|"Righteous Abraham and Sarah" Icon by Michael Golz|
Sarai is impacted by two vitally important events that happen to other people.
First: Hagar, Sarai's Egyptian slave, bears a son, and Abram names him Ishmael (God hears), as the angel foretold.
Is Sarai there? Does she act as midwife for her slave? Is the child born between her knees, as they say such births occur?
Abram is eighty-six when the birth occurs. Eleven years have passed since the initial promise.
Second: Another thirteen years pass, and Abram has another encounter with his God. When he is ninety-nine, God appears to Abram.
What have these thirteen years been like? Has Sarah well and truly adopted Ishmael as her own? Does she love him? Or is it well known and accepted that Hagar, despite convention and despite the legalities involved in slavery, is well and truly his mother?
During the course of Abram's encounter with God three things happen:
- God renames Abram ("exalted ancestor"). Now his name is Abraham ("ancestor of a multitude"): the naming renews and reinforces the promise of offspring.
- God informs Abraham that they are entering into a covenant, and that the sign of the covenant will be circumcision of all males, whether free-born or slaves, who are members of Abraham's household, and the households of his descendants, forever.
- And God renames Sarai ("my princess"; this could be taken as a name of personal endearment). Now she is Sarah (straight up "princess," a name connoting royal status), and for the first time, God explicitly names Sarah as being a part of God's covenant promise of children.
She WILL be the mother of Abraham's children.
She is ninety.
Abraham goes into hysterics. Abraham laughs like hell. Abraham falls on his face laughing.
He reminds God of Sarah's age. God holds fast.
He reminds God of Ishmael. Abraham has fatherly feelings for Ishmael! The boy is thirteen years old now, and Abraham has evidently believed that the covenant promise was fulfilled in Ishmael. Abraham want's the covenant to be fulfilled through Ishmael.
God reassures Abraham of blessings for Ishmael, but God insists, Sarah is part of this promise, and the child God has in mind will be named "Isaac," a name meaning "laughter."
Laughter is in Sarah's future, as well as Abraham's.
But it is not here yet.