Laughter is a good thing, right? Who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh. We watch sit-coms with virtually no plot-line for the sake of a laugh. We are entertained by comedians who relate the ordinariness of life; they make us chuckle. But laughter can also be very damaging. A group of uncaring school kids can inflict intense agony with their giggles. In this week’s text, we find two dimensions of laughter. The first is the laughter of doubt. The second is that of overwhelming surprise and joy.
We are going to bite off a large chunk of Scripture this week. While it is impossible to cover every aspect of the story, we will move quickly through chapters 17-20. God affirms His promise to Abraham and Sarah by changing their names and giving them a specific timeline. Three mysterious visitors show up; Abraham and Sarah provide hospitality to them. While they are eating, God speaks; He offer specifics,
(Genesis 18:10 NIV) I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.
Sarah overhears the conversation; she cannot hold it in. She bursts out with laughter. This is the kind of chuckling that comes when you hear the unbelievable. God is not pleased with her response. He questions her outburst.
(Genesis 18:15 NIV) Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
You can’t fool God; He hears it all. The next few scenes do not bolster Abraham nor Sarah’s reputation. Laughing at God’s promise is followed by excusing the sins of a corrupt city (Sodom and Gomorrah) and lying to this guy named Abimelech about their marriage. You have to wonder why God picked this couple. By the time you get to Genesis 21, you are doubting if God chose the right people. We then read,
(Genesis 21:1 NIV) Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised.
Can you believe it? God came through; He did the impossible. Even though He is dealing with a doubtful couple of liars, He does what He says He will do. I find Sarah’s response intriguing.
(Genesis 21:6 NIV) Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”
This is a different kind of laughter. She no longer doubts God, but giggles with joy at what He has done. Her laughter is extended to everyone who hears this story. We are smiling at God’s grace, His provision, His willingness to use the unlikely for His purposes. Do we find ourselves laughing with doubt that God could transform the unlikely situations of our lives? May we be reminded as we encounter this story of God’s transformation of our laughter; may we be left smiling in astonishment at His movement in our lives.