“A Promise to Sarah”
Lesson Text: Genesis 17:15-17; 18:9-15; 21:1-7
Background Scripture: Genesis 17:15-17; 18:9-15; 21:1-7
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 51:1-6
Genesis 17:15-17 (KJV)
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.
16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.
17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
9 And they said unto him, where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent.
10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.
11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.
12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, after I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?
14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.
15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, nay; but thou didst laugh.
1 And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
7 And she said, who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? For I have born him a son in his old age.
To understand that God can do what we consider impossible.
To explain the significance of laughing in each section of today's text.
To daily find ways of showing God that you trust His Word and plans.
The investors had to promise that they would not tell anyone about the project, which was top secret. Anyone who violated this nondisclosure agreement would forfeit his or her investment. The supposed project involved a method of producing energy so that a unit the size of a small box could provide electricity for a city.
If this sounds too good to be true, it was. Those who received the funds for the imaginary project were master manipulators. They spent the money on themselves, declared bankruptcy, and depended on the investors to keep their promises not to spill the beans. Someone, however, finally talked. Did he lose what he invested? Yes—and so did the ones who kept the promise.
Some people make promises to God that is intended to manipulate God into doing what they want. The phrase foxhole religion describes another category of suspect promises. The one making this type of promise commits his or her future, with all sincerity, to God if God will only spare the person from imminent danger. But the promise may fade from memory once the danger has passed.
Today's lesson is about promises that God made to Sarah about her having a son. God's promises are not like ours—He never manipulates; His memory doesn't fade. When God promises, He keeps His word, and we receive the benefits.
Time: Approximately 2065 B.C.
Place: Plains of Mamre and Beersheba
God made several promises to Abram. When Abram's family left Haran, the Lord said that He would make Abram to be a great nation (Genesis 12:2). Abram entered Canaan at age 75, and he was told that this was the land that God planned to give to his descendants (12:7). After Abram and nephew Lot went their separate ways, Abram was again told that all the land he could see would be given to his descendants (13:15).
But Abram and his wife were childless. With the passing of the years, Abram may have been thinking again how he could "help" God resolve this problem of Abram's having a proper heir. In Genesis 16, Abram's wife, Sarai (renamed Sarah in today's lesson), offered a culturally acceptable way that could fulfill what had been promised: she would give Hagar, her maidservant, to Abram. The resulting offspring would be from Abram's body, and Sarai could have a son through Hagar. This attempt to run ahead of God turned out to be a bad idea, as Genesis 16:4b-6 shows.
The Lord appeared to Abram 13 years later to reveal new dimensions of the covenant (Genesis 17:1). First, Abram's name (meaning "exalted father") was changed to Abraham (meaning "father of a multitude"; 17:5). It was strange for a man who had only one son (Ishmael) to have such a name! Even so, Abraham's acceptance of the name shows that he understood that to change a person's name shows that you have authority over that person. Today's text takes us into a second name change initiated by the authority of God.
The Divine Promise of a Child (Genesis 17:15-17)
1. What was the declaration made by God to Abraham concerning Sarai’s role? (Genesis 17:15-16)
Verse 15 reveals that Abraham was not the only one to get a name change. The Lord also changed his wife’s name from “Sarai,” which means “my princess” or “my queen,” to “Sarah,” which means “a princess” or “a queen.” Since she would become the mother of kings, it was only right that she be called a princess!
Sarah is to be the mother of the special son promised to Abraham (v. 16). For this to happen at her advanced age (see v. 17, next), she will need a blessing from the Lord, and that is what He provides.
We must not minimize the place of Sarah in God's great plan of salvation. Like her husband (and all of us), she had her faults; but also like her husband, she trusted God and accomplished His purposes (Heb. 11:11). She is not only the mother of the Jewish nation (Isa. 51:2) but also a good example for Christian wives to follow (1 Peter 3:1-6). The Christian husband should treat his wife like a princess, because that is what she is in the Lord.
The blessing for Abraham and Sarah reaches into the future and includes kings and royalty among their descendants. Thus it is quite appropriate for Sarah's changed name still to mean "princess." The fulfillment for this aspect of the promise begins when Saul becomes Israel's first genuine king more than 1,000 years later. The final king in the long line is Jesus Christ, the "King of kings" (Revelation 17:14).
