Abraham Laughed


“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “O that Ishmael might live in thy sight!” (Genesis 17:17, RSV).

I’ve been meditating, well maybe just thinking, about this passage almost since the beginning of the new year. The scene has Abraham face down in the presence of Almighty God, being told the terms of the Covenent of Circumcision. God is beginning the process that will fulfill all his promises to Abraham and his descendants for ages to come. And what is Abraham’s reaction? He laughs.

Of all the possible reactions I can picture myself having were I placed in similar circumstances, laughter is not one of them. Why did Abraham laugh? It is truly a remarkable response.

At first I thought that Abraham was just facing up to the reality of the situation. He is now well over ninety years old, Sarah is only about 10 years younger, and even thousands of years ago, not many people that age are able to settle down and start a new family. I thought that it implied a lack of faith on Abraham’s part.

But clearly, that is impossible to assume from the story. First of all, Abraham is one of the few human beings ever who no longer needs to live by faith – he is, and he knows he is, in God’s presence, nearly face to face with the God of Heaven and earth. Faith has long since ceased to be an issue in Abraham’s relationship with God.

Then it occurred to me why Abraham’s response is so remarkable. I think his laugh is that which takes place when a friend sees a friend doing something extraordinary for him. His laughter says, “I knew you would keep your promise, I knew it, but I sure didn’t think you would do it like this. You sure had me going there for a while.” Abraham’s laughter is the sign of something few of us will ever know, it is the sharing of a joke between friends. Abraham was a friend of God.

I think this is something available to all of us, but availed of by few of us. Paul said, in Romans

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Romans 5:10, RSV)

Before we were reconciled to God, we were enemies of God, but now that Jesus has died we are no longer enemies. Dare I say that makes us able to be friends? I wonder how many of us are willing to take advantage of the opportunity?

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on February 23, 2005 7:46 PM.

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