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Sermon – 2/1/04
Genesis 18:12 - Laughter

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Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:12)

Angela Tasker called, asking about those in Scripture who have LISTENED to God.  I began thinking out loud about Isaiah and David, but Angela said this was for a WOMEN’s Kairos Prison Ministry function.  This would be about “WOMEN in the Bible who listened to God!”  I thought of women in Genesis, especially Sarah, the wife of Abraham – What about HER?  And we began studying together on the telephone.

We looked into Genesis, each on our end of the line, finding Sarah in Genesis 18, where “the Lord” appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18:1 & forward), and “three men were standing before him” (Genesis 18:2).  Abraham ran to Sarah, asking her to make “three cakes” for the visitors (Genesis 18:6), and time passed, for Abraham was able to “prepare” a “tasty and tender calf,” and present it to them, along with “butter and milk” (Genesis 18:6-8).

One of the three asked Abraham, “Where is Sarah, your wife?” (Genesis 18:9).  Abraham responded that she was, “Here, in the tent” (18:9), and indeed, “Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him” to what they said to Abraham: “Sarah your wife shall have a son” (18:10).  The next verse adds, “Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well-advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing” (18:11).

Genesis 18 continues: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’  And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied it, saying, I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh” (Genesis 18:12-15).  She did laugh, “within herself” (verse 12), and Sarah must have been more than a little fascinated that the Lord knew it.  Just as He knew HER heart, by the way, He also knows yours and mine.

The “superscriptures,” those little inserted non-Biblical words inserted before the text, start the chapter in my Bible with these words: “Sarah’s Faith Is Tested.”  And it was.  Reading Chapter 18, we find, from a human perspective, very little faith in Sarah.  Oh yes, she believed in the Lord, but when He said He would do the impossible in and through her, she softly laughed inside herself and then was surprised that He heard.

That’s like us, isn’t it?  Most have a vague thought that God is there, but draw the line that He will actually DO something good for us.  Actually, the reverse is true.  Abraham and Sarah are examples – God LONGS to show us His love.  These people WANTED a child and God heard their need.

A few chapters later, we find that “The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had spoken. For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the (precise) set time of which God had spoken to him.”  And they called the son’s name, “Isaac,” which translated, means, “LAUGHTER” (Genesis 21:1-3).

If you think that Sarah had no faith, read Hebrews Chapter 11, the great “faith” chapter, where we see: “By FAITH Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).  She did have faith, for after she had laughed and then was embarrassed, she had time to prayerfully consider it and believe.  From Hebrews 11:11, you have to wonder if Isaac would have ever existed if she did not have faith, because of the wording – “By FAITH Sarahreceived strength to conceive.”

We are delighted by those who serve on the Board of Friday Study Ministries, and we just completed a Board Retreat, where we reviewed our blessings, prayed for one another, and sought God’s will for 2004.  Everyone on that Board has other commitments, and yet they serve this ministry.  We thank God for them.  But Christian service can also become a “burden,” all too often.

On many Church Boards you have to wonder, where is the joy?  For one thing, I don’t think many churches select workers in relation to the gifts given by God - People who are not only willing to serve, but can act in the power of God.  We often place people into slots and expect them to perform.  It never seems to occur to anyone that church leadership is more than people grudgingly filling available jobs.

Dr. Yvonne Mallory also called and she spoke of “My Utmost For His Highest,” especially as to January 18th, where Oswald Chambers said, “Beware of anything that competes with loyalty to Jesus Christ.”  He continued, “The greatest competitor of devotion to Jesus is SERVICE FOR HIM.”  We can get so busy that we push God away.  We can be in “godly service” but not serving Him.  Chambers asked, “Are we being more devoted to service than to Jesus Christ?

Take a look at Acts Chapter One.  After Jesus ascended to the Father, the disciples went back to Jerusalem and essentially held a Board Meeting, where they elected a man named Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed the Lord.  They did this with all the determination that ordinarily accompanies Board Meetings, but then the Day of Pentecost arrived (Acts Chapter 2).  The disciples of Jesus were suddenly bowled over by the Holy Spirit of God.  They were speaking “the wonderful works of God” (Acts 2:11) and Peter had to defend them, saying, “These are not drunk as you suppose…” (Acts 2:15).  They were laughing and praising God – Their “Board Meeting” had turned into joy; for they were doing the works of God in the POWER OF GOD.

Look at our verse again: “Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, “After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my Lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:12).  God has in mind that you shall know His pleasure.  He intends that you will laugh.  Yes you will work in this world, but He has in mind that your “work” will be - Joy.

Father, Christian “service” has often been burdensome, and many avoid it.  Lord, let us serve; not out of duty, but with YOUR power and in Your JOY.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
Tel: (562) 688-5559
PO Box 92131
Long Beach, CA 90809-2131
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)


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