An Old Woman’s Laughter – Gospel in Life

An Old Woman’s Laughter

Tim Keller |  September 14, 1997

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  • The Bible
  • Understanding the Gospel
Genesis 21:1-7
RS 83-02


We’re looking at laughter and bitterness by looking at a particular experience, and that is a woman laughing because her only child has been born. It’s an incredibly old woman we have here: a woman who’s 90 years old. We’re told in the Bible that this laughter is a clue to who God is and what he has done and how you find him.
This passage is actually the key, because all of Abraham and Sarah’s lives and all of their fascinating incidents can be understood in terms of the name of their son. The name “Isaac” means laughter. You can understand all of their lives, and actually I think eventually you’ll be able to understand all of your life, through the word “laughter.”
There’ve been three kinds of laughter in the story of Abraham and Sarah. They had to go through the first two to get to the third. Let’s look at these three kinds of laughter: 1) the laughter of scoffing, 2) the wild laughter of addiction and fixation, and 3) the laughter of grace.

Genesis 21:1–7

As we look at the Old Testament and its relevance to our life today, we’ll examine the spiritual journey of author Naomi Wolf. She’s trying to understand what God wants. People often look for answers in religious texts or personal experiences, but what’s unique about the Old Testament is how it combines these, showing us spiritual truths through real human stories. The story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their son Isaac teaches us about God’s nature through three different kinds of laughter, and the last kind is the most insightful.

1. The laughter of disbelief

When God first promised Abraham and Sarah a son, they laughed because they didn’t believe it. They were scared to hope and skeptical of God’s power. Sometimes, people reject Christianity because they think it promises too much. But it’s important to understand the real nature of what is being dismissed. Feelings, like fear of being hurt or feeling foolish, can have a big impact on whether someone accepts or rejects Christianity.

2. The dangerous laughter of obsession

When Sarah and Abraham’s son Isaac was born, they laughed with joy. But they became so focused on Isaac that their laughter turned into fear and anger. This story warns us not to focus our lives on anything other than God. Putting hope wrongly can lead us to harmful extremes and confuse our understanding of God’s favor. We should remember that true joy and hope come from God, the ultimate Giver.

3. The laughter of grace

Sarah made a mistake by losing her sense of wonder. Kids often have this, but adults can lose it. The story of Jesus is like a fairy tale, filled with wonder. It’s about a God who keeps His promises, a situation that seems impossible, and a hero who saves the day. By trusting in God and rejoicing in truth, we can experience the wonder of having Jesus born in our hearts. We can find forgiveness for past mistakes through God’s grace and keep our joy, even in tough times, by delighting in Jesus.



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