Beckett: Pastor’s Thoughts – Laughing at God’s Promise (Genesis 21:6)

It is well known that Abraham and Sarah laughed when God promised He would give them a son (Genesis 17:15-17; 18:10-13). After Sarah gives birth to Isaac just as God had promised, she says others will laugh at her, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me” (21:6). Why would they laugh at her? Because she conceived and gave birth in old age. Why people would think this is funny, I don’t know. Perhaps Sarah was overreacting or maybe this struck the funny bone of the people in these times for some reason.

Whether Sarah’s anxiety is real or imagined, I think we can relate to her. People laugh at us Christians because we believe in God’s promise. He promised the Messiah would come through a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14), and it happened (Luke 1:26-38; 2:1-7). We believe this promised virgin birth, and atheists laugh at us.

We also believe Christ is risen from the dead (John 20:1-18) as well as His promise that He is coming again (Matthew 24:42-44; Revelation 22:20). We believe Jesus is risen and that He is coming soon, and atheists laugh at us.

Believing in God’s promises is not always easy not only because the trials of this life cause us doubt and impatience, but also because the world laughs at us. When you look at the face of it, these promises are kind of crazy. Imagine being in the shoes of the people around Abraham and Sarah and you hear from them or through the grapevine that God promised these two elderly people an ordinary pregnancy, especially considering the fact that Sarah has always been barren. It is no surprise that Abraham and Sarah laughed and no surprise she expected others to laugh at her, even after the fact.

In the same way, we tell people that we believe Jesus was born of a virgin, that He is the Saviour of the world, that He rose from the dead, and that He is coming again to judge the living and the dead and usher in His new creation. No wonder people laugh at us.

But one thing we know for sure is that God’s promises—no matter how farfetched or absurd—always come true. As the Apostle Paul says, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:22-25).

Today, Jews still entirely miss the sign of Christ’s resurrection that He is the Messiah they’ve been waiting for. (His signs weren’t enough during His earthly ministry either.) And today, Gentiles seek knowledge—or empirical evidence—for assurance, missing entirely the historical empirical evidence that Christ, indeed, is risen from the dead. They have their theories that He didn’t truly rise, of course, but they remain just that: theories, not facts.

Yet what we Christians know is that Christ is crucified and risen—an obstacle to Jews that causes them to stumble and utter nonsense to Gentiles. In Christ’s death, God worked His power and wisdom to give life to all who believe. While this may appear to be folly to Gentiles today, God’s “foolishness” still remains wiser than man’s knowledge and intelligence today. And even though Christ was weak on the cross, His power is made evident in that He defeated the devil by His death and that He is risen from the dead.

So, let them laugh. We know God’s promise. We know the Story of God where His promises always come true. Their laughter will turn into weeping and the gnashing of teeth (Luke 13:27-28). Whereas for us, upon His glorious return, while we ourselves may be weeping now, shall be turned into joyous praise and glory (Revelation 7:9-17).

Theology Terms Used

  • Gentiles: non-Jewish peoples.

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