Abraham’s Skepticism (Genesis 17:17)
2. Why did Abraham laugh when God told him that He would give him a son through Sarah? (Genesis 17:17)
When Abraham heard God say that Sarah would bear a son, he bowed his face to the ground. But then he began to consider his advanced age and wondered how a man who was nearly 100 could become a father. Also, with Sarah being 90 years old, it seemed impossible that she could have a child. These facts cause him to ask himself the two questions we see here. Thus, the patriarch laughed, to himself in disbelief (Gen. 17:17). In light of the seemingly impossible promise, Abraham concluded that Ishmael would be his heir (v. 18, not in today's text).
The Lord countered the patriarch’s statement by reiterating His original pledge, namely, that Sarah would become pregnant and give birth to a son. Verse 17 records the fact that the patriarch “laughed,” and this becomes the reason for giving his son the name of “Isaac” (v. 19), which means “he laughs,” and it points to the laughter here and to what occurs in the next section of our study.
The opening verses of Genesis 18 provide the background for the dialogue that is a part of the printed text for today. Abraham is near Mamre, and three men are suddenly standing in front of him (see Hebrews 13:2). This probably takes place a short time after the first segment of our lesson.
To have guests show up is special, for they can bring news from far away. If the timing of the visit was a test, the patriarch acquitted himself admirably. Despite the heat, he hurried to meet his guests’ needs and made sure his wife and servants hurried too. Abraham showed respect and welcome by bowing low to the visitors (Gen. 18:2). He begged them to stay with him. The patriarch washed their feet and offered them a seat. He provided food in great variety, quality, and quantity. He declined to sit, even after the visitors had begun their meal (vs. 3-8). Abraham’s example shows us that a home can be a place of ministry to others.
Before leaving this section, we should say a word about the importance of Christian hospitality. In this day of convenient motels and hotels, we rarely think about what it means to entertain strangers (Heb. 13:1-2); but hospitality is an important part of Christian ministry (Rom. 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9). In fact, “given to hospitality" is one of the requirements for leadership in the local church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 1:8). By lovingly serving others, we serve Jesus Christ our Lord (Matt. 25:34-40), and we promote the spread of God's truth (3 John 5-8).
God’s Plan Involving Sarah (Genesis 18:9-15)
3. Why did one of the men ask Abraham “Where is Sarah thy wife?” (Genesis 18:9).
In the culture of the day, it is not customary for a man to inquire about the wife of another man. Therefore Abraham is probably curious about the inquiry we see here. Sarah stayed inside the tent, but was able to hear the conversation outside (vs. 9,10b). Sarah must have been surprised to hear herself mentioned in the exchange. If (as it appears) Abraham had not yet mentioned his wife’s name before the visitors, this may have been the first clue that they were out of the ordinary. Perhaps there is something about these men that causes Abraham to accept the question, so he replies that she is in the tent.
In Genesis 18:10 the pronoun changes from “they” to “he,” apparently referring to the one leading the group of three. This one is called “the LORD” in verses 1 and 13; and in the first verse of chapter 19 the other two are referred to as angels.
4. What did the special guest tell Abraham about Sarah? (Genesis18:10)
The next clue came when one of the special guests—the chief representative—stated that he would assuredly return about the same time the following year (possibly referring to springtime), and when he did, Sarah would already have a son (v. 10).
Sarah’s Skepticism (Genesis 18:11, 12)
5. What was Sarah’s response to the divine prediction? (Genesis 18:11, 12)
Genesis 18:11 notes that Abraham and Sarah were old and advancing in years, and Sarah had long since passed the age of child bearing. Thus, when Sarah heard the divine prediction, she laughed to herself. She found it hard to believe that a “old” woman such as herself would have the pleasure of becoming pregnant and bearing a son (v. 12).
God’s Unwavering Commitment (Genesis 18:13-15)
6. How did God respond when He knew Sarah laughed at His words? (Genesis 18:13-15)
Genesis 18:13-15 makes it clear and is indisputable proof that this was the Lord speaking; Apparently, Sarah kept her laughter and her thoughts to herself (v. 12). Those outside the tent heard nothing from her. Yet the Lord revealed that He knew what was going on in Sarah’s mind. Thus, He let out another clue to His divine nature (v. 13). Sarah had long ago given up hope of having a child. The idea of it seemed impossible. But with the Lord, all things are possible. He repeated His prediction that within a year Sarah would give birth (v. 14). Sarah reacts with a feeble attempt to defend herself. Perhaps she rationalizes that there has been no audible laughter, but God knows a person's heart and thoughts (compare Matthew 9:4; 12:25).
Many times we find ourselves in trying situations where it seems difficult for us to trust the Lord. If we look only at the circumstances, our problems appear insoluble. But, like Sarah, we must learn to look at what our powerful Lord can do. He can see us through even seemingly impossible experiences.
