What Causes God to Laugh


“But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations” (Psalm 59:8).

Was it Erma Bombeck who once said, “Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

Or was that Joan Rivers?

Anyway.  It’s right on the mark.

The writer for Our Daily Bread tells this:  I was washing my car one evening as the sun was preparing to kiss the earth goodnight.  Glancing up, I impulsively pointed the hose at it as if to extinguish its flames.  The absurdity of my action hit me, and I laughed.

I get a kick out of seeing how prophecy experts bend over backward trying to locate the United States–as well as whatever country happens to be giving us headaches at the moment–in Scripture.  As though our moment in history is so huge and our place in God’s plan so essential, how dare anyone suggest He could have planned the grand sweep of history without our being given a starring role.

As if.

Isaiah 40 has a good word on this.

Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;  Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.  Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.  All the nations are as nothing before Him; they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. (40:15-17).

How clear is that?

Once while prayer-walking the United Nations in New York City, I was struck by two tidal waves rushing by in opposite directions. On the one hand, a common citizen like myself stands in awe of that magnificent place.  Leaders from all across the world come there, I think to myself, and they hammer out the huge problems of this day.  Surely, if we would pray for peace, we must intercede for all who work in this place.

And on the other hand…

These people and the nations they represent are “fine dust” to God.  The people of all the world are important to God, but not as so many nations.  The Scripture which assures us that “God so loved the world” surely refers to its people.

In the Old Testament, the word translated “nations” is “goyim,” referring to pagans, anyone but the Jews.

We do not do well when we elevate our leaders to a level above the Almighty.  We make a serious error when we decide some issues are beyond God’s reach or that the people involved are too important for our little prayers to touch.

God is no respect of persons. He does not tremble before a Caesar, quiver before a Pharaoh or curtsy before the President of the United States.  He knows every cell of their bodies, counts the hairs on their heads, and is familiar with each moment of their existence. There is nothing about these mortals off-limits to His knowledge.

God does not ask the United Nations for advice.  He is not seeking permission from NATO to act.  He does not hesitate to restrain an army from acting, does not think twice before humbling a big shot who has begun to think of himself as above mere mortals, and does not mind elevating an unknown into a place of power and prominence.  “Our God is in the Heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Psalm 2 has God laughing at the heathen who dare set themselves against Him.  “He who sits in the Heavens shall laugh; the Lord has them in derision.  Then He will speak to them in His anger….”  Interestingly, the first Christians cited this text when the rulers of their day began organizing to stamp out their fledgling efforts to spread the Gospel of Jesus.  As they prayed, they quoted parts of Psalm 2 and added, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy Child Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.  And now, Lord, behold their threatenings….” (Acts 4:23-31).

What the Psalmist called God laughing is more like Him seeing that the insufferable bullies received their comeuppance and His faithful children received His protection and blessing.

Before leaving the matter there, it occurs to me that there is another sense in which the Almighty laughs, and laughs in the way we think of it, as with delight and joy.

–There is the laughter evoked in our hearts by the laughter and babbling of a small child.

–Animal lovers–and surely that is all of us–delight in the playful antics of newborn puppies and kittens.  The most popular program ever to come from the Animal Planet on television shows the birth and development of these tiny creatures. “Too Cute” doesn’t begin to say how we feel as we watch this. Surely, the Creator enjoys their doings as much (or ten thousand times as much!) as we do.

–There is joy in heaven over a sinner who repents (Luke 15:7,10,32).  It’s no stretch to believe that includes laughter from the Throne.

People ask their pastors, “Did Jesus ever laugh?” 

Elton Trueblood wrote a classic by the title “The Humor of Christ” to answer the question in the affirmative.

I know of no better response than one I have used for years, and probably borrowed from someone else: “I don’t know whether He laughed or not, but He sure fixed me up so I could!”

The Laney family still laughs at this memory.  I was fresh out of seminary and often somewhat brash.  My little family and I had been invited to have lunch with matriarch Mrs. Laney and some of her family that Sunday.  As the meal was being placed on the table, Rudon Laney said, “Brother Joe, I want you to settle a little argument before Mother and me.”  I said, “If I can.”

“Did Jesus ever laugh?” Rudon said.  “Mother says He didn’t and I say He did.”  From the other side of the room, Mrs. Laney said, “Well, Brother Joe, the Bible doesn’t say He laughed.” 

I said, “Mrs. Laney, the Bible doesn’t say He went to the bathroom either, but we can assume He did.”

This lovely lady, given to dignity and honor in all things, said, “Brother Joe!” as the family dissolved into laughter.

As I recall, nothing further was said about that and someone changed the subject.


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