Triggered

Seeing our own stupidity is especially upsetting.

Genesis 21:1-10 (ESV)

The LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” 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.”

And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.”

This time, we get a good look at Sarah’s sinfulness. At first, all seems well. After laughing at the angels’ prediction that she would bear a child – and then denying it – she now celebrates.

“Isaac” means, “He laughs.” This miracle is laughably wonderful and Sarah seems perfectly happy to be proved wrong. It looks like she’s growing.

Then something goes horribly wrong. Sarah sees the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing and this picks at an old scab. The Hebrew word that’s translated as “laughing” can mean mocking – and probably does here – but so what? Teenage boys mock their little brothers all the time.

But Sarah goes ballistic over this and insists that Ishmael (and his mother) be kicked out of the household. Obviously, there’s some major emotional baggage at work here. Why is Sarah so volatile?

It’s because this is her own fault. Ishmael’s very existence was her idea. With no one to blame, her anger just simmers inside her. It’s sometimes easier to forgive someone else than to forgive yourself.

Even before Isaac came into the picture, the stupidity of her plan for Abraham to sire an heir had gotten under her skin. Her reaction then was the same as it is now – to explode in response to a trigger.

She hasn’t come to grips with her own mistake, and any reminder sets her off.


This time the lesson is not that we’re just as bad as Sarah.

Just kidding. Of course we are. We may not make mistakes as grand as the one Sarah made, but we still react just as sinfully. We often convert a valuable lesson into nothing more than emotional baggage.

One of the most important words in the English language is, “Oops.” When you admit you’re wrong, you avoid a lot of pain. Being wrong is an important and useful part of life.

But don’t forget to ask God to help you learn whatever lesson the mistake is meant to teach.


The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

https://www.ailbe.org/resources/itemlist/category/91-deep-studies

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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