denied Him three times and was later asked if he loved Him three times. Sarah laughed and then lied and so today’s first verse is used as restoration for that fault.

Some of us here may have laughed at the promises of God in our own lives. I know firm believers in Christ who laugh at the concept of a rapture. When I met Christ, I smirked at it too. How could millions of people just disappear without it converting the rest of the world into Christians?

But then, after studying the Bible, I realized that the people will be blinded so that they believe the lies of the antichrist. After thinking on human nature and some of the crazy things people believe, I realized this won’t be any problem at all.

People deny the holocaust. I know people who believe we blew up the twin towers all by ourselves…even though we all watched the planes fly into the buildings. People believe Mormonism even though science through DNA, artifacts through archaeology, and the nature of God as the Bible reveals have all shown it to be false.

We will believe anything simply because someone in authority said it. It is as if our minds have a toggle switch which is set to “Don’t believe God” and it has to be manually changed to the proper – “Yes, take God at His word” setting.

This verse is reminding us that Sarah had her toggle switch on the wrong setting. But despite her doubt, the Lord fulfilled His word exactly as He promised. Let us each remember that God’s word is written, it is sealed with His stamp of authenticity, and therefore we have every reason to believe it without any hint of doubt.

As you wind through the Bible, you’ll see God often reminding us of a promise fulfilled, or a petition granted. While in Egypt when Joseph was 110 years old and on his death bed, he called his brothers together and said this to them –

“I am dying; but God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land of which He swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.” 25 Then Joseph took an oath from the children of Israel, saying, “God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here.” (Genesis 50:24, 25)

About 200 years later, Moses received his commission from the Lord and came to the people of Israel who were by then reduced to forced labor and hard bondage and showed them the signs the Lord gave him to prove he was chosen to lead them out of the land.

In fulfillment of Joseph’s prophecy, the Bible records, “So the people believed; and when they heard that the Lord had visited the children of Israel and that He had looked on their affliction, then they bowed their heads and worshiped.” Exodus 4:31

God visited His people in fulfillment of the promise spoken through Joseph. And, many hundreds of years later, in a time of similar hardship and trial, we read another petition in the 106th Psalm about the joy of forgiveness of Israel’s sins –

Remember me, O Lord, with the favor You have toward Your people. Oh, visit me with Your salvation, (verse 4)

Zahkhreni Yehovah birtzon am-ekha, poqa-deni bi-shua-tekha

After the people had been brought out of captivity in Egypt and through the water of the Red Sea, they had forgotten the mighty deeds of the Lord. Eventually, they went into captivity again because of their faithlessness, but there the psalmist cried out to the Lord for Him to visit – “Oh, visit me with your salvation!”

Yes, Lord – visit me with your salvation. And the word for salvation? Yeshua, the name of our Lord Jesus! And once again, in fulfillment of that petition by the psalmist, we read where this was finally realized in the New Testament –

67 Now his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

68 “Blessed is the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited and redeemed His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of His servant David,
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets,
Who have been since the world began,
71 That we should be saved from our enemies
And from the hand of all who hate us,
72 To perform the mercy promised to our fathers
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to our father Abraham:
74 To grant us that we,
Being delivered from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.

76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;
For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways,
77 To give knowledge of salvation to His people
By the remission of their sins,
78 Through the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us;
79 To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”

It’s important to tie these things together like this. You see, God isn’t doing some arbitrary thing at one time or another, but He is giving His word and then fulfilling it. As He does, He gives us pictures of things to come. Isaac is one of those pictures.

In the entire Old Testament, few were conceived and brought into the land of the living like Isaac was. In this then, he is a picture of Christ – the holy Seed of the woman promised all the way back in Genesis 3.

Just as Isaac was promised before he was born, and then was long anticipated, so was Jesus. But before Isaac came Ishmael and Abraham thought he was the son of promise. In the same way, before Jesus was born, came the Law.

The people thought that was God’s plan of redemption, but Ishmael was replaced by Isaac and the Law was replaced by grace through Jesus. At the set time, just as God promised to return and give a son through Sarah, He also promised to return and give His Son through the woman – a Redeemer for all who would believe.

Paul tells us that “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Galatians 4:4, 5

God, promised salvation, and it came at the right time and in the perfect way. Isaac means Laughter and he brought laughter to his parents. How much more did the Son of God bring laughter to the world – laughter mixed with unending joy!

