Theme: Faith (Part 13 – How faith relates to laughter and joy)
(Key verses: Gen 21:1-13)
The faith of Christ is an assurance of things hoped for and a conviction of things not seen, as the scripture declares (Heb 11:1). This faith works as a contrast to all natural and worldly reasoning and inclinations. Even in type the faith of Abraham helped him to hope against hope that God will fulfil His promise to give them an offspring through Sarah which will be in number like the stars in the heaven (Rom 4:17-22; Gen 15:5-6). In this sense Abraham represents the Old Testament example of the Christ as the Saviour through whom the “great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues” will be saved (1Cor 15:22-28; 1Tim 4:10; Rev 7:9):
Gal 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.
In Genesis 21 this promise of a son to Abraham through which all the nations of the earth will be blessed, is fulfilled (Gen 22:18):
Gen 21:1 And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.
Gen 21:2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.
Abraham is also our Old Testament type of total obedience to God’s commandments which is only possible through the faith of Christ in our lives (1John 5:1-5):
Gen 21:4 And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac being eight days old, as God had commanded him.
Gen 21:5 And Abraham was an hundred years old, when his son Isaac was born unto him.
Two numbers are given here in these two verses which also help us to apply this obedience through the faith of Christ within ourselves when we will not doubt that God will do everything He has promised. The number eight relates to the new man in Christ and the spiritual circumcision of the heart. This relates to us being transformed in the mind to be able to let go of our physical concepts and to serve God’s people according to our measure of faith (Rom 12:1-3):
Rev 17:11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
The number one hundred contains two tens (10 X 10) which in this case of Abraham relates to the witness (the spiritual meaning of the number two) against the idea that spiritual perfection can be attained in the flesh (the number ten points to what the flesh represents spiritually). Abraham “considered not his own body now dead…neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb” is describing this truth so beautifully (Rom 4:19). God will only bring the new life when our own flesh and its carnal mind come to a progressive realization that it actually profits nothing (Joh 3:30). Only God can bring new life out of the deadness of flesh (Rom 7:24; Rom 8:6; 2Co 5:17). This spiritual insight of the total deadness of our flesh is given to us at “the end of the world” which is the end of our time of being subjected under the carnal thinking of our natural mind (Isa 62; Mat 24; Mat 13:37-43; 1Co 10:11; Rom 6:14). Here is how the apostle Paul describes this evil eon of the flesh and its purpose for all in the first Adam before the faith of Christ is given to us:
Gal 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin [the first eon or age of the flesh], that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
Gal 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
Gal 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
Gal 3:25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
Our carnal eon (the time period of our “first man Adam”/“the lawless and disobedient”/“the man of sin”) is ruled by natural laws (“the elements of this world”) outwardly and inwardly. These various “elements” under which all in the generation of Adam also operates can be associated with “the law of a carnal commandment” under which physical Israel functions (1Ti 1:9; 2Th 2:3-4; Rom 2:14-15; Gal 4:3; Heb 7:16). But while the old fleshly tabernacle is yet standing, the new tabernacle of the spirit cannot come which is introduced by “the time of reformation”:
Heb 9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing:
Heb 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
Heb 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
The time period of one hundred years for Abraham also reveals to us the many agonizing years we will have to wait for the fulfilment of God’s ultimate spiritual promise of life in the spirit. The new life of Christ only comes through “much tribulation” and there are no short cuts in this enduring process. Even in this example of Abraham the false teaching of a quick salvation process is exposed as a lie throughout the scriptures, for those who can see that (1Co 10:11):
Act 14:22 Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.
Luk 21:19 In your patience possess ye your souls.
This new tabernacle of spirit is typified by the birth of Isaac as the second born of Abraham:
Gen 21:3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac [Hebrew: “yitschâq”].
