God Laughs – Psalm 2:4
With all that has happened over the past months, Psalm 2 struck me as particularly relevant. “Why do the nations conspire and the people’s plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed.” (Psalm 2:1-2 NIV) Other versions say “Why do the nations rage and the peoples utter folly?” We have certainly heard a lot of raging and foolish words. Or “Why the big noise, nations? Why the mean plots, peoples? Earth-leaders push for position, Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks,” from the Message Bible in Contemporary Language. God’s response? God laughs.
The Benefits of Laughter
Laughter is the best medicine. Long before Norman Cousins was writing about the therapeutic benefits of laughter, Proverbs 17:22 told us, “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” A good belly laugh stimulates blood flow, reduces stress, relaxes tense muscles, distracts us from our symptoms, and helps with mental distress and physical illness. Being able to see the humor in a situation helps us reframe problems and see them from a different perspective. (For more on this see Laughter: God’s Rx)
Laughter is truly one of God’s greatest gifts to humanity.
God’s Sense of Humor
That God has a sense of humor is evident in his creation. Just look at the elephant. We humans are pretty laughable as well.
Some say that the key ingredient for laughter is surprise. If God knows everything, then how can he be surprised? And if he can’t be surprised, how can God laugh?
The Resurrection of Jesus may be seen as the biggest joke in the Bible. What a surprise! The powers of the day thought they had gotten rid of this troublemaker only to have him come back in a form where they could not harm him. The joke was on them. Jesus surprises the disciples on the road to Emmaus. Another reason for laughter.
God continuously chooses the lowly to show his power. A lowly shepherd boy becomes king? An elderly barren woman has a child? Our God is full of surprises which lead to laughter.
Susan Sparks, author of Laugh Your Way to Grace: Reclaiming the Spiritual Power of Humor, says laughter is uniquely human. “We are the only creatures that really laugh,” she says. “And since we’re made in the image of the divine, that must mean God laughs too.” (as found in Divine Humor: How Laughter Benefits Us Spiritually, Guideposts)
Did Jesus Laugh?
A picture of Jesus laughing was popular when I was in my twenties. Jesus was a great speaker keeping crowds of thousands entertained with his stories and metaphors, likely to elicit laughter from his listeners. However there is no mention in the Bible of Jesus laughing. Why is that?
In that Jesus was fully human and experienced everything we humans experienced, I find it hard to imagine that Jesus never laughed. For some reason his biographers failed to include this in their retelling of his life. Maybe he laughed so much they didn’t see it as necessary to mention. Maybe in their haste to record Jesus’ teaching and the most essential elements of his life, they didn’t see the importance of mentioning something of so little consequence.
Centuries later, these little details would be nice to know. So many things left unwritten.
God Laughs in the Old Testament
There are four incidents where God laughs in the Old Testament, three in the Psalms (2:4; 37:13; 59:9) and once in the book of Wisdom (4:18). In each case it is a laugh of derision. God is looking at the plotting and evil way of people and laughs at them. Why? Derision is the lowest form of laughter. Why would our God, the almighty, stoop so low? I found the answer in the article, God’s Laughter, by Mark Shea. Shea states, “It’s appropriate to indulge in it (derisive laughter) when we are dealing with the devil since, as St. Thomas More said, “The devill… the prowde spirite… cannot endure to be mocked.”
The devil can’t stand to be mocked! Our God laughs in the face of the evil and wrongdoing we humans so often fall prey to, thereby dismissing them and their power. God knows so well that evil has no power over God.
One commentator on Psalm 37:13 stated it was better not to be born than to be laughed at in this way by God. Why? Because there are worse things in life than death. There is the embarrassment and shame of being laughed at. Memories of such childhood incidents often haunt us as adults. We do not like being laughed at.
The Greatest Laughter
Derision is the lowest form of laughter. God saves that for Satan and those who follow the ways of Satan and in doing so teaches us how to deal with evil. But the greatest laughter is the laughter of joy that God reserves for God’s children. God takes delight in us as parents takes delight in their children. “Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him.” (Proverbs 8:30) God looks upon God’s greatest creation and laughs in joy.
When I look at the state of the world and the state of my country, America, it can be easy to get discouraged. The evil amidst us in the form of lies, deception, greed and abuse of power is disheartening. I am reminded by God’s laugh that evil has no power over God. I am reminded that our God is a God of surprises, giving us reason for laughter and joy.
So go ahead! Let out a belly laugh! It’s good for your body and spirit, and our God laughs with you!
What causes you to laugh? Do you have any fun stories to share? I’d love to hear them.
This post is part of a series of blog posts on the Psalms. Sign up to follow this blog and and receive a free copy of Still Dancing, the second book in my Dancing through Life Series. click here to sign up
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