2015-2016 Bible Challenge, devotionals

When God laughs (a devotion)

17Then 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?” 18And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” 19God 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.” ~ Genesis 17:17-19

The Bible calls Abraham “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:11), based on the fact that when God promised him descendants as numerous as the stars above, Abraham “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). Not only did Abraham play a foundational role in God’s unfolding plan to save a people in Jesus from throughout the world, but he served as an example of faith for all who would follow.

Yet, even as the father of faith, Abraham still faced times of doubt and of a desire to take matters into his own hands. We can sympathize with him, after all God had made spectacular promises and both Abraham and Sarah were old and childless—sight won out over faith, as it often does for us as well.

First, Abraham thought his servant Eliezer would be his heir, but God said, “No, you will have a son yourself.” Then Sarah suggested that, since she was too old and barren, Abraham have a child with her servant Hagar in order to have an heir. Hagar gave birth to a son, Ishmael, of whom God said, “I will still make him into a mighty people, but he is not the child I promised. It will be through your wife Sarah.”

Abraham’s response was to laugh. Later when Sarah heard, she did the same.

God’s response: “Sarah will bear you a son, and his name will call him Isaac.” Isaac means he laughs.

The Bible describes God as a loving husband and caring father. It tells us that he sings loudly, rejoicing over his people. The Bible never explicitly says that God laughs in good humor, but being a God of emotion and seeing accounts like this in Genesis, it is a safe conclusion to say that there are times that God laughs.

We find his good humor in naming the child He Laughs. God turned the laughter of doubt around for Abraham and Sarah so it became laughter of joy (Genesis 21:6). The God who delights in his people also delights in destroying our expectations and stretching the limitations of our minds and imaginations. For, nothing is too hard for the Lord (18:14).

Are we willing to have our faith and our thoughts challenged? Are we willing to let the bigness of God overwhelm us? Are we willing to follow Jesus headlong into the seemingly most insurmountable challenges for the sake of his kingdom, glory, and fame? Trust God to turn your laughter of doubt into laughing for joy.

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