Have you ever found one of God’s promises so unbelievable, impossible, or good that you laughed at it? Well, that was Abram’s response to God promising him and his wife Sarai a son in their old age. Both of them, in their own turn, laughed at the idea. But if we’re honest, God’s promises are so unbelievable, impossible, and good that they are laughable. And that’s what we see in this story.
Laughing at Grace
Even after Abram tried to achieve God’s promise of a child through a woman who was not his wife, God still kept his promise. God would make Abram a great nation that would bless the whole world through a son that would come from him and his wife, Sarai. And this son would be a constant reminder of how unexplainable and bewildering God’s goodness is because his name would be Isaac, which means, “He laughs.”
His son’s very name would remind him of how laughably good and astonishing God’s faithfulness is.
The Sign of Circumcision
This passage is also extremely important because God gives Abram a new sign of his promise. As the rainbow was a sign of the promise he made to Noah and the world, this new sign would be for Abram and the nation that would come from his line. God instructs Abram and his household to be circumcised. This may seem like a strange, possibly random sign, but it actually couldn’t be more appropriate.
The whole book of Genesis so far has been about a descendant of Eve who would crush the head of sin and death. We learned that this descendant would come through Abram since it is through him that God would bless all nations. Therefore, God gave Abram and his people the sign of circumcision as a constant reminder that from their line, a final blessed one would come.
God was giving his chosen people a physical sign on their reproductive organs. It was to palpably show that this line of people was marked off for a very specific purpose. From this line, one would come who would fix the entire world. Circumcision was a way for this promise to never be forgotten.
A New Name
In renewing his covenant and giving this sign, God also changed Abram and Sarai’s name. Abram meant “Exalted Father,” but God changed it to Abraham which means “Father of a Multitude.” Likewise, Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah, which means “Princess.” Both name changes signify a new identity and a new reality. Abraham would be the blessed father of a multitude, and he had the sign to prove it. Sarah would be the princess of a nation. She would be barren no more.
Where is Jesus?
Ultimately, we know that the final son of Abraham and Sarah who blesses all nations is Jesus.
Rejoicing in Grace
If having a child at an old age is a laughable promise, being saved from sin, freed from death, and raised to life to live with God forever should make us wail with joyful, bewildered laughter. It’s no wonder that Paul, in the New Testament, could command us to “rejoice always.” We have such good news that it is laughably good. Not that we have to go around smiling and cracking up all the time. But the gospel is so good that it buries a ceaseless joy deep within us.
Additionally, Jesus gives us a sign better than the circumcision given to Abraham. Ours is a circumcision of the heart made inwardly by the Holy Spirit. The reason for an inward circumcision is that the true children of Abraham are not the ones who come straight from Abraham’s line, but those who believe in Jesus. It is an inward change, not an outward one that makes the difference.
Christians are marked off. But our marking is not primarily an outward mark. For an outward mark cannot change who you truly are. Instead, the Holy Spirit cuts off the dead and sinful parts of our hearts. This new spiritual circumcision inevitably creates an outward change too. This is the true circumcision Jesus brings.
And just as Abraham’s circumcision was a sign put on his body guaranteeing the fulfillment of the promise that was to come, the New Testament says that the Holy Spirit’s sign in us is our guarantee that all of Jesus’ promises will be fulfilled as well.
A New Eternal Name
Like Abraham and Sarah, every Christian receives a new name as well. In fact, we are renamed twice. The first name is given to you when you put your faith in Jesus. You are made a new creation. At that moment, you are given so many new names: Bride of Christ, Adopted Son or Daughter, Beloved of God. The list goes on and on.
There is a second name every Christian will receive as well. The last book in the Bible, Revelation, says that Jesus will give new names to everyone who perseveres to the end (Revelation 2:17). No one knows what this name is or will be. According to this verse, we might not even know what each other’s new names are. It may be that Jesus gives each of us a private name only he calls us. A sweet pet name between us and our savior. That’s a name worth looking forward to.
See For Yourself
I pray that the Holy Spirit would show you God’s faithfulness in such a way that it fills you with joyful, bewildered laughter. And that you would see that Jesus has given us his Spirit as a guarantee of what is to come.