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Grace Bible Church

Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries

The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary.

The Tree of Life for week ending 06/02/02.
The Doctrine of Laughter, GEN 17:18

GEN 17:17, Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
This was not a token of Abraham's weakness of faith or unbelief, as Sarah's was according in GEN 18:12 according to ROM 4:17-21.
Abraham's laughter expresses his relief, and it's incredible to him what God is about to do.
This is the first time we find laughter mentioned in the Bible so it is imperative to see what the Bible teaches on the subject.

Laughter is a way to convey joy or satisfaction but also mockery and ridicule, as in JER 20:7, I have become a laughingstock all day long; Everyone mocks me.

There is also a silent laughter, which is an expression of amusement in the eyes. We all know people who laugh with their eyes.

There is also the concept of laughing privately or secretly while appearing to be solemn or serious.

Laughter can also be a reaction to someone or something expressing scorn, derision, sarcasm, ridicule.

In the Bible, laughter is both the expression of the mature believer and the reversionist.
Laughter is also used in the scripture as an anthropopathism, that is there are certain passages, we will note where God laughs, and that of course is an anthropopathism. For example, laughter is used to mock those who reject Bible doctrine, in Proverbs chapter one, verses 24 through 29. 

In our main passage of GEN 17:17 we see laughter as an expression of humor from a mature believer and here it is the first appearance of laughter in the Bible.
Abraham is an ultra supergrace believer expressing his relief, expressing his happiness at the thought of having a son, even though the condition at the moment is hopeless, HEB 11:11 and 12. The relaxed mental attitude of maturity indicates a good sense of humor.
The sense of humor indicates a capacity for life of the mature believer, and Abraham's laughter is faith breaking through the barriers of hopelessness.

There are some people who think that the Christian way of life can contain laughter and that God wants us to always be very serious and do great things for Him. A sense of humor is a great blessing from God and God Himself has the greatest sense of humor.

There is also a laughter in the Bible as an expression of an evil and arrogant judgmental heart. Laughing at someone else's expense is very, very poor taste.
2KI 2:23-24, Then he [Elisha] went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, "Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!" When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number.
Making fun of someone because they are perhaps not as well dressed, or getting together and giggling with other people about them. Looking at someone in a mocking way, obviously, having your happiness at someone else's expense, these are evil forms of laughter. 

There is definitely a time and place for laughter, and there is a time and place not to have it. When you start laughing at other people because they are uncomfortable, because they are not presentable, because of some disaster which has overtaken them, this laughter is not only poor manners but often it reflects a very poor spiritual life.

Laughter is also associated with happiness, that is why we read in ECC 3:4, A time to weep, and a time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
These are antithetical concepts. Weeping for sadness, laughter for happiness, mourning for great adversity, dancing for great pleasure.
The mature believers attitude toward adversity is expressed in laughter, a relaxed laughter in the midst of great adversity, JOB 5:17-22.
JOB 5:17-18, "Behold, how happy is the man whom God reproves, So do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.
JOB 5:19-27 is a dissertation on spiritual maturity and the fantastic blessings that come to the mature believer. The problem is that Eliphaz, a friend of Job is insinuating that if Job was a mature believer he would have been protected from all that happened.
JOB 5:19, From six troubles He will deliver you,
Six is man's number and it represents all the trouble that man could get himself into. However, Eliphaz makes it 7 which is the perfect number.
Even in seven evil will not touch you. 
In verse 20 this marvelous passage continues, in famine (economic depression) He will redeem you from death, and in war (He will preserve you) from the power of the sword.
JOB 5:21 You will be hidden from the scourge of the tongue which is social disaster, Neither will you be afraid of violence or violent death when it comes. You will laugh at violence and famine or economic depression, neither will you be afraid of wild beasts.
This is not foolish laughing, this is the relaxed mental attitude of a believer who has a true sense of humor under pressure. A sense of humor is very important in time of disaster, it helps the believer to think! The laughter of appreciation of who and what God is, the laughter of happiness when there is adversity. The laughter of the mature believer under dying grace, and under conditions of economic depression, and this laugh again is from the inner resources of Bible doctrine it is a laugh of blessing, it is a laugh of confidence, of security for the believer who is in ultra supergrace.
PRO 14:13, Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.
People can appear to be very happy, very pleasant and may seem to be having a wonderful time. Many times you will see someone at a party, looking like they having a great time and laughing but the laughter is forced, the happiness is forced, they're really pathetic. 

Laughter also expresses ridicule in the Bible, Psa 80:6, Thou dost make us an object of contention to our neighbors; And our enemies laugh among themselves.
This is a common form of laughter where people use someone as a source of laughter, because of some inadequacy, clumsiness or disaster. This is the laughter which expresses lack of capacity for life, and lack of true grace sensitivity.
In MAT 9:24, Jesus is in the chamber of a dead woman, but He's going to raise her to life, this is the daughter of Jirus, and it says, He {began} to say, "Depart; for the girl has not died, but is asleep." And they {began} laughing at Him.
They were all laughing and ridiculing our Lord and He got tough with them, He threw them out.
MAT 9:25, But when the crowd had been put out, He entered and took her by the hand; and the girl arose.
He threw them all out and then He resuscitated her. The same laughing is described in MAR 5:40, and LUK 8:53, and it is not an acceptable laughter, it is not a laughter which reflects anything good in the soul.

