Sarah only calls Abraham “lord” one time in recorded history. “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’” (Gen. 18:11-12). This ought to catch our attention. Why use Sarah as the example of submission? And why appeal to her address of Abraham as “lord?” This isn’t exactly Sarah’s shining moment. What is Peter doing with this reference?
When God appeared with two angels on the plains of Mamre, He did so to make two announcements: to reiterate that Sarah would have a son (Gen. 18:10) and to tell Abraham what He was about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18:16-17). Those two announcements were not unrelated: What God was doing with the womb of Sarah was not unrelated to what He was doing with the nations of Canaan (Gen. 18:19). This is in the background of Peter’s instructions to slaves and wives and husbands. What God is up to with kings and governors is not unrelated to what He is up to in homes and families.
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps… Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands… as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror” (1 Pet. 2:21-3:6).
THE TUMULT SURROUNDING ISAAC’S BIRTH
The entire Isaac-birth narrative is sandwiched around two tumultuous political events. First, comes the Sodom and Gomorrah story, beginning with Abraham’s famous appeal to God to make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked (Gen. 18:23), securing His promise not to destroy the cities if there are ten righteous there (Gen. 18:32). This is followed by the revelation of just how wicked Sodom is, and that there are not even four righteous there, but God mercifully delivers Lot and his family before the cities are destroyed (Gen. 19:29). We learn that the nations of Moab and Ammon originate from the fearful incest of Lot’s daughters (Gen. 19:36-38). That story is followed by Abraham’s sojourn into the land of Gerar where Abraham says that Sarah is his sister and King Abimelech takes her into his harem (Gen. 20). When God appears to Abimelech and announces that he is a dead man because he has taken another man’s wife, Abimelech appeals to God’s justice (Gen. 20:5), and the Lord spares Abimelech who restores Sarah to Abraham (Gen. 20:17-18). The next verse says, “And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said… For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age…” (Gen. 21:1-2).
The whole context is about cities and nations and politics. It’s about the struggle and destruction and birth of wicked nations, and the punchline is God’s laughter: the birth of a little baby boy named “Isaac” (which means “laughter”) by an elderly couple. While nations rage and churn, God is bringing their plots to nothing and laughter is being born into the world.
CHRIST AND POLITICS
This brings us back to Peter’s exhortation to wives and all of us. Sarah obeyed Abraham calling him “lord,” whose children you are as long as you do well and are not afraid of any terror. But Sarah was afraid, and so she lied about her laughter (Gen. 18:13-15). How is that an example of obedience and courage? The answer is: she repented. She says after Isaac’s birth, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me” (Gen. 21:6). And if Sarah can look back in faith at her laughter as God’s good joke on her, then the same can be said about her incredulous address of her husband as “her lord.” Would she have pleasure with her husband, her lord being so old? The answer was a glorious and hilarious yes – because God is Lord.
Now apply this to Christ and politics. It’s easy to read this passage superficially as though Peter is merely saying make sure you obey everything. But remember: Christ suffered at the hands of soldiers, governors, and priests (authorities all) because He would not obey various ordinances of man. Why did Christ suffer? In order to break the back of the greatest tyranny of all, that we being dead to sins, might live unto righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). Why did Christ suffer? Because in His righteousness, He was in full submission to the will of His Father, committing Himself to the One who judges righteously (1 Pet. 2:23). Why did Christ suffer? Because this righteous obedience to God brought Him into direct conflict with the authorities. But that resistance was not full of cursing and reviling (1 Pet. 2:22-23). The resistance of Christ was full of peace and joy: And this is because the obedience of Christ was an appeal to a higher authority, the Shepherd and Bishop of His soul, and so is ours (1 Pet. 2:25).
What God is up to with kings and governors is not unrelated to what He is up to in homes and families. And God is Lord of the details. He does not destroy the righteous with the wicked. He is busy restoring and healing the righteous, blessing the righteous and making them fruitful, even while He carries out divine bombing runs on the wicked. God’s judgments fall with laser precision, and His mercy is far greater than we can imagine (Lot? Lot’s daughters? Abimelech?). There are more than 7,000 in our land who have not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18).
Do justice in your homes. Obey your husbands. Love your wives. Honor your parents. Bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Repent of all known sin quickly. Forgive quickly. Remove the logs from your eyes so you can see clearly. Have you been living in fear? Repent. Christ is Lord. Has your laughter become cynical and bitter? Or is it the laughter of faith and repentance? You are the children of Abraham and Sarah by faith in the Lord Jesus. We walk through this world as their starry-host descendants. Hold your head up high. “Strength and honor are her clothing; she laughs at the future” (Prov. 31:25).
The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel against the Lord, and against His Christ… but He that sits in the heavens laughs… (Ps. 2:2, 4) All authority is from the Lord of Heaven, and therefore, the same standard applies to all authority. Our submission to lawful authority is in the Lord. Do you have to swallow hard at the thought of a wife obeying or disobeying her husband, a parishioner obeying or disobeying a pastor, obeying or disobeying a police officer? But we have only one Lord. He is the Greater Isaac, the Great Laughter of God.