Summary: Abraham and Sarah’s disbelief in God’s promise of a son.
Have you ever made a bold prediction or set a high goal, only to have someone laugh at you and say: “you’re joking, right?” I believe the modern colloquialism used by teens today is “Yeah, right” with more than a hint of sarcasm.
When Joe Namath made his fearless prediction of a Super-bowl victory for his upstart AFL team, many people laughed. When a B-movie actor from California began his campaign for the presidency, most people laughed. When a peanut-farmer from Plains, Georgia entered the presidential race in 76, it was considered a joke. When David stood in front of Goliath with 5 smooth stones, the Bible tells us the giant laughed, but not for long.
Laughing can be a result of joy from a good practical joke, but it can also be a result of cynicism and disbelief, as was the case here in Genesis 17-18 with Abraham & Sarah. Abraham had been hearing about this promised child since he was in his 70’s. Now he was near 100 and Sarai was 90. It had been nearly a quarter of a century since the original promise and you can feel their cynicism and bitter disappointment as you read about their laughter. Abraham and Sarah laughed at God’s promise.
Sarah and Abram’s reaction was understandable and God seemed to have a great deal of patience in dealing with them, but laughing at God is something we don’t want to do. The writer of Ecclesiastes says there’s an appropriate time to weep and a time to laugh. I don’t know if it’s ever appropriate to laugh at God, His Words, or Promises.
Have you ever been tempted to laugh at God? Maybe you’ve never literally fallen on the ground & rolled in laughter, but perhaps our laughter comes in more subtle ways. We laugh at God when the preacher talks about grace, forgiveness, & mercy & we ignore these truths and in our hearts say “Yeah, right.” We laugh at God when we read his promises in the Bible to care for us just as he cares for the lilies of the field and sparrows, yet we go right on feeling anxious and worried about trivial things. Anytime we ignore or discount the promises of God, it’s really no different than Abraham & Sarah’s laughter.
Let me share a few truths from this story about why doubting God is “no laughing matter.” First of all, the Bible tells us “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Those who seek God must believe that he exists, that He is who He says He is, and that He will reward those who seek him.” So laughter as a result of doubt is obviously displeasing to God.
Now Sarah must have known in her heart that her laughter was wrong. She got pretty defensive when God asked the question “why is that woman laughing?” She experienced fear because she knew who she was laughing at. Laughing at the Creator of heaven and earth is no small mistake. It’s like tugging on Superman’s cape or pulling the mask of the old lone ranger. The Lord Almighty, El-Shaddai is no one to laugh at.
It’s one thing to laugh at a teen-age shepherd boy waving a sling. It’s one thing to laugh at a Hollywood politician making speeches & campaign promises. It’s one thing to laugh at an overconfident athlete. But you don’t laugh at the promises of the Creator and Maintainer of the universe.
When God comes to us with a promise or a command, he knows ahead of time of our weak faith and human frailty. That’s why He introduced himself with the name “El-Shaddai.” El-Shaddai means “God of the mountains” or as our NIV reads “God Almighty.”
Whenever we face a crisis of belief God always come to us through His Word and reminds of His nature and particular attribute that fits our need. If our financial present & future is in trouble or we’re hungry, he reminds us that He is our Provider. If we face physical danger He is our Defender or Shield. If we are spiritual hungry or thirsty, He is our Bread and Living Water. Whatever our need or concern or crisis, God comes to us as God Almighty, reassuring us that whatever our situation, He is more than able to handle it. So don’t laugh, or ignore, or disbelieve his Nature.
Secondly, don’t laugh at God’s Commands. Right after revealing His nature to Abram in verse 1, he had some instructions for Abram. “Abram, if you really believe I am who I say I am, and that I will do what I say I will, then do this: walk before me and be blameless.”
I think many Christians very subtly, perhaps subconsciously laugh when we hear commands like “walk before me” or literally “walk with me.” It is so difficult to comprehend why an all-powerful being would be interested in close communion or fellowship with a frail, lowly earthling like us. Many people in Jesus day couldn’t handle his claim as the Son of God, even though they witnessed his incredible miracles. I don’t think many could handle the fact that God came down to walk among us.