LAUGHTER IN THE BIBLE
There are 42 references to laughter in the Bible, not many when we consider how many verses the bible contains, but still they have something to teach us.The words translated "laughter" come from seven different root words in the Hebrew and Greek original languages in the Bible.
Meanings: from the root word "to laugh" can come the secondary meanings on how we laugh -- caressingly; to be entertained; jesting; making sport of; mockingly; According to the root meanings, we can be amused, celebrating, holding a contest, joking, making merry, playing, rejoicing, smiling, stammering, being gracious, being in derision, or scorning when we laugh.
The Bible records that God laughs. Some of the scriptures recording God's laughter have been used recently totally out of their context when only quoted partially. It's important that we read total scriptures, not just phrases taken out of scriptures. Let's look now at the scriptures recording God's laughter.
Psalm 59 is a prayer for deliverance from David's enemies, when Saul was set to get rid of him. The first part of Psalm 59 describes the wickedness of these enemies and verse 8 concludes "But Thou, O LORD, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations".
This is an example of God laughing in derision at the puny, futile efforts of His enemies. Psalm 37:13 is a similar scripture against the wicked. "The Lord laughs at him; For He sees his day is coming". This is derisive laughter at the wicked.
Proverbs 1 has a good teaching on the subject of wisdom. Verse 20 says this: "Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square" However, the chapter goes on to say that the people did not want God's wisdom. God begs them to repent. in verses 23- 26, He says, "Turn to my reproof, behold I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you; Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel, and did not want my reproof; I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes."
Truly, none of us would want to be the object of God's laughter in this instance.
In our present day, Psalms 2, verse 4 is used by followers of Rodney Howard Browne, and the so-called "laughing evangelist" himself to supposedly support uncontrolled, riotess laughter encouraged in his meetings. I have a cassette tape of his where he says, "if God can sit on his throne in the heavens and laugh", then why can't we do the same? He paints a picture of God dissolving into helpless mirth and uncontrollable joyous laughter and primes his audience by shouting "Ha, ha, ha, ho, ho, ho". Let's examine Psalms 2:4,
Not surprisingly, it is exactly in the same context as all the other scriptures that record God laughing. Never in joy, never during worship, never in mirth, never to be amused, only in derision against His enemies. He is not frivolous in his laughter, nor is He out of control. He laughs in judgment. Let's read Psalms 2:2-5.
Notice that God is angry and infuriated at people following after vain pursuits. He goes on to foretell of the coming of His Only Begotten son, and promises His true followers a great inheritance. None of the true followers are laughing at this time, but worshiping with reverence, seeking refuge in Him. Let's read verse 12.
This concludes the Bible record of God laughing. Are you surprised? It is a fearful thing to be the object of God's laughter, or to take His laughter out of context.
Still, there is a time to laugh! Ecclesiastes chapter 3, points out that there is a time for everthing. Verse 4 says there is "a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance". Some Christians place themselves under condemnation because they cannot always present a smiling, laughing face. God never intended that we laugh for prolonged periods of time. We will experience many emotions in our Christian walk, we are promised laughter some of the time, but what kind of laughter?
Let's examine the bible record, and see how and when God's people laughed.
We immediately think of Sarah, who laughed when God told her she would have a Son in her old age. I admire Sarah for laughing. I wouldn't find the news too amusing! Still, laughter is a blessing and a relief to all of us. Laughter is mentioned among the beatitudes found in Luke, chapter 6. Verse 21 says, "Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh".
Isn't this scripture a comfort to us? Do you long for more of God? Do you hunger after a closer walk with Him? If you truly seek Him through his Spirit and His Word, you shall be satisfied. but bear in mind that His Spirit and His word will never act independently. Keep in the Word, keep in His Spirit and keep in His Truth.Are you in a time of weeping now? Sorrow is a process, a teacher, you will climb out of your valley, and you, too, shall laugh. God promises it. Hold on to Him. Your time will come. You can't force genuine laughing. Wait for God to give you your time of laughter.
Along with the blessings of the beatitudes, comes this warning, also concerning laughter. Verse 25 says, "Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep". So, don't be dismayed by cheery-faced people who always seem to be rejoicing and laughing. They too, are in a cycle, and they will mourn and weep when the time comes.
We are presently experiencing what I call the "backlash effect". Many who wrote to us and talked to us of the extreme happiness they were having experiencing bizarre effects of laughing, barking, roaring, screaming, twitching, shaking etc. They claimed they were producing good fruits and just knew it was really God, even if they couldn't support their experiences with the Bible.
They told me to 'quit putting God in a box'. They told me 'so what?' if they were acting outside of biblical guidelines. God was doing a new thing. If I didn't jump in and join them, I would miss the 'move of the spirit'.
Time has passed. In our work with the cults, I always say 'Time is the enemy of a false prophet'. Time also deals with fringe movements. As expected, now some write telling us that these emotions did not stand the test of time, and they are in fact, depressed and weeping, feeling they have "missed" God somehow, because they couldn't maintain the manifestations without a lot of effort..
