Laughter and sadness

Genesis 21 v.1-21

You will recall that Sarah laughed in disbelief when God told Abraham that they would have a child in their old age but now in this chapter v. 6 she laughs not in disbelief but in sheer joy

God has brought me laughter and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me and Isaac is so named because that name means ‘he laughs’

And yet for all the joy as Isaac was weaned the past again reared its head and at the celebration it is recorded that Ishmael, the son of Hagar was mocking with the result that Sarah, in harsh words, says to Abraham “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the  inheritance with my son Isaac” v 10

Abraham is understandably ‘distressed’ and the God who sees and knows, comes alongside with yet another act of mercy and grace both towards him and towards Hagar and their son.

What does this very account teach us? I suggest three possible things.

That stepping outside God’s perfect plan and promises has at the very least ‘messy’ consequences which spread out affecting others as well as ourselves.

That our mistakes do not take God unawares and knock his plans off course.

That after failures we can, by the grace of God, move on. There are other references to Ishmael and his descendants in the unfolding story of Genesis but how those interact with God’s plans for and promises to Abraham, he leaves with God.

Probably all of us have things in the past, distant or recent, which distress us and will continue to do so unless we bring that distress before the LORD – in the new covenant era in which we live – to the foot of the cross. When we do that then we can sing in the words of Timothy Dudley Smith’s great hymn

Lord for ourselves; in living power remake us –
self on the cross and Christ upon the throne,
past put behind us, for the future take us:
Lord of our lives, to live for Christ alone.

Let us pray this day that each of us might know that truth in blessed reality

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