As Matthew Henry says, “When the Sun of comfort is risen upon the soul, it is good to remember how welcome the dawning of the day was.”

What was seemingly impossible to Sarah; what seemed like an impossible hope to the Israelites in Egypt, and what came as a cry for mercy from affliction by the psalmist… God has always been attentive to His promises, even in things which seem impossible, He always delivers.

As we ready for our next verse, let me tell you this…

Back in chapter 17, God finally revealed to Abraham that he would have a son through Sarah. Up until that point, his only son was Ishmael the son of Hagar. It was during this time that God changed Sarah’s name from Sarai to Sarah and showed that she was to be the mother of the child of promise. When He made the promise He spoke these words to Abraham –

“But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year.” Genesis 17:21

2 For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Using the exact same term from chapter 17 – la’moed, the “set time” – we are reminded again of the faithfulness of God

The Promise – “Sarah shall bear to you at this set time next year;” The Fulfillment – “Sarah conceived and bore…at the set time…God had spoken.”

Great God, wonderful Lord!

In this verse, it says that she bore Abraham a son “in his old age.” This has the flavor of something like “for his old age.” In other words, the old age of Abraham isn’t a limiting factor that had to be overcome, like it was for Sarah.

Instead it is an affirmation that his old age will be filled with this child. Rather than his old age being “the difficult days” which Ecclesiastes describes will happen to most of us, it will be for him a time of laughing and rejoicing over the son of his old age.

As the days go by, each of us is getting older as well. The pains start coming, the joints begin to ache, and we anticipate difficult times ahead. But in the Lord, even the worst times are really better than the best apart from Him. It’s because we have the sure hope that this life and its hard walk is only temporary.

I simply can’t wait for the coming day when Christ returns to make all things new – a new body, a new direction, an eternity of joy… All of these things really are coming and right now, by faith, we wait for them. Stand fast in these promises and be assured that all things will be far more wonderful than you can possibly imagine.

In the sermon of Genesis 17 where God revealed to Abraham that he would have a son through Sarah, I read this as our Text Verse.

We were like those who dream.
2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad. Psalm 126:1-3

Yes, the Lord did great things for Israel when He brought them back from the captivity of Babylon. But He has done great things for His people throughout the ages, filling them with abundant joy and laughter…

II. The Lord Brings Laughter to His People

3 And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him—whom Sarah bore to him—Isaac.

Again, in fulfillment of the word from the Lord and obedience to it, this verse is given to us. In Genesis 17:19, we read these beautiful words from God to Abraham – “…Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his descendants after him.”

The promised son has come and Abraham names him Yitsak, for Laughter is his name. As a note of vindication of the Lord’s word, the verse notes, “whom Sarah bore to him.” No laughter of doubt, no anxiety over what might or might not happen, no fear of stepping off a cliff and into the void exists with God.

Instead, there is the absolute assurance that what He says will come to pass. Though Satan and all the armies of hell fight to thwart His word, not a letter or the smallest part of a letter will ever fail to be accomplished. When the Lord speaks, it is already done. We merely have to stand back and see the wondrous workings of God.

4 Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.

This is our fourth verse today and it is the fourth verse which reaches back to a previous part of God’s word.

“This is My covenant which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: Every male child among you shall be circumcised; 11 and you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised, every male child in your generations, he who is born in your house or bought with money from any foreigner who is not your descendant.” 17:10-12

God commanded and Abraham obeyed in detail. Isaac was circumcised on the eighth day. I wonder if this made little Laughter cry? In his normally poetic way of looking at these types of things, we read this from Matthew Henry –

“God had kept time in performing the promise, and therefore Abraham must keep time in obeying the precept.”

5 Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.

Isaac, the child of laughter was born when Abraham was having his centennial celebration. This was a full 25 years after the move from Haran to Canaan and 14 years after the birth of Ishmael. The year of Isaac’s birth is 2109 Anno Mundi.

In just 1895 years, the Son of God would be born about 45 miles to the north of where Abraham is located now. No amount of time or distance is too difficult for God to span in order to fulfill His promises to His people whom He foreknows.

