Laugh on, Laugh on My Friend, RCL, (Psalm 116, Genesis 18:1-15; Romans 5:1-11)
Most Christian eventually wonder “Does God have a sense of humor?” I mean, humans sure do. In our text, Sarah did. In Genesis 18:12, upon hearing from the LORD that she and Abraham will bear a son in about one year, it says: “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” She is not only worn out, i.e., past menopause, but she and Abraham may not be having sex at all, i.e., “…shall I have pleasure?” In light of these human realities it is no wonder she is cynical; after all, it had been roughly 25 years since the promises of God came to them (Gen 12). But that great man of faith, Abraham, had his moment too. In the previous chapter Ge 17, God told Abraham the same thing, but he had a different reaction than Sarah. Upon hearing this promise, Abraham “fell on his face” (Ge 17:17) in the posture of worship, but he too “laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is hundred years old?”” Both instances reveal an obvious skepticism, and if they were to rely on it, they would have been “shamed” before others due to their credulity. But when God is involved, what’s normal must be held loosely, i.e., “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Ge 18:14). God is faithful; his promises shall come to pass.
The Christian life has similarities. We too find ourselves in the stream of apparent “shame,” but we too must continue to trust in the God who is there, who has promised. When we see Christ in the Psalm, we see pure faith, “I believed, even when I spoke, “I am greatly afflicted”” (Ps 116:10). What OT saints portrayed imperfectly, Christ exhibited purely and truly. Psalm 116 speaks of all: “All mankind are liars” (v. 11). Abraham, Moses, David…all the greats…all are liars; you and I are liars too; our inner-world reveals such with greater frequency than we are comfortable admitting, so we hide and posture.
Like Abraham we too have not fully participated in God’s promises. We are promised everlasting life and resurrected bodies, yet we continue in this life in our mortal, decaying bodies, but the world scoffs and mocks us for the promises to which we hold, “They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming?”” (2 Pe 3:4). But Scripture counters, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient…the day of the Lord will come like a thief,…” (2 Pe 3:9-10).
Paul finishes with the declaration that we have been justified by faith and by that faith “…we have peace with God” (Ro 5:1). The apostle says that we rejoice in hope of the glory of God, but that’s not all – “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing…” (Ro 5:3), which exposes us to accusations of “shame,” but “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” and therefore such experiences “do not put us to shame” (Ro 5:5).