Sarah – The Laughing Mother

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Famous Mothers in the Bible Series

Genesis 18:12, 21:6; Proverbs 31:25

INTRODUCTION: Today is mother’s day, and we are continuing our series from last year on Famous Mothers in the Bible. Last year we look at Eve, the mother of all the living. Today we will be looking at another of the most well-known mothers in the Bible – Sarah, the wife of Abraham and the mother of Isaac. We will be looking at a variety of Scriptures throughout the message, but let’s begin with Genesis 18:9-15. (Read Genesis 18:9-15 and pray.)

Everyone likes to laugh, and they say laughter is good for the soul. So, with that in mind, let me share with you “10 Principles of Motherhood That Every Mom Should Know”:

  1. If it was going to be easy, it would never have started with something called labor!
  2. Shouting to make your children obey is like using the horn to steer your car, and you get about the same results.
  3. Raising a teenager is like nailing jello to a tree.
  4. Any child can tell you that the sole purpose of a middle name is so he can tell when he’s really in trouble.
  5. There are three ways to get something done: Do it yourself, hire someone else to do it, or forbid your children to do it.
  6. Adolescence is the age when children try to bring up their parents.
  7. There are only two things a child will share willingly: communicable diseases and his mother’s age.
  8. Money isn’t everything, but it sure keeps the kids in touch.
  9. An alarm clock is a device for awakening people who don’t have small children.
  10. A child outgrows your lap, but never outgrows your heart.

 

Well, we are talking about laughter this morning, and we will be focusing in particular on Sarah, the mother of Isaac, and her laughter as recorded in Scripture. And as we do that I want us to look at three kinds of laughter we find in the Bible: 1) the laughter of disbelief, 2) the laughter of blessing, and 3) the laughter of faith.

I. The laughter of disbelief (Genesis 17:15-22, 18:9-15)

So let’s begin with the laughter of disbelief, because that is where Abraham and Sarah both began. And I want us to understand three things about the laughter of disbelief: 1) God always keeps his promises. 2) Nothing is too hard for the Lord, and 3) There is nothing funny about disbelief.

  A. God always keeps his promises (17:15-22)
    – Joshua 23:14; Psalm 145:13; Hebrews 6:18

So first of all, God always keeps his promises. We actually begin with Abraham here, because God’s promise came to Abraham first. God had promised Abraham many years before that Abraham would have a son. Even before Abraham left for the land of Canaan, God told him that he would make Abraham into a great nation. (Genesis 12:1-3) Later God confirmed his covenant with Abraham that a son coming from his own body would be his heir. Abraham believed the Lord, and we are told God credited it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:4-6)

The only problem with all this is that his wife, Sarah, was barren. She couldn’t have children. And so the years went by, and both Abraham and Sarah struggled with this promise from God. At one point Sarah even had Abraham sleep with her maidservant, Hagar, so that she could claim a son through Hagar instead. Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, but that didn’t work out so well either. Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born.

Fourteen years later God appeared to Abraham and confirmed his covenant with him once again. Look at Genesis 17:15-22 with me:

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him. (Genesis 17:15-22)

Did you catch that? Abraham the father of faith fell facedown laughing. “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” It was the laughter of disbelief. Abraham even tried to switch God’s promise over to Hagar’s son. “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” But God confirmed his promise to Abraham saying, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.” God even gave him a time frame. “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

You see, God always keeps his promises. When the Israelites finally settled in the Promised Land many years later, Joshua told the people in Joshua 23:14: “Not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Joshua 23:14) Psalm 145:13 says: “The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.” (Psalm 145:13) And Hebrews 6:18 reminds us: “It is impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18)

God confirmed his covenant with Abraham. “My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When we talk about the laughter of disbelief, we must remember first of all that God always keeps his promises.

  B. Nothing is too hard for the Lord (18:9-14)
    – Jeremiah 32:17; Luke 1:34-38

Secondly, we must remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord. For this we turn to Sarah’s laughter. It was shortly after God’s appearance to Abraham when the Lord visited Abraham again through the visitation of three “men” or angels who appeared at his tent. Abraham brought them some food, and they engaged in conversation with him. Look at Genesis 18 with me:

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.
“There, in the tent,” he said.
10 Then the Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:9-14)

Abraham was 100 years old, Sarah was 90, plus she was barren anyways. So when she overheard the Lord telling Abraham that she would have a son by next year, she found herself laughing in disbelief. She thought she was just laughing to herself, but of course the Lord knew and asked Abraham: “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:13-14)

It’s a great question, and the answer is, “No, nothing is too hard for the Lord.” We read in Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17) Once you’ve created the universe, nothing else is really that difficult in comparison.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, understood this when the angel came and told her she would give birth to a son. She didn’t doubt the angel’s word; she was just curious as to how it would all come about. We read in Luke 1:

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God … For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:34-38)

Sarah was 90 years old and barren. Mary was a young woman and a virgin. Both seemed like impossible situations, and yet God fulfilled his promise to both. Nothing is too hard for the Lord.

  C. There is nothing funny about disbelief (18:15)
    – Hebrews 3:12-19

And then finally as we talk about the laughter of disbelief, we need to remember that there is nothing funny about disbelief. When Sarah realized that the Lord knew about her laughter, she was afraid. We read in Genesis 18:15:

“Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’” (Genesis 18:15)

Sarah lied because she was afraid, and she was afraid because she knew there was nothing funny about disbelief.