In the next two verses that we look at, Sarah sings out in two exclamations that are almost poetic in nature. The first of these is verse 6 and it actually comprises two sentences in the Hebrew –

6 And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”

Wat-oh-mer Sarah, se-hoq asah li
Elohim kol ha-sho-me-ah yitsak li

Her words turn on the word “laugh.” This however is completely different than the incredulous laugh of chapter 18, where doubt ruled the day. This laugh is laughter of both wonder and delight at what has happened, and she acknowledges God’s sovereign power to overcome even old age and a barren womb.

And in the process as God makes people laugh, and it’s not just the person who is directly involved in the miracle, but those who hear of it as well. “God has made me laugh, and all who hear it will laugh with me.”

This is so similar to what happened to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist when she received the news that her own barren womb would also now bear – “When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.” (1:58)

Yes, there is joy and rejoicing over these things, but how much more of even greater things. If God can regenerate the barren womb, He can also restore life from the overflowing tomb.

He did it for His own Son, raising Him from the dead by His great power. And He promises to do it for you as well. The earth’s womb which devours our loved ones, and which will eventually devour us, will be emptied of those who have placed their trust in Him. The day is coming and the promise is sure. Eternal laughter will replace our temporary sadness.

7 She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

The turning note of the previous verse was laughter, but the turning note of this one is the triumph of not only her own previous unbelief, but of anyone else that wouldn’t have believed it. What nobody could ever have expected has come to pass. She has accused herself of past ingratitude and shouts triumph over it –

“For I have borne him a son in his old age.”

And that makes a good point to stop and tell you that even though you may have to wait for the promises of the Bible to come about in your own life, they will all come to pass. The people of God have waited 2000 years to see Jesus come in the clouds for them, but there is no reason to doubt – He will come.

We’re waiting for a time when we don’t lose family members, and it is coming. We’re waiting for a time when Jesus will sit as King over the earth, ruling from Jerusalem, and it is coming. We’re waiting for the world to be renewed like the Garden of Eden, don’t get frustrated, it is coming.

Every promise God has made will come to pass, just as His word records. Be still and wait patiently, it will all come to pass.

III. Great Feasts before the Lord

8 So the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the same day that Isaac was weaned.

In one verse, we’ve just skipped over three years of life. “So the child grew and was weaned.” The Hebrew time until this turn of life is three years. We learn this from two places. First, in the apocryphal book of 2 Maccabees we read this –

Leaning over her son, she fooled the cruel tyrant by saying in her native language, “My son, have pity on me. Remember that I carried you in my womb for nine months and nursed you for three years. I have taken care of you and looked after all your needs up to the present day.” 2 Maccabees 7:27

The second is right from the Bible in the book of 2 Chronicles. During the time of King Hezekiah, we see the age of the Israelites who were counted old enough to be considered as viable citizens requiring normal food to eat –

Besides those males from three years old and up who were written in the genealogy, they distributed to everyone who entered the house of the Lord his daily portion for the work of his service, by his division, (31:16)

Once Isaac reached the age of three and was considered fully capable of living on solid food rather than his mother’s milk, Abraham threw a giant party. The reason why he did this is the same reason they do this in parts of the world even today.

It’s because until a child is on solid food, they have a much greater chance of not making it. Once a certain age is met within a society, a party is given as a general indication that the days of uncertainty are past and he is now likely to be around until adulthood.

When the day came, Abraham gave a feast or a misteh in Hebrew. This is the second time such a meal has been mentioned in the Bible. The first was when the two destroying angels appeared at Sodom and Lot invited them to his home.

There in chapter 19 it said, “… he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.”

The first misteh, or feast, in the Bible was the result of the outcry of wickedness against a city and it ended in sadness and the loss of life. The next is misteh is the result of the happy birth and the growth of the son of promise. It will lead to the long and prosperous life of this child of laughter.

There are many other feasts like this mentioned in the Bible – by both pagans and by the faithful, but there is also another kind of feast the Bible speaks of. These feasts are detailed in Leviticus 23 and they are known as the feasts of the Lord. There were eight of them that the people of Israel were obligated to attend to.

I’m not going to go into too much detail about them now, but let me tell you what these feasts are. The Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of Firstfruits, the Feast of Weeks, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, and the Feast of Tabernacles.

