In Genesis 17, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, the name we are familiar with today. Abram means “exalted father”, while Abraham means “father of a great number”. Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah, from “my princess” to “princess”. While the new name for Sarai had pretty much the same meaning, God also used the opportunity to specifically bless her.
“Then God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall come from her.'” ~Genesis 17:15-16
What a beautiful blessing for Sarah! God promised that He would bless her and give Abraham a son with HER (remember, they had already taken matters into their own hands and Hagar had given him Ishmael 13 years before). Then God stated again that He would bless her, and that she would be the mother of nations and kings.
Okay, when I read the next verse, I was surprised. Yes, I have read Genesis many times before, but every time I read a passage, God gives me something new. I grew up attending Sunday school as well as a Christian school, so I am quite familiar with these beloved stories of our ancestors. But when you hear that someone laughed when told that they were going to have a son in their old age, who do you think of? Sarah. But who laughed FIRST? Abraham!
“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?'” ~Genesis 17:17
Can you imagine speaking with God, being in His presence, and laughing, scoffing at something that God Himself has told you? In Genesis 17:1-2, we are told that “the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you exceedingly.'” God appeared to Abram, gave him and his wife new names, pronounced a blessing on Sarah, and then told Abraham, AGAIN, that he would have a son, with Sarah. What did Abraham do? He doubted God, and he laughed. Wow.
But I am not picking up any stones to throw. How many times do I doubt God? When I am going through a rough time, and God brings to my mind His promise that He will never leave nor forsake me, yet I am feeling alone… “Yeah, right God, where are You now?” sometimes comes into my sinful heart. He shows us His love and provision time after time after time, yet we are so quick to doubt when the waves in the storm of this life seem like they will swamp our boat.
God did not address Abraham’s laughing heart directly. However, I think God’s sense of humor, perhaps, shines through when He tells Abraham in verse 19 “you shall call his name Isaac”. Isaac means, of course, “he laughs”! Do you think maybe Abraham felt a bit chastised when he realized that God saw his thoughts and his heart? I would. I do.
Oh, that I would be quick to trust, quick to believe! And slow to scoff and doubt… But no matter what, I am so thankful that our God is slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness!