The Lord be with you
This coming Sunday is the Commemoration of the Patriarch Isaac, whose name means “laughter.” Valerius Herberger discovers a virtual sermon in the name.
Sarah rejoiced, and made a sermon of Isaac’s name, saying, “God has made me laugh, for whoever hears of it will laugh with me,” as if she would say, “My old Abraham laughed because of this child before he was conceived (Genesis 17:7). I too laughed because of this child, and was reproved for it (18:12). Truly then, Isaac, you are rightly called, and are, a child of laughter, a mouth of laughter. You will make all my neighbors laugh at me when they hear that I, an old woman, have just become a new mother. Dear child of joy, by your birth you have now brought laughter and joy, yet from you and from your seed shall come a true child of joy, who by His birth will bring us joy, laughter, and bliss. Dear child of joy, you will only be the ancestor of the most blessed child of joy, Jesus Christ. Oh, to see that Child, that dear Mouth of laughter, Jesus the Savior! Then my heart will laugh and rejoice.”
Behold, dear heart, here we find in the image of this dear little mouth of laughter, Isaac, the sweet Child of joy, Jesus, with the power of His joy-giving birth, for so Hebrews [11:19] plainly calls Isaac a type of Jesus Christ.
Oh Lord Jesus, faithful Child of joy, dear Mouth of sweetness, when I look at You in the manger in Bethlehem, my heart must laugh for joy, You alone fill me with joy and gladness. When I contemplate You, my heart rejoices and my mouth begins to sing and shout. You should rightly be called the child of Isaac, “a child for whom men must shout for joy and laugh merrily,” as the word implies in the Hebrew, “a bright laughter.” Oh, how pleasant to see Your most holy birth depicted here in Isaac’s!
Isaac was born of a barren womb. You were born of a virgin’s womb. “What is more barren than pure virginity?” said our dear forefathers.
Isaac was born of a lady as old as the hills. O Lord Jesus, You were born at a time when the Jewish government was in its old age and nearing its end. For when our powers cease, You step in and help us.
When the conception of Sarah’s son Isaac was announced (Gen. 18:10), she marveled and said, “After I am grown old, and my lord being old also,” etc. When your mother Mary was told of Your conception, she also said in blessed amazement, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” [Luke 1:34].
Sarah received the answer, “Is anything impossible for the Lord?” Mary also received the reply, “With God, nothing is impossible” (Luke 1:37). As soon as Isaac was born, he was immediately given a name that meant that he would be a child of joy. O Lord Jesus, as soon as You were born, an angel immediately came and said, “Behold, I announce to you great joy” [Luke 2:10]. Hence our ancestors called You “the Child, Great Joy.” Yes indeed, Lord Jesus, You are my “Child, Great Joy,” my Isaac, the Child of my comfort and my heart. The Old and New Testament both clearly and vividly testify to this concerning You. When Isaiah sings his sweet cradle-song, his “An Infant Worthy of All Praise,” he plainly says, “They shall joy before You even as one joys in the harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil” (Is. 9:3). Yes, Lord Jesus, I do indeed rejoice as a farmer whose field is ripe. The happiest time of the year for a farmer is when he drives his big wagon out to the field and hauls away load after load into his barn. Likewise, my heart is never gladder than when I remember Your benefits; then I can harness the wagon of my faith and fill the little barn of my heart with comfort up to the rafters.
A soldier rejoices when his foes are defeated and his glory and spoils acquired. Likewise, my heart rejoices in You, for in You we have victory over our foes. In You we acquire glory and spoils that benefit and profit us here in time and hereafter in eternity; even as the prophet Isaiah says of the everlasting joy that we have. O Lord Jesus, in You: “Everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Is. 35:10). Therefore in heartfelt joy I may say with Isaiah 61:10, “I am joyful in the LORD, and my soul rejoices in my God”; and with Mary, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” To be sure, I and the whole Church are exhorted to such joy by Zechariah 9:9, “O daughter of Zion, rejoice greatly; O daughter of Jerusalem, shout; behold, your King comes to you, a righteous one and a Savior.” Of this blessed Christian joy Psalm 126 prophesies, “When the LORD shall redeem the captives of Zion, we will be like those who dream.” (The news and comfort will be so good that we will hardly believe it.) “Then our mouth will be filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy. Then they will say among the heather, “The LORD has done great things for them.’ The LORD has done great things for us, for which we rejoice… Those who sow in tears shall reap in gladness. They go out weeping, bearing precious seed, and come with gladness, bringing in their sheaves” (vv.1[-3, 4-6]).
Of this blessed joy, O Lord Jesus, You Yourself say, “Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21), and, “Your hearts will rejoice, and your joy shall no man take from you” [v. 22].
O my dearest child Jesus, You are my Child of Joy, for when I pray in Your name I am heard. You are my Child of Joy in every adversity, for You fill my heart with joy so that I do not despair. When the heart is sorrowful, it is as it were crushed and compressed (like the heart of the overly anxious prince of Brandenburg, which was shriveled like a baked pear). But when the heart rejoices, it opens up as wide as it can, enlarges itself, and finds breathing-room and comfort. Hence Isaiah 60:5 says, “Your heart shall be amazed and enlarged”; and Psalm 119[:32], “when you comfort (or enlarge) my heart, I will run in the way of Your commandments.” Indeed, O Lord Jesus, You enlarge my heart and help me whenever it is constricted, else I should have suffocated and fainted long ago. When the evil one torments and squeezes my heart in great tribulations, come then to my aid and deliver me from his fierce grip! When I must die, be then my dear Child of Joy, that I may not be dismayed by death but like old Simeon hold You close and journey blessedly forth. On the Last Day You will again be my Giver of joy and my Comforter; then You will take me to heaven where there will be only laughter, joy, and bliss. Here not all men who laugh are joyful, but there all the blessed shall rejoice, for heart and mouth shall agree as one.
Valerius Herberger, The Great Works of God: Parts Three and Four: The Mysteries of Christ in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 16-50, 62-65
Blessings in Christ
Pastor John Rickert