We read the following about disbelief in Hebrews 3:12-1:

12 See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God … 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.”
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief. (Hebrews 3:12-19)

An entire generation of Israelites died in the wilderness because of disbelief. Sarah laughed, and God rebuked her; Sarah lied, and God rebuked her again. We may laugh in disbelief, but there is nothing funny about disbelief.

II. The laughter of blessing (Genesis 21:1-7)

Fortunately, Sarah’s story does not end there, because we move on from the laughter of disbelief to the laughter of blessing. And there are three things I want us to learn about the laughter of blessing from Sarah’s story this morning. 1) God’s blessing is undeserved. 2) God’s blessing comes in his time, and 3) God’s blessing brings true and lasting joy.

  A. God’s blessing is undeserved (1)
    – Deuteronomy 7:7-8; Ephesians 2:8-9

First of all, God’s blessing is undeserved. Look at Genesis 21:1 with me:

“Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.” (Genesis 21:1)

I want you to especially notice the word “gracious” in that verse. “The Lord was gracious to Sarah.” Sarah had laughed at God’s promise in Genesis 18. And in the chapter before this one Abraham and Sarah actually lied about their relationship. They pretended to be brother and sister instead of husband and wife. This put God’s promise in jeopardy, because Sarah could have become pregnant by someone else. God did not fulfill his promise to Abraham and Sarah because they deserved his blessing, but because he was gracious to them.

This is true of all God’s blessings. When God chose the nation of Israel to be his people, Moses reminded them: “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers.” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) It wasn’t because they had somehow earned this privilege; it was because God loved them and was faithful to his promise.

This is especially true of the blessing of salvation. We read in Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Jerry Bridges wrote, rather insightfully: “Performance is the default mode of every human being.” But God does not accept us on the basis of our performance. He accepts us because of his own love and grace. How are you doing this morning? The correct answer is: “Better than I deserve!” Do you want to know the laughter of God’s blessing? Then know that God is gracious to you. God’s blessing is undeserved.

  B. God’s blessing comes in his time (2-5)
    – Psalm 30:5; Galatians 4:4

Secondly, God’s blessing comes in his time. Look at Genesis 21:2-5:

Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Genesis 21:2-5)

What can you say, the impossible happened! God’s promise made so many years before came true in his time.

It’s not easy to wait on the Lord, but it is always worth it. God’s timing is perfect. He is never early, never late, always right on time. You may need to wait for the blessing, but it will surely come. Psalm 30:5 says: “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5) Galatians 4:4 tells us: “When the time had fully come, God sent his Son.” (Galatians 4:4) God’s blessing comes in his time.

  C. God’s blessing brings true and lasting joy (6-7)
    – Psalm 16:11; Proverbs 10:22

And then thirdly, God’s blessing brings true and lasting joy. Look at Sarah’s story again in Genesis 21:6-7:

6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Genesis 21:6-7)

When Sarah tried to circumvent God’s plan with Hagar and Ishmael, it only brought her trouble and disgrace. But when God’s blessing came through Isaac, she was filled with laughter and joy.

Don’t settle for what the world can give you. Don’t settle for what you can muster up on your own. Wait for God’s blessing, because God’s blessing is always best. Psalm 16:11 says: “You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” (Psalm 16:11) Proverbs 10:22 tells us: “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it.” (Proverbs 10:22) God’s blessing brings true and lasting joy.

III. The laughter of faith (Proverbs 31:25; Genesis 15:9)

We have looked at the laughter of disbelief, we have looked at the laughter of blessing, and now finally let us look at the laughter of faith. And there are two things I want us to learn about the laughter of faith. 1) Faith laughs at the days to come. 2) And faith in Christ is credited to us as righteousness.

  A. Faith laughs at the days to come (Proverbs 31:25)
    – Hebrews 11:6

So first, faith laughs at the days to come. And for this we move on from Sarah, the laughing mother, to look at a different woman: the woman of Proverbs 31. The Proverbs 31 woman is the woman of noble character who fears the Lord. (Proverbs 31:10,30) And we read this about her in verse 25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

When your faith is in God, you know that God is in control of all things, and so no matter how difficult it gets, and no matter how uncertain the future may seem, you can laugh at the days to come. It is a bold, defiant, trusting laugh in the face of the unknown because your God is not unknown – you know him, you know his love for you, your faith is in him, and so you can laugh at the days to come. You may not know what the future holds, but you know who holds the future.

Hebrews 11:6 says: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) That is the laughter of faith. Faith knows that God rewards those who earnestly seek him, and so faith can laugh at the days to come.

  B. Faith in Christ is credited to us as righteousness (Genesis 15:6)
    – Romans 4:18-25

And then finally, faith in Christ is credited to us as righteousness. And for this we go all the way back to God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:6 where we read: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6)

The apostle Paul elaborates on Abraham’s faith in the book of Romans:

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 19 Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. 20 Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 21 being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised. 22 This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” 23 The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, 24 but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness—for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:18-25)

And so we discover that these amazing things were written down not just for people in the past, but these things were written for us who believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. That is the laughter of faith. Faith laughs at the days to come. And faith in Christ is credited to us as righteousness.

CONCLUSION: God told Abraham to name his son Isaac, because the name Isaac actually means: “He laughs.” And so every time Abraham and Sarah spoke their son’s name, they would be reminded of their own instances of laughter before the Lord.

These things were written for us in the past because these three things are still true for us today:

  • God still rebukes the laughter of disbelief.
  • God still bestows the laughter of blessing.
  • And God still rewards the laughter of faith.
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    © Ray Fowler

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