Click here for an audio version of this blog post.
And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” 17 Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19 God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.” – Genesis 17:15-21
He laughed out loud. Right in the middle of the sermon. When I told the people that they needed to “repent and believe.” It was quite a moment. Have you ever laughed…at an inappropriate moment? Have you ever laughed because the promise is so remarkable? Have you ever laughed because you didn’t know what else to do?
Abraham laughs at God’s promise! It’s not clear whether this is public, out loud laughter, or just laughing in his soul, he laughs. I suppose one reason is because he’s heard the promise several times before. When God called him (recorded in Genesis 12) God promises that he will become a great nation. He will bless many nations. Time passes, and there is no child. They take matters into their own hands, but Ishmael is not the child of promise. Another promise. Another waiting period. In fact it will be 25 years between the first promise of a son until Isaac’s birth. What are you going to do when you hear a promise repeated and you’ve waited so long and still you wait? You might laugh.
You may also laugh if the promise seems too fantastic. Too fantastic to be true? Abraham was 75 years old when the first promise was given. He will be 100 when Isaac is born. Sarah will be 90 when Isaac was born. This just doesn’t happen. And, you’ve gotta admit it, a child born to a 100 year old man and a 90 year old woman implies activities that might bring a smile to the face of even the most demur. You gotta be kidding me, right?
Some people laugh as an emotional outlet for great grief and distress. The pressure mounts and grows. Anxiety builds. Tension is at its maximum. The emotional stress meter is at 11. Something busts the dam, and something has to come out. Will it be laughter or tears? In this case it was laughter.
But the promises of God are no laughing matter. They are not just reliable. They are more than fantastic. They are profound. They reach into the heart. They impact eternity. They change hearts and lives. And this promise of God will come to pass. It will impact eternity. For not only will Abraham believe God, and trust him, and even pass the test that God gives him, he will be the father of faith. And from him will come the Savior of the world.
Is there a promise of God that would invite your faith? Your tears? Your laughter? Believe this: God’s promises are absolutely reliable, good, profound, and life-saving. That’s no laughing matter.