The reason why I’m bringing them up now is that, even though they are different than the feast Abraham gave when Isaac was weaned, these feasts were also given at specific times and to celebrate certain events.

Next week, we will see how Isaac’s feast of weaning actually prefigures one of these feasts of the Lord. I want you to read Genesis 21:1-13 and think about these feasts and see if you can guess which one is being prefigured in Isaac’s weaning.

The Sabbath was a weekly feast and it was to celebrate God’s rest and redemption. This was fulfilled by Jesus and it is the reason we don’t have a Sabbath in Christianity. Hebrews 4:3 says, “…now we who believe do enter that rest.” Our rest is in Christ and His work – not in a Sabbath Day.

The Passover was fulfilled by Jesus as is recorded in 1 Corinthians 5 where it says, “Christ our Passover Lamb is sacrificed.” His blood is what causes God’s judgment to pass over us. We are now free from the penalty of our sin.

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was fulfilled by Jesus as is also recorded in 1 Corinthians 5 where it says that through Christ, “you truly are unleavened.” Because of this Paul says we should “keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

The Feast of Firstfruits was fulfilled in Christ as Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15 because he says “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Firstfruits was a picture of the resurrection.

The Feast of Weeks was fulfilled in Christ when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the believers in Acts chapter 2. The Feast of Weeks is also known as Pentecost, something we reflect on each year, fifty days after Resurrection Day

The Feast of Trumpets was fulfilled in Christ on the day of His birth as the Bible details. The same day that people were blowing trumpets and rejoicing, they could not have realized that their blasts were actually welcoming in the King of the Universe.

The Day of Atonement was fulfilled in Christ as Paul records in Romans 3 – “being declared righteous freely by His grace through the redemption that [is] in Christ Jesus, whom God did set forth a mercy seat…” The “mercy seat is the place of atonement.

And finally, the eighth feast is the Feast of Tabernacles. This was fulfilled in Christ when He put on a tabernacle of flesh and dwelt among us as John records in his gospel – “And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.”

You see, for the people of God who have called on Jesus, every good thing promised by Him in the Old Testament is realized in Him in the New. He is the Lord of all feasts and He is the One with whom we will dine someday at a great table of abundance. No wonder David wrote these words to us in the 23rd Psalm –

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.

In Jesus, there are no guesses. In Jesus there is no speculation as to whether He can fulfill His promises. In Jesus there is no worry if He will turn away from those who call on Him. You see, in Jesus there is only truth and surety. If you’ve never trusted this great King and wonderful Savior, let me explain how you can…

Next Week’s Sermon –Genesis 21:9-21 (Cast Out the Bondwoman and Her Son)

He Brings Laughter and Laughter is His Name

The Lord visited Sarah as He had said
And the Lord did for Sarah as He has spoken
Though it seemed certain that her womb was dead
The word of the Lord came – surety in this token

For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son
It was in his old age that this did occur
At the set time God had spoken so it was done
The child came because the promise was sure

And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac as instructed
He was eight days old when the rite was conducted

This was just as God had commanded in the past
The day came about and he was circumcised at last

Now Abraham was one hundred years old
At the time when Isaac was born to him
Never would someone believe if told
Almost anyone would think the chances were slim

But it happened and Sarah joyfully said
“God has made me laugh, I am filled with joy
And all who hear will laugh with me instead
Of never believing I’d have a bouncing baby boy

She also stated, “Who would have spoken
To Abraham that Sarah would nurse children like this?
For I have born him a son in his old age, no jokin’
This child has brought us an abundance of bliss

So the child grew and was weaned
Because on God’s faithfulness they leaned
And Abraham made a great feast on that same day
When Isaac was weaned, he threw an enormous par-tay

The promises of God for Abraham and Sarah came true
And the promises of God will do likewise for you

We have these promises revealed in a book
The Holy Bible is where we they are to be found
Please open it up and take a good look
The words are true, the instruction is sound

They tell us of Jesus and all that He did
When we were lost in a sea of sin and death
He has saved from hell, and yes God forbid
We fail to accept Him before we take our last breath

Please call today on the Lord
And accept His offer of eternal life
Surety is found in Him and His word
Put away now the body of strife

All glory to Him for our every breath
God has saved us from eternal death

Victory in Jesus is our guarantee
Come to the Lord and this you will see

Hallelujah and Amen…

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