Note on this post: today’s post is an example from a previous post about meditation and freewriting the Scriptures. By nature, this kind of meditation is meant to be brief, both in time and length. I wrote the following meditation in about 10-12 minutes because the nature of this exercise is to write without stopping, editing, or checking for grammatical errors. It should not take long to meditate in this fashion because direct, immediate interaction with a Bible passage is the purpose of the exercise.
Genesis 18.15: “But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. “[The Lord] said, ‘No, but you did laugh.’”
Today’s reading in the Daily Office
is the familiar story of Sarah laughing after the Lord prophesied that she would bear a son in her old age. Sarah commits two sins in this story, yet my memory of this passage only recalls the one sin: Sarah laughing, a sign of her unbelief. But this is what patient reading and meditation does for my heart and mind when I consider each aspect of a Scripture passage more closely. Now I see the second sin Sarah commits. She lies to God’s face.
Sarah’s laughter erupts from a heart where unbelief has grown into cynicism. Her laughter mocks the prophetic word spoken by the Lord to Abraham. Here is the first sin: her unbelief mocks God’s prophetic announcement.
Until today I had not noticed the second sin. Sarah lies to God’s face. ‘I did not laugh,’ she said to the Lord. God replies, ‘No, but you did laugh.’ The author of Genesis (historically attributed to Moses) tells us the reason for Sarah’s denial: she was afraid. Such is the power of shame within the human heart. Shame does not deliver us into truth, but deepens the lies whispering within our hearts. Shame overpowers Sarah and she seeks escape from her embarrassment by turning towards lies rather than the truth.
When the Word of the Lord speaks in power, our sin is revealed in the light of his glory. Isaiah the prophet said he was a man of unclean lips after he was taken into the throne room of God and saw the glory of the Lord. Sarah is a woman of unclean lips and she tries to heal her first sin with a second sin. But Sarah’s sin illness is like our own: we cannot save ourselves. Only the grace of God can open Sarah into a new future. And that is exactly what God’s grace does: a new future opens, not only for Abraham and Sarah, but an entire nation will be born through the grace of God. Israel is literally born as an act of God’s love and grace.
Looking more closely at the double nature of Sarah’s disobedience magnifies the tremendous grace of God in her story. God is faithful to Abraham and Sarah even though they fail to believe. Even through the Hagar and Ishmael episode, the grace of God prevails. Only grace drives out our shame. One sin, one moment of disobedience need not determine a full-on episode or spiral into denial and shame. The sooner we turn toward grace and away from the whispering lies within, the sooner we receive the hope and love of God we so desperately need.