God Has Made Laughter For Me, Sorry About You! Reflections on Genesis 21:1-18

What are we to make of such a sordid tale, one where the joy of laughter turns into the anger of disparagement and near murder? I wonder if this story is in fact a microcosm of the entire story of the choice of Israel and its latent dangers. Again and again, the Israelites, escapees from the slave pits of Egypt, are warned that they must never forget their origins as slaves. Once they forget that, they may too easily become the monstrous pharaonic masters from which YHWH had freed them.

Too easily any one of us may forget our own origins, may assume that we are far grander than we in fact are, and may begin to treat others as slaves and lesser beings. Sarah forgot that she was long a barren woman, and after arranging to have a surrogate child, then having a child of her own, too soon treated the child with contempt and scorn. How easily does our gracious laughter turn to angry arrogance when the shoe is now on our bigoted feet? I've now got mine—sorry about you! How very human all this is! How very human we are, when we leave God out of our calculations and take control of our lives to the exclusion of others and of God. Such an old story, and yet how current it finally is, offering a lesson that we still have yet to learn.

Author's Note: It is not too late to sign up for the Baltic cruise that departs Copenhagen on September 4 and returns there on September 14, stopping at five great world capitals in between. See eo.travel for full details.

6/15/2014 4:00:00 AM
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  • John Holbert
    About John Holbert
    John C. Holbert is the Lois Craddock Perkins Professor Emeritus of Homiletics at Perkins School of Theology in Dallas, TX.
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