Call His Name Isaac
“God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him’” (Gen. 17:19).
- Genesis 17:18–19
A young girl once came to her parents in anticipation of Christmastime. Confident in their goodness and love for her, she had repeatedly asked them to give her a bicycle painted with the most popular figures from the newest Saturday morning cartoon. Knowing that she would soon outgrow her fascination with the latest fad, her wise parents purchased a bike without the attending cartoon characters. A simple red bicycle, they knew, would entertain her far longer than the one she desired.
The child “stumbled” upon her present before December 25, and consequently began to remind her mother and father how much she wanted the other bike. She knew they were able to provide the other toy, and she hoped they might decide to do so.
Genesis 17 deals with weightier matters, but in many ways the statement Abraham makes to God in today’s passage recalls the girl’s dealings with her parents. Having heard the incredible promise that his barren wife would bear a son of her own, Abraham nevertheless thinks first of Ishmael and implores God to establish His covenant with Hagar’s son (v. 18). While this request likely reflects doubt regarding Sarah’s ability to conceive, as well as his love for his son, this misgiving is mixed with faith. The patriarch put forth Ishmael in his confidence that Yahweh could accomplish His plan through him.
The Lord replies to Abraham’s request by repeating His word concerning Sarah. He then tells Abraham to name the son “Isaac” and affirms His intent to establish an everlasting covenant of salvation with Sarah’s son — not with Hagar’s (v. 19). Here we see God’s sovereign mercy beautifully displayed. He chooses a woman who by all accounts is unable to birth a son, and He is the one to work in her to bring forth a child who will carry on His covenant of grace.
Finally, as we have seen, the name Isaac means “laughter” and is probably a shortened form of Isaac-el, which means “may God laugh.” In conferring this name on Sarah’s son, the Lord superimposes His own laughter upon Abraham, forever reminding the patriarch that He always gets the last laugh.
The principles of how we are to act in certain situations are clearly given in Scripture. Yet, like Abraham, we can be guilty of going our own way. When the Lord plainly makes His intent for us known, we must dutifully obey Him, even if it is not something we want to do. For instance, God calls us to forgive those who are hard to forgive and to trust that He will provide for us as we give to others. Strive to forgive just as God in Christ forgave you.
Passages for Further Study
- Gen. 25:11
- Judg. 13
- 1 Chron. 16:14–18
- Rom. 9:6–13