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Covenant Father 8: Son of Laughter - Genesis 17:15-18:15

Laughter is our response to unexpected joy. It’s built on the sudden reversal of expectations. And even though God is never surprised the way we are, He enters in to our surprise and enjoys turning the tables on the devil. In Psalm 2, we read that when the heathen rage and scheme against God, God laughs and begets a son and gives him the nations to inherit. Does that sound familiar? God laughs when He fulfills the covenant. That’s what we see in Isaac. Isaac’s name means laughter, and the story of his conception is bookended by the laughter of his parents: Abraham laughs in 17:17, Sarah’s laughter takes up 18:12-15, and in the middle of it all is God’s promise of a little boy named Laughter.

God’s favorite joke is bringing life out of death. Circumcision was the death of Abraham’s hopes for a child, the death of the flesh. But God promised new life to Abraham’s dead body and guaranteed that Isaac would be born to Sarah within the year. Abraham responded with surprised laughter, not so much unbelief as disbelief at the idea of Sarah bearing a son at her advanced age. He falls on his face, an act of humility and honor, but he’s laughing on the way down, and he reminds God of the son he already has. But although God promised to bless Ishmael, His blessings for the world would come through Isaac. And so as God departed, Abraham kept covenant in faith, and circumcised his household, trusting God to replace pain with laughter.

The next time God visited Abraham, three men appeared together and Abraham rushed to show them hospitality by way of welcome, refreshment, and service. As they ate, the Lord repeated His glorious promise of a son, this time in the hearing of Sarah, who was eavesdropping from the tent. V. 11, however, beat the drum of Abraham and Sarah’s inability: they are old – Abraham is 99, and Sarah is 90, and the way of women has ceased with Sarah. She’s passed menopause. There’s just no way. It’s impossible.

And so Sarah laughs the kind of laugh that thinks that it’s too good to be true, a laugh most likely filled with regret and pain of years of waiting on God, a self-aware laugh that recognized her exhausted body and Abraham’s age, a self-protective laugh that couldn’t quite bear to hope for the joy of motherhood. Sarah laughed to herself, an inner, private laugh.

And yet the Lord heard. God heard this pained, strained, wishing, doubting, disbelieving laughter, and God heard a wavering faith that needed to be strengthened by a divine promise so that it would not slide from disbelief to unbelief. So God asked the question of faith: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” The question was meant to reorient them away from considering the deadness of their bodies and the impossibility of conception, and towards consider the power of the God who spoke life out of emptiness.

And so when you struggle to believe in the power and goodness of God for your situation, when you aren’t sure whether the difficulties you face with your rebellious child, the trustworthiness of the Bible, your financial issues, your loneliness, your difficult marriage, the brokenness of your body by sickness or age, or if you struggle to believe that God really has forgiven your sin and that He is able redeem your life from the choices you’ve made, then you need to hear this question from God: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

The promises of God came true when little Laughter was born the next year. You can bet that Abraham and Sarah were laughing that day, the laughter of disbelief giving way into the laughter of joy, the laughter of shock turning into the laughter of faith.

And two thousand years later, one of Sarah’s daughters welcomed a heavenly visitor who promised her that she would bear a son, even though it was impossible for her to do so. Like the son of Laughter, her baby would also become great, and would be given a kingdom. Like Sarah, she had a hard time believing at first, and like Sarah, she heard this great promise: “Nothing is impossible with God.” And like Sarah, she believed, and God began told the world His greatest joke in the womb of the virgin Mary.

God laughs when His covenant is fulfilled in the most unlikely and impossible ways: old people having babies, virgins having babies, women saving the world through childbearing. God’s blessing to Abraham and Sarah was to give the gift of laughter to the world through their son Isaac, as a picture of the coming impossible Son who will wipe away tears forever and replace them with eternal joy.

Posted on Wednesday, May 17, 2017 by CJ Bowen