When Giants of Faith Laugh

Originally published Tuesday, 16 April 2019.

Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when they heard God's promise of a child to them. We often hear about Sarah's laughter; rarely Abraham's.

In Genesis 17, God visited with Abraham first and made a promise to him. This was after Abram and Sarai had taken things into their own hands whereby Hagar had a son with Abram. When this visitation happened, Abram was ninety-nine years old and Ishmael, Hagar's son, was thirteen. It was in this meeting that God
changes their names to Abraham and Sarah and made the promise of offspring to Abraham. Abraham heard it first and laughed (Genesis 17:17), and said to himself, "Can a 100-year-old man bear a child?"

Sometime later when the angels visited Abraham and Sarah, she heard them talking to Abraham and mentioning that she would have a child and she laughed within herself (Genesis 18:12). This time God called out the laughter and used it to reinforce that nothing is impossible for those who believe.

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby? ’Is anything too hard for the Lord?' I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Genesis 18:13,14

We may laugh to ourselves in the face of the promise because we see nothing that we can hold on to. We are too old. Our time has passed. The job has disappeared. Our bodies are damaged. Our marriages seem dry. Our families are estranged. Our young adults have strayed. We feel defeated, and yet we believe. So we laugh - our first implausible act of faith.

Abraham laughed first while thinking of the possibilities. Sarah's laughter was indicative of her doubt; though she denied laughing she was not punished for laughing.  From a woman's vantage point, this promise seems more implausible for Sarah than Abraham. Would her body be able to endure pregnancy during her 90s? Abraham was a man of faith but yet still a man, who was 'as good as dead.' Even so, after being circumcised, he was able to do what seemed impossible at the age of 99.

We know how the story ends. God is a keeper of promises. He made this specific promise to Abraham and Sarah, and He kept it.

At the birth of their son Isaac, Sarah can truly laugh with joy and fulfillment.  And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughterAll who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” Genesis 21:6,7

They both started off with the laughter of disbelief; Abraham laughed and thought he had a solution. Sarah laughed because she didn't see the possibility. The Hebrew for “and laughed” vayitzhak found in  Gen. 17:17 contains the name of the promised son “Isaac” Yitzhak, v. 21 (Ligonier Ministries). God’s word may seem incredible, but it is absolutely sure. The birth of their son Isaac turned disbelief into joy.

It’s ok to laugh, but don’t stay doubtful. Believe and act in faith. 

He replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.” Luke 18:27

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them. Hebrews 11:11,12

What promise did you laugh at, that fulfilled, has now brought laughter?