Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the Coronavirus. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:13-14)
Sarai, which is Sarah’s former name before God changed her name, left her relatives and her native countries to follow Abram, Abraham’s old name. When Sarai married Abram, she had many dreams, including having multiple children and raising them with her husband, Abram. But her marriage life turned out to be significantly different from what Sarai expected. Soon Sarai found that she was barren. She tried and tried, but she could not have a baby. Her dream was shuttered, which became her pain in her heart. However, her husband, Abram, was a good man, and he always comforted her. Not having his own son was not easy on Abram, but Abram endured. Sarai could see her husband’s patience, which was truly thankful, but it also made her uneasy. Sarai really trusted Abram, and Abram loved Sarai.
One day, her father-in-law suddenly died, and Abram became the head of the household. A big responsibility fell on Abram’s shoulder. Sarai fully dedicated herself to the huge transition of the family by supporting Abram. The household was setting down, and everything was smooth running. She thought that she would continue living i with all her friends and relatives. But one day, Abram came to Sarai with excitement.
Abram said he met God, and God called him. He quoted what he heard from God,
“Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:1b-3)
She heard carefully. It was a truly amazing promise of God, which was filled with full of blessings. She was also excited as listening to Abram. God’s promise to Abram meant to her too. Only was the big catch to leave the native country, relatives, friends to go to the land that God would show. The destination was not told by God yet. That meant if she departed with her husband, Abram, she would not know where she was going. What a risky proposition! She was concerned but when she saw Abram’s radiating face in faith with full trust in God without a single doubt, she decided to depart with Abram. She trusted Abram throughout her marriage, who supported, comforted and, most of all, dearly loved her so many years although she could not have a baby.
While packing things, Sarai suddenly realized that the promise came with one thorny issue — “I will make you into a great nation.” She was barren. Then how could Abram and Sarai become the father and mother of a great nation? It was impossible. She asked herself whether Abram had thought through this or not. She carefully observed Abram’s behavior, but she could not find her husband’s doubt on this aspect either. Sarai, then, decided not to ask, although it bothered her. Sarai also saw Abram, who began to pray to God regularly, authentically, and fervently. Sarai also prayed to God with all her heart and mind authentically presenting her concerns — not knowing the destination and leaving, and her inability to have a baby to be the great nation. God heard prayers and comforted Sarai’s heart as well as Abram’s heart so that together they could follow God by bravely leaving their familiar people and land to go to an unknown land.
Sarai was sixty-five years old and Abram was seventy-five when they departed and follow God. They took an enormous risk. Their advanced ages were not meant to take such a significant risk, and the journey was not easy from the beginning. They were passing through the wilderness for months without knowing whether they were going. However, Abraham was truly faithful to God. Wherever he went, he built an altar and worshipped God by calling on His name. Sarai was truly impressed by Abram’s faith, and Abram’s faith made Sarai give 100% support. Modeling after Abram, Sarai also worshipped and praised God. This opened up Sarai’s lifelong journey with God, and she prayed continually to God wherever she went and no matter what happened to her life.
With Abram, Sarai arrived at Canaan, the Promised Land. Both Abram and Sarai were truly excited about their arrival. Sarai thought that the harsh journey through the wilderness was over. However, it was not the case. Sometime later, a server famine came to the Promised Land. She could no longer prepare meals for her husband, Lot, Abram’s nephew, and others coming out from the native land together with Sarai and Abram.
Then her husband, Abram, took the entire family to Egypt, where was still enough food. The move was rational, but one thing that bothered her was that she could not recall recently Abram’s usual fervent prayers. The Promised Land was really good, which soon made them forget the difficult journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Abram’s prayer life was getting looser and looser, and the absolute needs for God were fading away slowly and steadily. All things were good in the Promised Land, but it was not so good for their faith.
