In Genesis 17 and 18, on separate occasions, both Abraham and Sarah struggle to contain their laughter at God’s promise to bless them with a son. The childless couple are nearing 100 and 90 years old, respectively. What a ludicrous idea! God has been too slow to keep his promise!
God promised them a great nation of descendants, including One who will bless the whole world. In their advanced age, Sarah and Abraham see only one way God’s promise can come true, and that’s their way: His name is Ishmael, the child of Abraham and Sarah’s maid Hagar. He’s already 13 years old. Abraham seeks God’s approval (Gen. 17:18), “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
Now God reveals his grace in a surprising way. Their plan wasn’t good. It wasn’t God’s will. But God, in grace, rescues Hagar in her great distress (Gen. 16:7-13), and he blesses Ishmael (Gen. 17:20). How many times have we come up with “better ideas”—our own plan—hoping God will bless it, yet knowing in our hearts it isn’t honoring him and we are laughing at his plan? Yet God can work our failures into the big picture of his plan—if he wills and for his glory. Consider David and Bathsheba, for example, who became forebears of Jesus Christ.
What is God’s plan? God’s plan is to bring life to a world of people bound for death. This plan of redemption for sinful human beings is the greatest plan in all of history. God is not slow in keeping his promises, and his plan is not laughable. It is perfect.
Martha thought Jesus was too slow. “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). But Jesus’ timing was just right. His plan was not to rescue Lazarus from illness; it was to bring him new life.
God’s great plan of redemption brings life by giving you Christ’s righteousness. In the early stages God’s plan required a miraculous baby—Isaac. At his birth, God must have been smiling, if not laughing, because God delivered on his promise while honoring the marriage of Sarah and Abraham. Something they thought impossible.
But Isaac’s birth was nothing compared to that second miracle baby. Jesus was born as both God and man, so that he could die on the cross for you, then rise from death to bring new life to all who receive him. How gracious is God! And how wonderful is his plan, and his love, for you!
The plan ended the way God wanted it to end, not with death, but with life—the resurrection.
It’s a reminder that, in the end, God always has the last laugh.
Rev. Brent Juliot serves as pastor of Oak Ridge Lutheran Brethren Church in Menomonie, Wisconsin.