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“By faith Abraham, even though he was past age — and Sarah herself was barren — was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise” (Heb 11:11).

The writer to the Hebrews clearly implies that Abraham was in fact “past age” to become a father (as does Rom 4:18,19).

“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Gen 17:17).

Is it possible that Abraham laughed, not a laughter of doubt, but of joy and hope based on faith (John8:56; Rom4:19)? And so the question may be one of amazed wonderment:

“Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad” (John8:56).

“Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be’ [Gen 15:5]. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead — since he was about a hundred years old — and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised” (Rom 4:18-21).

Yet “against all hope”, Abraham “did not waver through unbelief”. It sounds like he must have known that, at the age of 99 or 100, he could not have children, and this despite the evident fact that his father has fathered him at the age of 130.

It may be surmised (and it can only be a guess) that:

  1. Abraham had experienced some debilitating disease, and/or
  2. he simply knew in his own personal experience what no observer could know — that, humanly speaking, he could no longer father children.

Although Abraham was not nearly as old as his father Terah had been when he was born, still he knew that, as far as he was concerned, he was “past age”.

Nevertheless he still believed God, against all the evidence of his own body. And the laughter (Hebrew “tsachaq”) of Abraham and then of Sarah — whether a joyful or a incredulous laugh, or something of both — found expression, when another year rolled around, in the naming of their infant son, “Yitzhaq”, Isaac, “Laughter”:

“Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac [‘Isaac’ means ‘he laughs’] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me” (Gen 21:1-6).

“‘Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the LORD” (Isa 54:1).

The birth of any child can inspire, in its parents, the profoundest and subtlest of “laughter”, the sheer joy of new life, the miracle and wonder of God’s ongoing creative process, in which even humans may be blessed to have a part. The joy of recognition, at some level, that God has not yet given up on the human race, since He is still allowing new “entrants”. The joy of looking at a future, and hoping for a future, of which the newborn may be a part.

I think something of all this was in the minds of the parents as they looked upon their son. And they named him “Laughter”. As Sarah put it, “Everyone who hears will laugh with me!”

Can we laugh with joy that the old couple could still, by God’s grace, have a special child of promise?

“Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (Gen 18:14).

Going further, can we laugh with joy that, centuries later, a young virgin could, by the power of the Highest, conceive and bear a son who would at the same time be Son of man and Son of God, and that this would set the angels singing in the heavens?

“For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke1:37).

The baby born in the stable, and laid in the manger, had many names and titles. But surely one of his names is “Laughter” too! We should all laugh together, in joy that God is still “creating”. In joy that He hasn’t yet given up on the human race. In joy that, through His Son, he is still looking for new “sons” and “daughters” to be “born again” in Him. In joy that in times and places where no human power is sufficient to the task, God may still be working. And in joy that God’s future is — through His Son — bright with a promise eager to be fulfilled!

Come on, everybody. Laugh!

George Booker

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