For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, (Deuteronomy 8:12-14a)
God gave them a wake-up call, which was the server famine in the Promised Land. Abram did not understand this message of God. Instead, Abram took his family and went down to Egypt. In Egypt, Abram got what he wanted — food, but soon he felt a threat of getting killed which was unexpected. His wife, Sarai was exceptionally beautiful, and he found that some Egyptians tried to kill him to take away Sarai. To protect his life, Abram lied that Sarai was his sister. Then Egyptians presented Sarai to Pharaoh, and Abram sent away with lots of gift from Pharaoh. Sarai found that she was separated from her husband, Abram. She prayed that night and did Abram also. God heard their prayers and protected Sarai. Then God made Pharaoh sent out Sarai with Abram from Egypt. This was how God protected Abram and Sarai. However, most importantly, God taught Abram a tremendous spiritual lesson.
For Sarai, it was the first experience to see another aspect of Abram, who essentially sold her for his own protection. Sarai was not happy about this, but she found how she could be comforted by God, which was her prayer. She learned who God was, and went into a deeper relationship with God. Later she found that it mattered to her. Abram lost a great deal of her trust through the trip to Egypt. Even so, Sarai was a good wife and supported Abram with heart and mind, and prayer.
It was not the end of strange turns in her life. Soon Lot, Abram’s nephew left Abram after a big conflict between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s. Sarai’s heart was breaking because Lot and his wife were the only relatives who followed Abram and Sarai. Sarai did not have a child. Instead, she gave her care and love to Lot as her own son. She never expected such a sad day would come. Sarai looked around and realized that too many sheep caused the division. When they had little, they all worked together like one family. And she could not find such a loving relationship. Yes, it was really sad, but she could not do anything. It was a cold reality. Lot and his wife along with his herdsmen and sheep departed the following morning. Sarai could not take off her eyes from them disappearing over the horizon. She just prayed for blessings on Lot and his family.
Abram could only restore Sarai’s lost trust in him when he heard about Lot, who was taken by Kedorlaomer’s army, the strongest army at that time. Immediately, Abram took his 318 trained men to pursue the army. It was almost ridiculous to chase down Kedorlaomier’s army with Abram’s own men. Sarai prayed continually for God’s help and protection on her husband and the people gone with Abram and their safe return. When she saw Abram returning with Lot, she truly rejoiced and gave thanks to God. She could reaffirm who God was and who Abram was. Both of them were faithful and could be trusted in all situations. Sarai even felt that she got back Abram after the disgraceful journey to Egypt.
Their lives were settling down in the Promised Land once more. All things were getting better. However, they could not take off one thing that came back again and again into their lives, which was that they had no child. Without a child, how could God make them a great nation? She struggled and did Abram. They did not talk about it explicitly, but they knew each other about this thorny issue in their lives. They both left their familiar native country, people, and land because of one reason — God’s promise of being a great nation. They just believed while expecting that something would happen later, but so far nothing happened.
One day, Abram came to Sarai telling God came to him again. Then Abram said he and God had a serious conversation. Abram suggested Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in his household to God as his heir. God flat out rejected Abram’s proposal. The proposal was good to her ears because it would take off her burden of bearing a baby, which she could not do. Abram continued. God took him out and showed the sparkling stars in the clear night sky. Then God asked to count the stars, which was impossible. Then God promised, “your own descendants would be as many as the stars.” Abram was in true excitement. Abram even talked about the land for his descendants, which was currently occupied by ten nations! Sarai breathed out slowly and deeply. Her pressure to have a baby was even more escalated because Abram was pumped up by God’s promise to be the father of so many descendants like the stars in the sky. She could not sleep that night.
She gave lots of thoughts on how to take off this enormous burden to have a child. Then she searched for a solution with her wisdom. She should have had prayed to get God’s wisdom. Then she saw an Egyptian servant named Hagar. She felt that Hagar would always be obedient to her regardless she bore a child for Abram because so far, Hagar was genuinely obedient to her. On the following day, she presented this idea to Abram, and Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. It was perhaps the lowest time of their faith in God. Again, the comfortable life in the Promised Land was the culprit. They were weak spiritually, but they did not know.
