GENESIS 17: THE GOD WHO CAN MAKE LAUGHTER
1 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty…15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 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?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” 19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac… (Gen. 17:1, 15-19 NIV)
Our story begins with two incredible contrasts. First, Abram, now Abraham, is ninety-nine years old. Long past child-producing years. Way past his prime. Second, the Lord is “God Almighty.” Literally, the Lord is “El Shaddai.” This is the first use of this name for God in the Bible. It means “all powerful” or “all sufficient.”
Our story beings with two incredible contrasts. Abraham is completely incapable. God is fully capable.
Thus God promises laughter. Literally. God promises to give Abraham and Sarah a child who will be called Isaac, a name meaning “He laughs.” Three times the news of or arrival of Isaac is greeted with laughter. Here, Abraham laughs incredulously at God’s unbelievable promise. Later, Sarah will respond similarly when God announces the news to her (Gen. 18:9-15). And, when Isaac is born, there is laughter (Gen. 21:6-7). In fact, Sarah says “Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me!”
Even though the circumstance seems incapable of giving birth to joy, mirth and laughter, El Shaddai is nonetheless capable of delivering just that.
Whatever dark or discouraging or limited circumstance you may face, know that El Shaddai is able to bring into it joy and laughter.
El Shaddai, thank you for being more able than I can fathom. Use your great power to bring more joy into my life than I think is possible in my present circumstance. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.
God may have already delivered your “Isaac.” That is, God may have already given you reason for joy and laughter–you just may not be aware of it yet. Pay attention today to everything in your life. Uncover the cause for laughter that may already be present in your life. Give thanks to God for it.
Chris is a spiritual director, the author of seven books, a father to Jordan and Jacob, a husband to Kendra, and has preached for the Highland Church of Christ since 1998.