The root of the name ‘Isaac’ means ‘laughing’; when Sarah first heard that she was to have a child in her old age, she laughed, but again when she gives birth to Isaac in this chapter she laughs again with the exuberance of one who watches God fulfil his promises. When God fulfils the promises he makes he does so literally, in a way that cannot be ignored, he fulfils them to the letter. And this provokes the believer to laughter in worship, jubilation and amazement, and sometimes just downright amusement that this is what God does. Following God should never be dull, and the closer one gets to God, the more fun and incredible it gets. And it’s even more incredible when the fulfilment comes 25 years after the initial promise as in this case. Even more incredible still is the fact that this was another step closer to the birth of the Messiah, the promise of salvation to the world.
Already, by the time Isaac is weaned (probably around the age of two years), the dynamics between the future peoples the Jews (descended from Isaac) and the Arabs (descended at least in part) from Ishmael are established. There is jealousy of God’s blessing for Isaac, and Isaac’s position as the father of God’s chosen people. It must be seen, however, that although Isaac was chosen, God didn’t abandon Ishmael, but rather ensured that he was provided for, and promised that he also would be the father of a great people. I always feel sorry for Hagar, her position came about as the result of the disobedience of another person. Abraham brought her out of Egypt, where it is likely he shouldn’t have been in the first place. He took his household there to escape famine rather than trusting in God, and came away with a maidservant. Later, at the urging of Sarah, he tried to engineer the fulfilment of God’s promise of a son – again a lapse in faith, judgment and obedience. And then after Hagar presents him with a son, she is sent away from her employer twice. God shows his faithfulness – she has nothing else to rely on, which is why in this chapter she abandons both herself and her son to death in the desert. God’s faithful, even when we’re not. I need to remember that more often.