What Do You Think?
How have you seen God work through someone in a way not usually associated with his or her stage of life? How has this increased your faith?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Through a child | Through a teenager | Through an elderly person
The most important fact of this verse (Genesis 18:13) is that the speaker is now designated as the “LORD.” When the four letters of this word are all capital letters, it indicates that this is the divine name Yahweh. The three guests were earlier called "men" (Genesis 18:2), and Hebrews 13:2 uses the term "angels." The word angel can mean "messenger," and that is the situation here. The speaker is the Lord himself, and He is the special messenger from Heaven.
The Divine Fulfillment (Genesis 21:1-7)
The Birth of Isaac (Genesis 21:1-4)
7. When did the promised birth of Isaac take place? (Genesis 21:1-3)
The first verse of Genesis 21 is a general statement that is intended to show that the Lord keeps His promises to Sarah. With respect to Sarah, the Lord manifested His grace on her by doing what He had promised (21:1). Though Sarah was now 90 years old, this did not prevent God from enabling her to become pregnant and bear a son to Abraham in his old age (v. 2). Indeed, she and her husband regarded the One who had given the promise of a child to be trustworthy (Heb. 11: 11). The birth took place at the divinely appointed time in accordance with the word of the Lord (Gen. 21:2).
Abraham follows the stipulations and revelations of the God-given covenant. The name given to the son is therefore Isaac (meaning "he laughs"), just as God had said (Genesis 17:19). This name serves as a constant reminder to the parents of the different types of laughter that Abraham and Sarah expressed in their reactions to the promises of God. The lineage of Jesus continues to move forward (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:34).
8. Why did Abraham circumcise Isaac? (Genesis 21:4)
Genesis 17:9-14 reveals that both Abraham and all the males in his household were to be circumcised. This explains why the patriarch had his newborn son, Isaac, circumcised when he was eight days old. In short, Abraham was heeding the command of God (Gen. 21:4).
Proud Parents (Genesis 21:5-7)
9. How did God get the glory out of Abraham and Sarah’s lives? (Genesis 21:5-7)
The Lord had been faithful to Abraham for many years. Now that the patriarch was a century old, he would remain unwavering in his trust in God (Gen. 21:5). Sarah drew attention to the Lord’s faithfulness by noting that He, through the birth of Isaac, had brought her the joy of laughter. Moreover, all those who heard the good news of Isaac’s birth would signal their joy over the fulfillment of the divine promise (v. 6). Many years before, no one could have foretold that Sarah, a seemingly barren and aging woman, would ever be able to nurse children. Yet, against all humanly conceivable odds, she had given birth to a male infant, whom Sarah and her husband would enjoy in their old age (v. 7).
The birth of Isaac reminds us that God keeps His promises, in His own way, and in His own time. In spite of their occasional failures, Abraham and Sarah believed God; and God honored their faith (Heb. 11:8-11).
What Do You Think?
What things have you seen that confirm for you that nothing is impossible with God?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Spiritual issues in your own life | Spiritual issues in the lives of others
Relational issues in your own life | Relational issues in the lives of others
POINTS TO PONDER
1. God wants us to know that He is the God who is all-sufficient and all-powerful, and that nothing is too hard for Him. (Genesis 17:15-17)
2. The Lord had come all the way from heaven to give Abraham and Sarah an announcement! (Genesis 18:9-15)
3. The birth of Isaac involved much more than parental joy, for his birth meant the fulfillment of God's promise. (Genesis 21:1-7)
Ishmael, Isaac, ... and the list of Abraham's descendants continues beyond that. It includes the sons born to Keturah, whom Abraham married after Sarah died (Genesis 25:1, 2; 1 Chronicles 1:32). The list features Jacob, his 12 sons, and many others who became part of the nation of Israel. Romans 4:16 says that Abraham is the father of all who believe. The popular children's chorus was correct when it stated that Father Abraham has many sons; that is great doctrine.
Our belief includes intellectual assent, but it is more than that. These lessons from Genesis are not just to be discussed academically. They should help us develop a stronger, deeper faith in God and give us a blessed assurance that the promises He has made about the future will come to pass. Just look at what God did for Abraham and Sarah!
Heavenly Father, we thank You for Your Divine Love and faithfulness. Thank You for the adoption of us into the Royal family. Thank You for all the promises of love that flows out from all directions and is laced with Your Grace. Father God, help us to develop a deeper faith in You, and have an assurance in knowing that all promises will come to pass In Jesus Name, Amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Nothing is too difficult for the Lord! Nothing!