Isaac’s name means “laughter”, and this theme of laughter is interestingly interwoven within the first thirteen verses of Genesis 21. Here is how Dr Strong connects the Hebrew meanings in this word “yitschâq”:
From H6711; laughter (that is, mockery); Jitschak (or Isaac), son of Abraham: – Isaac. Compare H3446.
A primitive root; to laugh outright (in merriment or scorn); by implication to sport: – laugh, mock, play, make sport.
From H7831; he will laugh; Jischak, the heir of Abraham: – Isaac. Compare H3327.
From the same as H7830; proudly; Shachatsom, a place in Palestine: – Shahazimah [from the margin].
These meanings behind the name Isaac in Hebrew also links with these words of Sarah which she uttered when Isaac was born:
Gen 21:6 And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh [Strong’s number H6712], so that all that hear will laugh[Strong’s number H6711] with me.
Gen 21:7 And she said, Who would have said unto Abraham, that Sarah should have given children suck? for I have born him a son in his old age.
From H6711; laughter (in pleasure or derision): – laugh(-ed to scorn).
In these meanings behind these Hebrew words we find the positive and negative application of laughter. Through this we can also see that laughter is an outward expression of either genuine joy or to provoke derision and mockery (Job 22:19; Psa 22:7; Psa 80:6; Psa 126:2-3; Psa 137:3; 2Ki 19:21; Neh 2:19). In this discussion on the foundational theme of faith we will also focus on how this faith of Christ in us brings forth the joy of the Lord to keep us strong amidst the mocking of the natural man. The positive application of laughter can be seen in the joy which Sarah and Abraham experienced at the birth of Isaac. Although we are to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep, we are also admonished to always rejoice within our time of trials when we can see the reason behind these painful judgments:
1Pe 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
1Pe 1:8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
Jas 1:2 (EMTV) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you fall into various trials,
Jas 1:3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
Jas 1:4 But let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Abraham and Sarah had to endure years of waiting and experienced severe trials, but they never staggered at the promises of God because they judged God to be faithful even through all His wonderful and strange works to the children of men (Heb 11:8-12; Rom 4:17; Psa 107). Throughout the New Testament we see how the joy of the Lord is also intimately connected with the trials of our faith (Heb 12:2; Heb 10:34; Jas 1:2; 2Co 6:10; 2Co 8:2-3; 1Th 1:6; 1Th 5:16; 1Pe 1:6-9). Joy is an inherent aspect of the faith of Christ in us and part of the fruit of the spirit of God (Heb 12:2; Act 13:49-52):
Joh 15:11 These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
Gal 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Sarah was barren, in terms of childbearing, until she was ninety years old, but for her and Abraham the times of mourning was turned into gladness and praise to God when Isaac was born into their household (Psa 30:11-12). It is at the time of judgment (spiritually relating to the number nine combining with the number ten in the age of Sarah) that we can see the righteous ways of God – God’s judgement on us opens our hearts to understand that His way of doing things will always prevail (Isa 26:9; 1Co 11:32).
Luk 22:41-42 And he [Jesus] was withdrawn from them [His disciples] about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, 42 Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.
We are caused by God to “understand the reading” of the words of the Lord and how we live by those very words (Mat 4:4). This “joy unspeakable and full of glory” is typified also in Nehemiah and those few who came from Babylon when they could read and understand the Word of God after they completed the task of rebuilding the walls and gates of Jerusalem:
Neh 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Neh 8:9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
Neh 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
They were commanded to rejoice in the Lord as they could understand for the first time the purpose for all the hardships they had to endure. Joyfulness and gladness is such a powerful testimony to ourselves of our measure and growth of faith in the acceptance of God’s wonderful works in us (Deu 28:45-47; Psa 4:6-8; Psa 21:5-7; Psa 92:4-5; Psa 107):
1Ch 16:27 Glory and honour are in his presence; strength and gladness are in his place.
Psa 45:15 With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought: they shall enter into the king’s palace.
Psa 97:11 Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.
