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Covenant Father 11: Covenant Child - Genesis 21:1-7

Finally, the child of promise is born! Finally, the man named “Exalted Father” and then re-named “Father of a Multitude” has a child! We’ve seen false start after wrong turn, but at last, God’s promise has come true. This is what it has all been about: God called Abraham because He knew that Abraham would pass on his faith to his children, so that God’s even greater covenant promises could be fulfilled through Abraham’s family line. And at last, that child is born.

The big point being made is that God did this, not Abraham and Sarah, and so v.1 – “as He had said, as He had promised”, v.2 – when God said, at the time of which God had spoken, v.4 “as God had commanded”, v.6 “God has made laughter for me.” God did something amazing, just like He said He would.

How did God do it? This isn’t a medical oddity – old people having a baby. This is a supernatural miracle: the Lord visited Sarah, and did what He promised even though Abraham and Sarah were dead, reproductively speaking. God is showing us right from the beginning of covenant history that salvation comes by the power of God, and not by human effort.

God accomplishes salvation for us without our help. But He does give us a role to play: we are called to believe His promises and keep His commands. God’s Word brings Abraham to life so that he can obey, and God’s power is displayed through Abraham’s faith in God’s promises and obedience to God’s commands. God keeps His covenant by His own almighty power, and He administers His covenant through promises and commands.

God initiates, we respond: Abraham and Sarah respond in two ways: obedience (v.3,4) and laughter (v.6). We see that Abraham names the child Isaac, laughter, the name God gave him in 17:19, which was to be the name of the covenant child. Abraham also circumcises Isaac on the eighth day, and the text emphasizes: “as God had commanded Him.” And so we see in Abraham’s life the response of faith: trust and obey.

But especially through Sarah we see another response: joyful laughter. Sarah had laughed in disbelief earlier, but now she laughs with pure joy. And notice this: Sarah’s laughter is contagious. “God made laughter for me” she says, “and everyone who hears will laugh over me.” Sarah’s joy in God spreads, which means that her laughter is evangelism.

That’s what God did for Abraham and Sarah, how He did it, and how they responded. In v.7, though, Sarah asks a question that strengthens the evangelistic power of her laughter. “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?” It’s a rhetorical question: No one! But who did say that to Abraham? God! And since God said it, and God keeps His promises, Sarah says, “Yet, despite how unlikely and impossible it was, I have borne him a son in his old age.”

How is Sarah doing apologetics here? Well, think about it: everyone Sarah knew worshiped some god or gods. Why didn’t any of them tell Sarah, “Just serve my god; he’ll give you a child!” Because no one else believed that their god could do it! Only Abraham and Sarah’s God can open the barren womb of a ninety-year-old post-menopausal woman and her hundred-year-old husband. And so Sarah’s question sends a clear message to everyone else: “You need a better god!”

The birth of Isaac kick-started the covenant line through which Jesus Christ entered the world. The God of Abraham gave Isaac to be born from Sarah’s womb so that thousands of years later He could send His Son to be born from Abraham and Sarah’s family, so that through Abraham He could bless all the families of the earth. Those are the promises that He fulfilled in Christ, the ultimate long-awaited impossible covenant child, and that’s what came true for you when you believed the gospel.

So how should you respond? The same way Abraham and Sarah did: with obedience and with joy and laughter. Trust and obey, and wait for God to bless you. When you do this, joy follows. Laughter follows. So laugh. Feast. Celebrate. Invite others; show hospitality and let your guests see you laugh with joy over the covenant child who brings blessing to the world.

Posted on Thursday, July 06, 2017 by CJ Bowen