Too bad that they forsook the word of God for the emotions. They thought they were well-fed and satisfied. They laughed a lot., sometimes uncontrollably and for hours at a time.Too bad they pursued the experiences, rather than the Word of God. They are now in a time of weeping, but if they again hunger after God Word and His ways, they can again laugh and be joyful, but in God's way.
Don't try and change God or His Word to suit your present experiences, rather adjust yourself to God's ways. He has plenty of experiences for those who draw close to Him, within the guidelines that He has set out for his people.
The work that the Holy Spirit does in us involves our heart, the seat of our innermost emotions. If your heart is right with God, nothing is better than that! No wonder David pleaded with the Lord to create in Him a clean heart. We need to love the Lord and His word, from our hearts. If we do, we can experience what Ecclesiastes 7:3 says,
"Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad, a heart may be happy." Nothing, not sorrow, not mourning, not disaster can take away our peace deep in our hearts. Our outward emotions change, but our hearts should remain steadfast. This is done by hiding the word of God in our hearts, so experiences good or bad do not shake us. We have built our house with our foundation on the rock, Jesus Christ. We safeguard our hearts, by obeying the word of the Lord and not going beyond what is written.
It's true, God's people laughed and shouted when they came free from captivity in Psalms 126:1-3. (read). They had been faithful, they had endured, they had kept the faith. They laughed for a time, for a specific occasion and for a specific reason. However, there is no precedent in the Bible for unbridled laughter among God's people on an ongoing weekly or daily basis. So-called 'Holy Laughter' prompted by a man with aberrant doctrines on Jesus Christ, calling himself 'God's Holy Ghost Bartender' is outside of Scripture, and has no basis in the Bible. Let's heed the warning in Proverbs 14 (read).
Laughter is not joy in the Bible, nor is joy laughter. We can laugh when filled with joy, but some think joy is laughter. It is not. Joy is something we want to know about and have as part of our daily lives.
Mostly we think of joy as a good feeling, and it is. For most of us our joy rises when things go well, and disappears when things go badly. Some of us might seek after joy by coming to church and singing, clapping, and trying to "feel it", and we feel good for awhile, but real enduring joy eludes us and gets away.
Galations 5:22 tells us joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and Acts 13:52 tells us the disciples were CONTINUALLY filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is possible to have enduring joy.
We need to find out what joy really is, and how we can get it, and how we can keep it. Let's consider first things first--God is the source of our joy and we need God to have joy. Let's read Psalms 43:4 God is our exceeding joy. There is simply no joy apart from God, and joy is a matter of the heart. not the mouth. Psalms 16:8-11 and Psalms 32:11.
Our hearts can't be joyful without the indwelling word. Psalms 119:, 111, 112. Don't ever downgrade God's word as secondary to your experiences. It is primary, never secondary. Believers have their joy from the Lord. Romans 15:13
No wonder Philippians 4:4 says "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say "rejoice!". We have already discussed how our emotions cycle around from Laughter to weeping and back again, but our joy should remain constant. Joy from the Lord dwelling continually in our hearts is not turned off and on due to our circumstances, or due to meetings where we get hyped up, or not. Joy can be enduring. Seek after this real kind of joy.
So, what should our attitude be when we find ourselves in the middle of a bunch of crummy, unhappy, depressing circumstances. James 1:2-4 answers.
Keith and I have learned to be filled with joy, the more things go wrong! We had three floods and a tax audit and a good laugh, because we knew blessings were coming. They're never far behind Satan's attacks or bad circumstances.
As with most things, to get at the bigger picture, we have to start small. We need to be faithful in what is small, to be faithful in larger matters. We need to take joy in small things, to have joy in larger things. Sometimes our faith is tested and our hearts are examined by the Lord, like the servant in the parable--he proved faithful and joy was the result. Matthew 25:21.
Let's just pause for a moment and each one of us examine our own hearts and ask ourselves. What makes us joyful? Now, here's what SHOULD make us joyful! Luke 10: 19,20.
Joy is possible in the most depressing conditions, because joy depends on the LORD and not on the conditions--look at poor Paul--he was physically exhausted to the point that his innards were churning with fear (depression)--yet he had joy because joy does not depend on how we feel, but on God. God always comes through for us! 2 Cor. 7:4-6
Is our joy too closely linked with our material possessions? How joyful would we be if the Government seized all our properties and goods, leaving us with ZIP? This happened to the Hebrew Christians and they were joyful through it all! (Hebrews 10:32-39).
The entire Corinthian church (you know the one who thought they were giants in the move of the Spirit of God--lots of tongues, prophesying etc.) needed to be taught a lesson on joy--they had missed it--the lesson was the heart condition of the Macedonian Church compared to their own heart condition. 2 Cor 8:1-5.
Jesus needed to teach His disciples about abiding joy because He knew they would look at their circumstances and become sorrowful. John 16:22 Yes, no one can take our joy away from us. Weeping is for a season, laughter is for a season, but joy goes on and on. Don't put your trust in temporary emotions like laughter. Laugh at appropriate times, weep at appropriate times, but put your trust in the Lord and His Word, and you will have abiding joy forever in your heart.