Psa 97:12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
The negative application of laughter is also found here in Genesis 21. Abraham is now brought to the point where his firstborn son, Ismael, could not stay in his household any longer. Ishmael was almost fourteen years old when Isaac was born and what an agonizing time this must have been for Abraham knowing all the time that the time of separation from Ishmael was inevitable. But God in His mercy will provide the strength and power through His new life in us, even as our firstborn flesh will be mocking us:
Gen 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking [Strong’s number H6711 – “laughter”].
Just like Hagar despised Sarah when Hagar gave birth to Ishmael, we also see this same attitude in Ishmael in this persecution of Isaac (Gen 16:4):
Gal 4:28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
Gal 4:29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
The mocking of Isaac by Ishmael is described in the scriptures as persecution. As we have already seen the word :”mocking” comes from the same Hebrew word translated as “laughter” in other verses (Gen 18:13; Gen 18:15; Gen 21:6; Gen 17:17; Gen 18:12; Gen 18:15). The flesh and its worldly spirit will always despise and oppose the spirit of God as it cannot understand spiritual things, even as “the new agrees not with the old” (Luk 5:36). The flesh was given the spirit of the world by God to help us to see that the spirit of God is totally the opposite of that carnal spirit in us (Gal 5:17; 1Jn 2:16). We learn through opposites and that is also the reason why we are given a temporary fleshly existence as our natural man will never understand and appreciate the spirit of God and how the spirit of God teaches us (Rom 1:20; 1Co 2:12-15). Opposition and resistance also stimulate growth and maturity. Our heavenly Father always has our spiritual growth and maturing in faith and in spirit in His focus:
Gen 21:8 And the child grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great feast the same day that Isaac was weaned.
But to fully understand this maturing in spirit requires that we must be weaned and drawn from the breast of the physical (Isa 28:9; Rom 14:1; 1Co 3:1-3; Heb 6:1-3). This weaning process will eventually bring us to the point where we can see that our firstborn flesh cannot inherit the kingdom of God in any shape or form:
Gen 21:9 And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking.
Gen 21:10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
Gen 21:11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.
As with Abraham, our natural man does not accept or agree with this very grievous salvation plan of God and the way He ordained things to be done. Abraham also wanted Ishmael to be part of God’s inheritance, and in this we also see our own kicking and screaming “against the pricks” of God (Act 9:5):
Gen 17:18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
Although we understand the spiritual thing via “the things that are made”, the physical concepts in our natural mind cannot associate with the deeper (higher) spiritual things of God (Rom 1:20; 1Co 2:13-14). Like the Sadducee mockers, who could not understand or accept the resurrection, our carnal reasoning does not know the spiritual depths of the Scriptures or the power of God (John 6:63):
Mar 12:24 And Jesus answering said unto them [the Sadducees], Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God?
God ordained a time for the flesh to have its dominion in our lives, and only God controls that time (Mat 24:36; Act 1:6-8). This is also what we learn through God’s answer to Abraham concerning his firstborn Ismael and his nation as God already also promised to Hagar (Gen 16:7-13):
Gen 21:12 And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.
Gen 21:13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
The voice of Sarah symbolized the words of God through Christ and His church. It is these words of Christ that will remain and not pass away and through which all the earth (all in the generation of the first Adam) will be blessed, even in the destruction of their earthiness through the spiritual fire of God (Mat 24:35):
Jer 5:14 Wherefore thus saith the LORD God of hosts, Because ye speak this word, behold, I will make my words in thy mouth fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them.
Christ is the spiritual foundation which the Father has laid and we are all first given wood, hay and stubble to build on this foundation which all relates to our own works of the flesh. But in time we are also given His gold, silver and precious stones relating to His spiritual works in our lives. The flesh will be destroyed while “the spirit will be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1Co 5:5):
1Co 3:11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1Co 3:12 Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;
1Co 3:13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.
1Co 3:14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
1Co 3:15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
Isaac is given to us as the type of Christ through whom all will inherit the spiritual promises of God:
Gal 3:16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.
Gal 3:29 And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.