This week we’ll study the story of a man named Abram, whom God renamed Abraham.  This was a sign he had big plans for Abraham’s life.  God made a covenant promise, and created circumcision as a sign for Abraham and his descendents and their membership in God’s covenant people.  But over the years, as he and his wife Sarah aged, it didn’t look like the promised children would ever happen.  But God promised it:

And God brought Abraham outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:5-6 ESV)

Why was this so outrageous?  Why was it noteworthy that Abraham believed?  There’s more:

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. (Genesis 17:15-19 ESV)

You might expect laughter of Joy when a couple with a positive pregnancy test, who thought they could never have a biological child.  For this era, it was especially critical.  In their patriarchal culture, a son was the way to ensure your future survival and legacy.

So this pregnancy test, direct from God, would be incredible but unbelievable news.  People lived longer then, but 100 was still an age Abraham and Sarah considered impossible to bear children.

But they laugh, because this wasn’t just something impossible God promised he’d make possible through science, or through blind chance.  They were 90 and 100 years old!  This should have been impossible, impossible, so the laughed.

For Abraham, God’s promise complicates his life.  He already took matters into his own hands when God wasn’t acting quickly enough, and had a son with another woman, and named the son Ishmael.  Abraham asks why God can’t just honour Ishmael as if he was Abraham’s son.

Abraham laughs, and objects.  So God tells him what to name the kid.  He’ll be Isaac, which means “he laughs”.  God’s saying, “you laugh now, but I’ll be giving you exactly what you always wanted, but thought was impossible.  Just wait…a year from now we’ll see who’s laughing!”

Question: How would you react if you heard this news?

  • You can [permalink append=”#comments”]Discuss the Challenge[/permalink] online, or by starting a local discussion group!
  • Are you meeting just once a week with your discussion group?  You can find all of this week’s discussion material in our Weekly Study Guide