SERIES: Gospel in Genesis: Abraham (Palm Sunday)
TEXT: Genesis 18:1-15
What is “laughter?” Psychology Today says this…“Laughter just might be the most contagious of all emotional experiences. What’s more, it is a full-on collaboration between mind and body. Although laughter is one of the distinguishing features of human beings, little is known about the mechanisms behind it…laughter can boost the immune system, relax muscles, aid circulation, and protect against heart disease…laughter can lower anxiety, release tension, improve mood, and foster resilience…The benefits of laughter, for both bodies and minds, show that contagious convulsions are anything but frivolous.”
“Like Abraham and Sarah, we are on a spiritual journey from the laughter of unbelief (Genesis 17:17; 18:12–15) to the laughter of faith (Genesis 21:1–7), knowing we will not experience the fullness of God’s own laughter in us in this age of sin and pain (Luke 6:25). For now, we don’t only laugh. Often our laughter turns to mourning (James 4:9). “Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief” (Proverbs 14:13). But unhindered, unending laughter will be our experience to come. Jesus says, “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21). For now, there is “a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). One day, we will laugh forever, and like never before.” — David Mathis
This narrative unfolds in three parts…(1. An intimate encounter 2. A broken spirit 3. A healing balm)
- An Intimate Encounter (v. 1-5)
“And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth 3 and said, “O Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, 5 while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.”
“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” — John 15:15
“…and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.” — James 2:23
- A Broken Spirit (v. 9-13)
“They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.”10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him.11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?”
“These remarks of Sarah’s show us the basis of her doubts. She laughed not out of cocky arrogance but because a life of long disappointment had taught her not to clutch to straws. Hopelessness, not pride, underlay her unbelief. Her self restraint in not openly expressing her doubts and the sadness behind them go far to explain the gentleness of the divine rebuke.” — Gordon Wenham
- A Healing Balm (v. 14-15)
“Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
“The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him…And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
— Genesis 21:1-2, 6-7
What feels impossible to you right now?
What negative self talk are you believing?
What do you think God’s response is to your doubt?
“Doubting does not prove that a man has no faith, but only that his faith is small. And even when our faith is small, the Lord is ready to help us.”
– J. C. Ryle
How can we apply this to our heart?
“In my book You Can Change I identified four liberating truths about God. I suggested that underlying all our sinful behavior and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level. Embracing, believing, trusting, delighting in the appropriate liberating truth therefore has the power to set us free from sin – though we need to recognize that this typically involves a daily struggle – the fight of faith. These four liberating truths offer a great diagnostic tool for addressing sin in our lives and in the lives of others. The four truths are:
1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves”
— Tim Chester