Consider the following synonyms for the word laugh:

Synonyms: Verb

Synonyms: Noun

  • How many of these synonyms describe your laughing tendencies?
  • What triggers your laughter?
  • Have you ever responded with laughter when God speaks to you?

ESV  Genesis 21:3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.

The name Isaac means, “he laughs” or “he will laugh.”

  • Why did Abraham name this child Isaac?

ESV  Genesis 17:19 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.

  • Why did God designate a name that means “he laughs” or “he will laugh” for Abraham and Sarah’s child?

Consider Abraham’s response when told he would father Isaac with Sarah:

ESV  Genesis 17:17 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?”

  • Which of the synonyms above for the word laugh do you think best describes the type of laugh Abraham had?
  • After Abraham laughed to himself about the promise presented by God, he inquired about his other son Ishmael’s inheritance, born to him by Sarah’s maidservant Hagar. (See Gen 17:18).

    God responds to Abraham’s concerns over Ismael but makes it clear that the direct line of inheritance will be through this son Isaac yet to be born through Sarah. (See Gen 17:19-21).

    God further states to Abraham:

    ESV  Genesis 18:10-12 The LORD said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?”

    Sarah was eavesdropping on the conversation between Abraham and God.

    Both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the prospect of having a child in their elderly state.

    But Sarah is chastised by God about her laughter:

    ESV  Genesis 18:13-15 The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

    • Which of the synonyms above for the word laugh do you think best describes the type of laugh Sarah had?
    • Why did Sarah’s laugh receive chastisement from the Lord?

    ESV  Genesis 21:1-3 The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. 3 Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac.

    • Again, why was Abraham and Sarah’s child named Isaac?

    ESV  Genesis 21:6-7 And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 7 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.”

    Sarah’s unbelieving snickering at the possibility of bearing a child in her elderly state has turned to incredulous joyful laughter.

    Sarah credit’s God for the provision of bringing her a child named “one who laughs.”

    Abraham obeys God’s instructions to name the child Isaac because he believed God could do it.

    Isaac’s name will be a lasting reminder to all who read Genesis 17-21 that God has the power to keep His promises.

    Our age, circumstances, or resources at the time God promises something for us do not limit His ability to fulfill His promises.

    Often, it is our age, circumstances, or resources that reveal clearly that only God can achieve His promises.

    Reflection Questions:

    • Does the meaning of your name fulfill a promise from God?
    • How does this story reveal God’s faithfulness to us today?
    • What experiences have you had with God that are similar?
    • Have you been obedient like Abraham was?
    • Have you doubted God’s ability to fulfill His promises like Sarah did?
    • How has God revealed to you his power to fulfill His promises?

    A prayer for victory:

    ESV  Psalm 20:5 May we shout for joy over your salvation, and in the name of our God set up our banners! May the LORD fulfill all your petitions!

    A prayer for cleansing and pardon:

    ESV  Psalm 51:12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.


    Barbara Lynn


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