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Laughable Blessings

Teaching grace.

Genesis 18:9–15

They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 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. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 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.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

Sarah’s laughter isn’t a major offense–Abraham laughed too when he heard the same news—but her lying about it seems more serious. Yet after the visitors correct her on it, they just leave as if it’s not worth any more discussion. Why?

One clue is that the men are referring to her as Sarah, not Sarai. Her name change came when God promised that Sarah will have a son. Sarah has to be aware of God’s promise. Her laughter cannot be of surprise; the three men are confirming what she has already been told.

Also, Sarah’s words show that she is seeing this as joyful, even pleasurable. Of course, Sarah’s exact state of mind cannot be known (or even imagined!) In any case, the men correct her.

But notice that they just declare the truth and then drop the whole thing. They only want to get her attention. Sarah was embarrassed about her laughter and failed to own up to it. So what? They don’t need to pound the truth into her at this time; events to come will do that in spades.

This is a magnificent portrait of how God, in His infinite providence, puts up with our sin.

This is the kind of patience parents often have with their children. “That was wrong, but you’re learning.” It’s also the kind of patience Christians are called to have with everyone.

But it isn’t just patience; it’s leadership. When somebody makes a mistake—or even commits a wrong—our goal should be to see the potential for a teachable moment. After all, we shouldn’t be surprised; we know the doctrines of fallen human nature. So, what’s the point of displaying pique?

Easier said than done, right?

Exactly. These “teachable moments” can be teachable for us too. Growing in Christ includes growing in patience and leadership. Over time we learn more about sin—including our own sin. It doesn’t surprise us the way it did when we were new to Christianity. You might even say that we get used to it. But this is an immense challenge that we must try to stay mindful of “in the heat of the moment.” Being a Christian means being a teacher—not just sharing the gospel. That’s the point of Matthew 5:13a.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” 

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Scripture taken from English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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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