Summary: In Genesis 17-21 we see Abraham laugh in surprise, Sarah laugh in disbelief, and both of them laugh in astonishment when Isaac was born.
Genesis Series # 5 CHCC: February 11, 2007
The God of the Impossible
Genesis 17: 15-17; 18:9-15, 21:1-7
I heard it told that one day Abraham was trying to update his computer to the new Microsoft Windows Vista. Isaac said, "Father, you can’t do that. Your computer doesn’t have enough memory."
But Abraham told him, "Don’t worry about that, son. God will provide the ram."
When was the last time you had a good laugh? What makes you laugh? Do you like a good joke? This past week, I spent 3 days at The National Pastor’s Convention in San Diego. They evidently know how much Preachers like to laugh. With all the Inspirational Speakers they brought in --- they also brought no less than 5 Christian Comedians. I felt it was my “pastoral duty” to attend some of those sessions … and I have to admit, I laughed till I cried.
People love to laugh so much that there are actually Industries built around laughter. Jokes, sitcoms and comedy routines are all designed to get us laughing --- because laughing feels good. That’s why we’ve all heard the saying, "Laughter is the best medicine."
The definition of Laughter is “…to express certain emotions, especially mirth or delight, by a series of spontaneous, usually unarticulated sounds often accompanied by corresponding facial and bodily movements.” The definition itself makes me want to laugh.
Scientists have a variety of theories about why people laugh. One theory is that laughter is related to surprise. A baby is startled and starts to cry, but instantly realizes there is no danger, so the cry turns to a laugh. Another similar theory is that we laugh when something is incongruous. In other words, we are confronted with two things that don’t fit together. That may be what caused Abraham to laugh in Genesis chapter 17.
1. Laughing in Surprise Genesis 17:17
You see, Abraham was 100 years old when God told him that he and his wife, Sarah, were going to have a baby. Look at his reaction in Genesis 17: 17: Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, "Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?"
This was not the first time God had made this promise to Abraham. Looking back to Genesis chapter 12 we remember God’s first promise to create a great Nation from Abraham’s descendants and to give Abraham a land that his descendants would inherit for their own. Now, Abraham must have been amazed to hear that because he had no children at all. But then again, he was still a spry young man in his mid-seventies… Years came and went, and eventually, Abraham had a son, Ishmael, by Hagar, the “surrogate” mother that Sarah had chosen.
By the age of 100, Abraham had given up all hope of having a child with his wife Sarah. When God unexpectedly renewed that promise, he laughed. I think it’s likely he burst out with a spontaneous laugh for the same reason we burst out laughing sometimes. He was caught off guard and startled by a sudden burst of hope. Could it be possible? Could his wife, Sarah have a child after all these years? Abraham knew it was impossible, … but on the other hand, Abraham believed God. The surprise of hearing what God planned to do caused him to literally fall down laughing.
Soon after this, God repeated this Promise again. This time it would be Sarah’s turn to laugh. Abraham had laughed in pure surprise. But Sarah would laugh in utter disbelief.
2. Laughing in Disbelief Genesis 18:12
One day Abraham saw three visitors coming his way. I don’t know how he was able to see their importance just by looking at them, but somehow, Abraham knew these were messengers of the Lord. He urged them to stay and dine with him. He asked Sarah to make some good home-made bread. He found a young calf and had one of his servants prepare some veal cutlets (so to speak).
It was not the custom back then for women to join groups of men in conversation, but Sarah was curious about these visitors. So, she eaves-dropped from behind the door of the tent while Abraham visited with them. She must have been surprised when she heard one of these Strangers ask, "Where is your wife Sarah?"
The fact that they knew her name was especially amazing because God had just recently CHANGED her name … from Sarai to Sarah. How could they possibly know to use that new name … unless they had some special knowledge from God Himself?
Then Sarah overheard something even more incredible. Genesis 18:10 says that one of these visitors told Abraham, "I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son."