He Who Laughs Last

Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.’ And she said, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age’” (Gen. 21:6–7).

- Genesis 21:6–7

Most everyone will smile when peering into a bassinet holding a little baby. Even the saddest person may have his spirit lifted when he sees an infant laughing and playing. Wherever we go, the face of a small child often brings much happiness to us.

Fewer events are celebrated with as much joy as the birth of a baby. Long before the child arrives, the prospective parents will spend hours picking out the proper name and preparing a nursery for their infant. Parties are thrown where the mother-to-be is “showered” with gifts for the child. Anticipation, in fact, is so high that friends and family are willing to spend hours in a hospital waiting room just to be among the first to see the child.

Considering how this excitement is even greater for couples who have not conceived after years of trying to have a child helps us appreciate the joy Abraham and Sarah felt when Isaac was born. In today’s passage, Sarah exuberantly announces that God has made laughter for her (Gen. 21:6). As we noted a few months ago, Isaac is the same Hebrew word for “laughter” and is the name the Lord commanded Abraham and Sarah to give their child (17:19). Earlier, Sarah laughed in disbelief that she could bear a son (18:12); now she can laugh at her doubt. The Lord does indeed get the last laugh.

But Sarah is not only laughing at her previous behavior. She is also jubilant at the birth of her own child. The whole affair is truly hilarious. As she says, who would think she could bear Abraham a son in her old age (21:7)? Only the Lord could foresee such a miracle.

Isaac is rightly seen as a type or picture of Christ, for Mary, just like Sarah, conceived only by the special touch of God (Matt. 1:18–25). Moreover, just as Isaac’s name revealed the special joy at his birth, so too did the appearance of the Savior cause the angels to bring good tidings of great joy (Luke 2:8–20). Ambrose of Milan, the bishop who dramatically influenced Augustine, wrote, “Now everybody knows that he [Jesus] is the joy of all who checked the dread of fearsome death, took away its terror and became for all people the forgiveness of their sins” (On Isaac, or, the Soul 1.1).

Coram Deo

Matthew Henry comments: “God’s favors to his covenant people are such as surpass both their own and others’ thoughts and expectations. Who would have said that God should send his Son to die for us, his Spirit to sanctify us, his angels to attend us? Who would have said that such great sins should be pardoned?” Sarah laughed with joy at the incredible move of the Lord in her life. We must likewise never forget the wonder, joy, and surprise of our salvation.

Passages for Further Study

Ex. 18:1–9
Ezra 6:13–22
Matt. 28:1–10
Rom. 15:13

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