I was out with some friends from church a couple of weeks ago. We had such a good night. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much in a long time. “It’s so good to laugh!” I said to Shona on the way home.

Laughter can be good

  • Natural laughter: laughing with friends, good clean fun
  • Spiritual laughter: laughing with God at his goodness

Laughter can be bad

  • Dirty laughter: rude jokes and filthy talk
  • Doubting laughter: Skeptical dismissing of what someone says
  • Despising laughter: Sneering, mocking contempt of God or others

What about Abraham’s laugh in Genesis 17:17, where God told him not only that he would have a son when he was 100 years old, but that Sara would bear his son when she was ninety!

Was Abraham’s laugh a good laugh or a bad laugh?

I used to think it was bad because it questioned God. It was the kind of laugh that casts doubt on what God said.

But I looked up Matthew Henry and he argued that it was a good laugh. He called it “Abraham’s joyful, thankful, entertainment of this gracious promise…It was a laughter of delight, not of distrust.” The questions were more about admiration and surprise than doubt.

John Calvin says it was a mixed laugh. “He laughed, not because he either despised, or regarded as fabulous, or rejected, the promise of God; but, as is commonly wont to happen in things which are least expected, partly exulting with joy, and partly being carried beyond himself in admiration, he breaks forth into laughter….Abraham was as one astonished; as if he had received some incredible tidings.”

Whether Calvin or Henry is right, I was wrong. What they say fits better with Romans 4:19-21.

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.

It’s good laugh yo with friends, but it’s also good to reverently laugh with God at his astonishing, surprising, wonderful, awesome Gospel promises and grace. As Abraham showed, we can be flat on our faces while filled with holy laughter. He wasn’t laughing his head off, but was laughing his heart out (John 8:56).

This episode of Living the Bible lines up with Expedition 4: Day 6 in  Exploring the Bible Together: A 52 Week Family Worship Plan and Exploring the Bible: A Bible Reading Plan for Kids. You can catch up with previous episodes of the Living the Bible podcast here or subscribe on iTunesSpotify, and Google Podcast.