No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money. (Matthew 6:24)
Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s baby. When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. God will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
Abram and Sarai quickly became a broken family. They fell down to the bottom. God full of mercy sent an angel. The angel found Hagar crying beside a spring of water in the wilderness and comforted her. The angel also blessed the baby in her womb. This made Hagar returned to Abram and Sarai. Sarai also felt bad about what she did to Hagar. As Hagar returned, Sarai received Hagar with her heart. Hagar lived with Abram and Sarai. Then Hagar bore a son, and Abram named him Ishmael. Abram was eighty six years old when Ishmael was born. It was the twelfth year since Abram and Sarai left their familiar native land and relatives.
Sarai thought that it was the end of her pressure to have a baby although it was not ideal to live with Hagar and Ishmael, to whom Abram increasingly gave his care and love. Sarai was getting less and less care and love from Abram, and it saddened her heart. She always thought that it was better not to carry the burden of her barrenness than losing small of Abram’s favor. Time flew like an arrow. Ishmael became a teenager. By that time, Ishmael was the central focus of Abram. Abram was so happy to see Ishmael growing big and strong to be the seed for his future descendants numbered like the stars in the sky. Abram was ninety-nine years old and Sarai was eighty-nine.
One day, Abram ran into Sarai telling again about God, who came to him and told:
“I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.” (Genesis 17:1b-2)
This was not the end of the story. Abram excitingly said that God gave new names for himself and her — Abraham and Sarah. The name Abraham means the father of many nations, and Sarah means the mother of many nations. Sarai was still quietly listening.
Abram, now Abraham, continued while quoting what God told to him,
“Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.” (Genesis 17:15b-16)
Sarai, now Sarah, could not believe what she was hearing — God would bless Sarah to have a son of Abraham. She was barren, and her solution was Ishmael. But it was essentially rejected by God. What pressure that Sarah was getting! She could not sit still and be about fainting.
Abraham, then, added how he did respond to God, which made her regain her strength. She realized that Abraham actually asked the correct question to God. Abraham continued.
“I bowed down to the ground, but I laughed to myself in disbelief. “How could I become a father at the age of 100?” I thought. “And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?” So I said to God, “May Ishmael live under your special blessing!”
Then God replied,
“No—Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant. As for Ishmael, I will bless him also, just as you have asked. I will make him extremely fruitful and multiply his descendants. He will become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will be confirmed with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah about this time next year.” (Genesis 17:19b-21)
Then God had finished speaking, and God left me.”
Sarah clearly heard that God would provide a child through her. Sarah realized that she had no way except to accept and believe what God said. She looked into Abraham’s eyes, which were filled with full trust in God. Sarah decided not to speak anymore but pray instead. She felt that she needed to increase her faith. Everything was challenging. As simple as calling her husband with a new name was not easy. A new name and a new promise of God were difficult to her, but somehow the new name and the new promise of God soothed her heart. Sarah silently looked up to God who was the source of the promise and blessings in prayer. She could feel that it was a real blessing from God given to her.
On that very day, Abraham took his son, Ishmael, and every male in his household, including those born there and those he had bought. Then he circumcised them, cutting off their foreskins, just as God had told him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised, and Ishmael, his son, was thirteen. Both Abraham and his son, Ishmael, were circumcised on that same day, along with all the other men and boys of the household, whether they were born there or bought as servants. All were circumcised with him.
For Sarah, the burden of bearing a child for Abraham was real and heavy. Since hearing the new promise of God, she prayed, but it was not easy to overcome. However, the joy of having her own son made her continue praying to God like Jesus Christ, our Savior, who took the shame and the pain on the cross but prayed to God because of the joy set before Him — the salvation of all who believe in Him.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:2)
God is always merciful to those who endure suffering and pain for Him. Sarah’s suffering was not unnoticed. God sent angels to Abraham and Sarah, and they welcome the angels who appeared as visitors in the land. They prepared a table with plenty of food and well served the angels.
