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

Genesis 21:6 (NKJV) And Sarah said, “God has made me laugh, and all who hear will laugh with me.”

An article in a 2019 Scientific American article opens with the question,

“How Many Psychologists Does It Take … to Explain a Joke?”

The article attempts to explain humor and its effect, laughter, from the psychologists’, neuroscientists,’ and philosophers’ perspectives. The bottom line, while humor is intuitively understood, the explanation is elusive. There is no definitive answer to why some jokes or situations are funny while others are not; or why, given a joke, some find it funny while others don’t. (The answer to the opening question, by the way,  is “many.”)

We cannot precisely say what made Sarah laugh in Genesis 18:12 and Genesis 21:6. However, the following verses shed light on her motivation. In Genesis 18:20, after hearing the news that she will be with a child at about the same time next year, Sarah laughed within herself. Knowing that Sarah was eavesdropping, the Lord, in the following verse, asked Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?…” The Lord knew why Sarah laughed her “silent” laughter. He gave Sarah an opportunity to confess her distrust in the sincerity and ability of the One who can grant her heart’s desire. Instead of seizing the opportunity, she lied– denying her sin– even when “caught with her hand in the jar.”

On the other hand, Sarah was not rebuked by the Lord when she laughed in Genesis 21:6. In the following verse, Genesis 21:7 (NKJV), “She also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? For I have borne him a son in his old age.” This rhetoric question was a declaration of awe and pure delight. She was now nursing her child in her old age and holding in her arms the “son born to Abraham in his old age.” What was impossible to humans was not too hard for the Lord! “And all who hear will laugh with me.”

A wise saint said about Sarah’s laughter,

“The laughter of derision – of doubt, is done within the self. This derisive laughter is exclusive. The laughter of delight, especially of pleasure for what the Lord has done, is done with others. It is inclusive.”

What greater joy is there than to experience the humanly impossible – “dead (indeed) to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord!” (Romans 6:11 NKJV) not because of good works but because of His grace. Have you experienced this joy? Are others included in this joy?

Based on the reflection of Daneane Johnson
on Lessons 14 and 15, Genesis 18 and 21

1 Sabato, Gioviani (2019). What’s So Funny? The Science of Why We Laugh – Psychologists, neuroscientists and philosophers are trying to understand humor.