Laughter also expresses the happiness of restored Israel at the time of the millennium, PSA 126:1-3.

Laughter is also used to express an anthropopathism ascribing to God a human action. It's used to explain to man in man's frame of reference, God's policies, God's attitudes, and God's plan.
Gods policies are expressed in human terms for a human frame of reference to understand that policy and one of the things that is expressed is laughter.
The expression of the divine attitude in controlling history is often expressed through the concept of laughter, Psalm 59:8, But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations.
Jesus Christ controls history and His will is accomplished regardless of how much power is abused by tyranny in any nation.

Back in GEN 17:17, Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, "Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?"
The thought of Abraham is recorded for us in the last half of verse 17, the laugh is expressed first and then the thought behind the laugh. The laugh was a response to both the ritual of circumcision and the doctrine behind the ritual. The ritual is merely the mechanics for expressing the doctrine because ritual without reality is meaningless and here, if you don't understand the thought, you will not understand the laughter. So the thought behind the laugh is also given. Just as ritual without reality is meaningless, laughter without thought is meaningless, and there is a thought behind the laughter, and here it is.

First of all, in light of the fact that he has been sexually dead for 13 years, and that he is almost 100 years old, he is laughing at himself. He has not had sex for 13 years because he is incapable of having sex. His phallus is incapable of functioning in sex and therefore he's in a hopeless situation as far as sex is concerned. But God has given him the doctrine to go with his hopeless situation.....just like God gives us doctrine for our hopeless situations.
Here, the proper doctrine plus the hopeless situation brings out, first his sense of humor, he laughs at himself as he responds with great happiness to God. He has the ability to laugh at himself and that isn't all, because he also thinks of Sarah. He has a fantastic sense of humor, a sense of humor and capacity for life go together.
Many times divine viewpoint can be  overpowering, therefore accept it as reality through humor. Humor is sort of an escape valve to take the overpowering thought of God's blessing in by degrees. Humor is sort of an escape valve to take the overpowering thought of God's blessing in by degrees. It's combining the principle that he is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all we could ever ask or think. 
This is more than Abraham could ask for, this is more than he could think. Therefore, he takes it by degrees through his sense of humor. He laughs at himself, he laughs at Sarah being pregnant, and having a child. He laughs at the fact of having great sexual prosperity with her, it's beyond human comprehension. However, once the laughter is completed there is one other factor that must be covered in verse 18. 
Abraham does has some emotional distraction. While he is going from thought to thought, it suddenly strikes him, what about Ishmael? 
Abraham loves Ishmael very much but he's a very poor father to Ishmael because of no discipline, remember Ishmael is a wild ass of a man.
We studied the fact that Abraham was not a good father to Ishmael in the sense of training him and giving him discipline. He was a good father in the sense of provision, Ishmael had everything he wanted. Ishmael didn't lack for anything. But, Abraham did not discipline Ishmael, and as a result, Ishmael was a wild ass of a man, he rejected all authority but his own.
Later on Abraham will love Isaac as he never loved another human being. But, at this moment, Isaac is just an embryo on the drawing boards, he is not a reality as of yet. However Ishmael, his thirteen year old son is definitely in his thoughts all of the time, and he loves Ishmael dearly. 
The corrected translation of GEN 17:18 reads, But said Abraham to God, "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!"
It doesn't say "Oh that Ishmael might be the heir!" 
That's already settled, it says "Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!" 
This means Abraham was asking God to make Ismael a believer to be a believer because even Abraham knows that Ishmael is not a believer in Jehovah Elohim and that he is a wild ass of a boy who will grow up to be a wild ass of a man.
This verse does not mean that he was desiring Ishmael to be his heir and favored over Isaac. It means that God would also bless Ishmael and that he would live before God as a believer.
God can bless a believer or unbeliever but He cannot violate their volition and force them to believe.
In verse 17, Abraham's laughter was legitimate and expressed his joy an emotional response of the fulfillment of the promises of God. It was a legitimate emotional laughter based upon doctrinal conclusions.
Once the laughter is completed there is another factor, his love for Ismael. 
All Abraham has to do is realize that if Ishmael adjusts to the justice of God, he could live before God but until he does there is no living before God.
No one can believe for another or else the entire world would be saved according to 1TI 2:6; 2PE 3:9.
So back in GEN 17:18, Abraham remembers his son Ishmael with whom he is emotionally attached to and therefore begs God to have Ishmael live before Him. 
GEN 17:19, But God said, "No,
Ishmael will always be an unbeliever. Ishmael is not Jew, will never be a Jew under any circumstances.
Isaac is still a year away, hence there is an emotional pull toward a known factor, toward the son whose personality is so pleasing to him. 
Ishmael will be blessed by the association with Abraham, but Ishmael will never be in the Abrahamic covenant.

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