Yes, the angels’ first question was about Sarah, which showed how much God cared for Sarah,
“Where is Sarah, your wife?” (Genesis 18:9a)
“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.
Then one of them said,
“I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!” (Genesis 18:16b)
Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said,
“How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?” (Genesis 18:12b)
She wanted to believe, but she could not because it was impossible. Since she married, she did everything to have a baby. Nothing worked. Thus, she brought in Hagar in her desperation.
Sarah was beautiful, smart, and attractive. Nothing seemed lacking in her, but she could not have a baby. It made her really sad. The sadness and pain never left her, which always haunted her. She wanted the pain to disappear from her life, which had never happened. She did everything that she could do including her lifelong prayer for having her own baby.
She prayed to God for her own baby, but throughout her life, the cold reality was always with her. Her heart had already given up quite a long time ago, but she could not stop praying because it was the only source for getting God’s comfort daily. When she overheard God’s promise for her to have her own baby by the following year, which sounded too good to be true. She simply could not believe what she just heard. Then without knowing she silently laughed.
Did God know her heart at that moment? God knew more than Sarah knew about herself. As matter of fact, Sarah did not exactly tell why she silently laughed. It was her lifelong prayer to God, and God answered. Sarah was also a mere human like us. However, God was graceful and full of mercy to Sarah.
Then the LORD said to Abraham,
“Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” (Genesis 18:13b-14)
God is omnipotent. There is nothing that God cannot do. Sarah had been barren for almost 70 years. How many times did she experience her despair and misery in her life? Additionally, it was tough for Sarah to see Ishmael growing and chipping away her husband’s attention little by little. We cannot blame her. Perhaps, Sarah’s silent laughter reflected her mixed feeling of hope and the misery that always haunted her for 70 years.
Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying,
“I didn’t laugh.”
But the LORD said, “No, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:15b)
Sarah did not actually know what she was doing. She was just scared when God responded. She was in fear of God because God heard her prayer and saw through her heart. In fear, she denied it, but her heart was comforted because God finally heard her lifelong prayer. God saw both sides of her heart, but God valued more on her laughter in hope and faith rather than the other in doubt and despair for the last 70 years. God comforted Sarah, and then God departed. Sarah knew her prayer was answered and believed God’s omnipotent power fell on her that day.
In fact, not Sarah, but God took away her disbelief and doubt in her heart by replacing them with the laugher of joy and hope in faith. It was the moment that Sarai became Sarah, which could happen only by the direct encounter with God. Yes, God transformed her by directly touching the deeply rooted pain in her heart. God had just released Sarah from the lifelong bondage that always hunted her.
One year later Sarah bore a son and named Isaac, which means “laughter” of her joy — of holding a son in her own hands as well as seeing the hope that her descendants would be numerous like the stars in the clear night sky of many nations. Indeed, our Savior, Jesus Christ, came as the descendant of Abraham and Isaac, which was the greatest blessing of all.
Are any of us praying for God’s answer for many years or even throughout life like Sarah? Then we should not be discouraged. God will answer the prayer and the day of laughter will come.
Of course, we cannot perfectly walk toward God in prayer without missing turns and getting astray. Even Sarah got lost multiple times. She fell into the temptation of getting out of her pain by using her own earthly wisdom. Then it came with even more painful consequences. Sarah was trapped in the situation of being mistreated by her own servant girl, Hagar, and watching Ishmael growing and taking away all attention and love of Abraham from her. Even so, she endured by her prayer, and God answered her prayer.
Our Heavenly Father is full of mercy, and He carefully hears our prayers especially filled with our pains and heartaches. He answered with His compassionate heart. This is the reason why we should pray to God without ceasing while enduring faith in Him. Let’s not forget God’s compassionate and loving eyes always on us. Our daily prayer to approach Him with our contrite heart while fighting against our doubts and pains is most precious to God, who is one and only one Ever-Loving Father!
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. (Genesis 21:6)
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)