Sarah and Abraham are always brought up as the first Surrogate story. What is the Story?
I will tell it in over a few posts. We will start with the son that Abraham and Sarah have together without using a surrogate.
In Genesis, God promised Abraham that he would make a great nation of him.
Well, clearly to make a great nation from someone, would require having at least one child to carry on your line! And when they are young, this would have seemed like no big deal most likely to Abraham and his wife Sarah. I mean, maybe they were getting a little up there in years, but a baby still was possible. So they obey God, set out for the promised land, and wait for a son.
And they wait. And they wait, and they wait. Over 10 years goes by and still no baby. God revisits Abraham in chapter 15 and tells him “I am your shield and your very great reward.” Abraham asks how that can be since he doesn’t have a son, and God reaffirms that he will have a son.
Here’s where we get this great line “Abraham believed the Lord; and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness.”
God comes through, however, it take another 13 years.
God shows up to Abraham again. Abraham is now 99. He was 75 when he first heard God’s promise and set out for the land that God would show him. This is actually where God changes Abraham’s name from Abram to Abraham and Sarai to Sarah. The implication here is that Abraham in the very meaning of his name will be the father of a multitude, and Sarah, which means princess, will be the mother of this nation.
I love that God changes their names before the promise comes true. He changes their names to reflect how he sees them, how he’s going to bless them.
I think it also shows how the struggle to have a child changes who your are, how they see each other and the world.
So how does Abraham respond?
He laughs. In fact, this is the first known case of ROFL, that’s Rolling On Floor Laughing for you non-texters out there. It says he “fell on his face laughing.”
And God apparently ignores this, and just goes right on with the promise, appearing sometime later at Abraham’s tent, where it’s pitched under the oaks of Mamre, where we pick up the story today.
The Lord shows up to Abraham and Abraham hustles to prepare a meal for his guest, presumably not knowing who has decided to wait on him that day. But God’s business that day is really with Sarah, even though for whatever reason he decides to go with the customs of the day and not talk to her face to face. In verse nine, when he asks “Where is your wife, Sarah?” this isn’t because he needs information. I mean even a regular guest could probably have figured out where Sarah was, after all, it was the heat of the day, and those cakes had come from somewhere, so in the tent is a logical assumption.
But God asks this so that Sarah will know that what he’s about to say is directed at her. And he tells her she’s going to have a son.
And she laughs.
Can we blame her for laughing? I mean, this isn’t exactly the first time that Sarah has heard this promise from God. In fact, she’s been hearing it for nearly twenty-five years now. She’s been disappointed with this particular promise and now it’s not only unlikely, it’s physically impossible. The text clearly tells us that Sarah is past menopause.
And she’s thinking, right, a little too late now, God. A couple of years ago even, but I mean you’ve had twenty-five years to do something about this and you come back now? When I’m physically past all that sort of thing, and you still want me to believe this? I’ve been believing for twenty-five years, okay so more or less believe, but me, have a baby? I’m old and worn out!
This verb that’s used here means that Sarah laughed to herself or within herself. God shows his identity by knowing what’s going on even though she’s standing behind him and didn’t make any audible noise.
Now, much has been made of this next section, why does God seem to rebuke Sarah for laughing when he didn’t rebuke Abraham, and things of that sort, but I don’t get that sense from it.
Try this sort of tone on for size:
God: Sarah, why did you laugh, don’t you know nothing is too hard for me.
Sarah: I didn’t laugh.
God: Oh yes, you did laugh!
I mean try to say that “Oh yes you did laugh” part without smiling. It’d be hard! Which is why I don’t see this as the sort of harsh reprimand that it’s often read as. I think that God is laughing with them as he anticipates what he’s going to do for them.
First of all, Isaac means “He laughs” and I have to kind of wonder if the he’s supposed to be God. Secondly, in chapter 21 when Sarah gives birth to Isaac, she says “god has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
See, laughter isn’t always just a sort of “haha” laughter, or a derisive sort of laughter. The kind of laughter Sarah’s talking about here is a deep, joyful laughter, a laughter that emerges when a smile just doesn’t go far enough.
God takes Sarah’s internal snort of hopelessness and turns it into a deep, lasting laughter because he fulfills his promise to her, not on any sort of time frame that she would have imagined, but right in his perfect time. And when God fulfills his promise, and he always does, there’s always cause for deep laughter.
It won’t be in our timing, and it won’t be by the methods we devise to help God along. But whatever it is, and whenever it shows up, it will be worth the wait.