AND HIS NAME WAS CALLED LAUGHTER
Dear Friends in Christ,
We have been studying the life of Abraham for a long time. Maybe some of you are saying, “Abraham again?” In fact, we have been at this for over a season of the calendar year. We started in June - well before the first day of summer – but now the autumnal equinox has come and gone. The leaves are beginning to fall. Personally, this study of Abraham has been most enjoyable for me. We have covered a lot of topics with the study of Abraham. There is a lot of commonality with our lives. We have seen a lot of spiritual ups and downs. Abraham experienced grace like we need it every day. We have seen how tough and challenging it is was for him to follow the Lord; we have seen him in the middle of a family squabble; we have seen him go off to war; we have seen him trust and not trust. We were introduced to Melchizedek, a mystery man of the Bible, because he met Abraham. In summary, we have seen a godly man living in a sinful world. We saw how a godly man stood up for the Lord. We saw a godly man fail.
God challenged Abraham’s faith. He was told he would be the father of a great nation and he was told that in his offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed. He and his wife Sarah were promised a child. We have been talking about that in early June and here we are almost at the end of September. As one of our children in this congregation asked, “Do they ever have that child?”
You know what? FINALLY!!! Abraham was now a centenarian – 100 - and Sarah a nonagenarian - 90. Finally they hear the pitter patter of little feet. And “His Name Was Laughter.” 1) Finally a child; 2) Finally a Link to THE CHILD.
I was traveling one night on the way home from church. Clark Howard was fielding questions about ObamaCare on the radio. People are supposed to be signing up on October 1st. It kicks in on January 1st. A lady called in and said she was 65 years old and asked why she was being given maternity benefits and why she would need to pay for them. Howard explained that she would not be paying for them, yet would receive the benefits if at the age of sixty five she got pregnant. A twenty eight year old will be paying for them, but a sixty five year old would not because of the very low odds that a sixty she would have a baby. It got me thinking if Sarah and Abraham lived today and were sending the hospital bill in. Name: Sarah wife of Abraham. Ethnicity: Hebrew. Age: 90. Medical procedure: Birth and delivery. Could you imagine the front cover of the National Enquirer? Could you imagine the team of investigators who would be at their tent attempting to arrest them for ObamaCare fraud? Investigators would travel there thinking this was an open and shut case. Could you imagine the jaws drop when she showed little Isaac there cooing in his swaddlings?
Our reading says, “Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.” It is interesting how many biblical couples who were heroes and heroines of faith who had trouble conceiving a child. There was Hannah and Elkannah, the parents of Samuel; Manoah and his wife, the parents of Sampson; Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist; Abraham and Sarah, the parents of Isaac. Yet God had special plans for each of the children who were finally born.
Abraham and Sarah called the name of their child Isaac. It means “laughter.” A few weeks ago we studied a story when the Lord again made it clear that they would be parents in there old age. Sarah laughed then too. But it was a sarcastic laugh as if to say, “Yeah right!” She was rebuked by the Lord. But now the baby is reality. This ninety year old woman survived child birth; the baby was pink and healthy. It wasn’t quite the virgin birth of Jesus, but it was miraculous.
But then every life is. How sad and vile when people don’t consider that to be so! The Holy Spirit inspired the psalmist to write, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Let me hit some high points. The psalmist gives credit where credit is due. The Lord does the creating and watching over and knitting the body together. How blasphemous when people think they have the right to cut Lord’s work out of the womb and toss it into the garbage bin. It’s blasphemy to say, “That’s my choice.” Dear people, life is God’s choice. Spread the word.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The human body is the most complicated machine in the world. We see with it, hear with it, breathe with it, walk and run with it, and sense pleasure with it. Its bones, muscles, arteries, veins and internal organs are organized with marvelous design. When we examine this design in detail we find even more amazing facts. Every part of the body, though different from another, is made up of the same material: cells. All the approximately 100 trillion cells that make up your body today came from the division of one single cell. That single cell which had the same structure as all the cells in your body now, came from the union of your mother's egg cell and your father's sperm cell. That’s awesome, isn’t it? Life is a miracle.
Life has a purpose. God calls us to be stewards of life. Life is the time God gives to come to know him. “When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.” Maybe some of you thought that circumcision was part of the Law that God gave to Moses on Sinai 600 years later. Circumcision was to the Old Testament what Baptism is to the New Testament. Through circumcision a child became a member of God’s people. Circumcision on a male child was done on the eighth day of life. Abraham carried out his God-given responsibility to his son. That training didn’t stop there. Abraham continually taught God’s gift of Isaac who the Lord was and why he needed to believe and follow.
That’s needed. So many think a new life born into the world is perfectly innocent. While logic says a child born into the world hasn’t had an opportunity to sin, the Bible says differently. “I was a sinner from birth from the time my mother was conceived me,” says David. The Proverb says, “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child.” A few chapters later, this proverb says, “A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom, but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.”
So the Bible says this is a God-given responsibility of parenthood. In the Old Testament it started with circumcision. In the New Testament God wants us to baptize. There is more. He commands, “Fathers, bring up your child in the training and instruction of the Lord.” This is a command that he expects us to obey. He is not just giving friendly advice or a suggestion. It is not simply an option available to us; it is the only option available to us. This is the only way we are to raise our children. To disregard is not merely a blunder or a mistake. Every child is a gift to his father and mother. As the Bible says, “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.” Abraham and Sarah at 100 years old and 90 years respectively were called to do this. Those responsibilities have not changed from 2100 BC to 2013 AD.
While every child is special gift to parents, this child, the one Abraham named Laughter (Isaac) was particularly special. He was the link to THE CHILD, born two millennia later. You know the one…in Bethlehemand in a manger. “Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” I am sure that the servants, the neighbors and acquaintances of Sarah and Abraham were scratching their heads wondering how all this was possible. 90 year old Sarah survived delivery and birth. Isaac was strong and healthy. But then God promised that would be the case.
He had told Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation. Isaac became that link. His children would multiply. They were the nation enslaved in Egypt, but freed in a miraculous way and promised the land on which Abraham resided. But most importantly Abraham’s offspring would be a blessing to all nations. That’s Jesus. He would indeed make people laugh. Not because he was a jokester, or simply because he was so nice and a pleasant person to be around. He would bring joy to the world. He was the Joy of the world.
Yet by simply looking at him, people asked what was the big deal. He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant mother and father. He grew up in an obscure village. He worked as a carpenter until he was thirty. For the next three years many saw him as an itinerant preacher. He never owned a home. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never traveled more than two hundred miles from the place where he called home. Frankly he never had money to have people stop and take notice of him.
While at the age of thirty three, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away from him. One denied knowing him. Another betrayed him. He was turned over to his enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial where no one was interested in fairness. He was nailed to a cross and tortured as a criminal. His executioners gambled for his clothes, the only real property that he owned on this earth. When he was dead he was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave, through the pity of a friend.
Yet here we are twenty centuries later and we know him as the center of all history. Someone said, “All the armies who have marched, all the navies which have been built, all the parliaments that have ever sat and all the kings who have ever reigned have not affected the masses of people in the history of the world like Jesus.” He was not called Laughter like his relative. He was called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. While he was not called Laughter like Isaac was, he does bring us laughter. It’s not funny laughter, but the laughter that comes with the joy that because of him we are right with God. We are sure citizens of heaven where there will be nothing but joy and laughter as we stand in the presence of our holy and loving God.