Laughing At Scripture

Some of you might be thinking this title is blasphemous. Instead, I think it in a way of treating things like they are. Before you start to write me off as a heretic or blasphemer, I simply ask that you read the entirety of what I say here.

I do Scripture reading in the morning and in the evening. Last night, I read Isaiah 44. If you’ve read Isaiah, you should know that at this point, Isaiah is challenging the idolatry of his day. Now he has spoken about it a number of times and each time, he finds it simply incredible that people believe in idols. Let me let the prophet speak for himself.

6 “This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God. 7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let him foretell what will come.

8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.

10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit him nothing?

11 He and his kind will be put to shame;
craftsmen are nothing but men.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.

13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in the form of man,
of man in all his glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.

14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

15 It is man’s fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.

16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”

17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me; you are my god.”

18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.

19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”

20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

21 “Remember these things, O Jacob,
for you are my servant, O Israel.
I have made you, you are my servant;
O Israel, I will not forget you.

22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”

23 Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, O earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel.

Honestly, go through and read his argument. See if you don’t laugh at some points. The way he sets it out is a mocking tone. How can someone not laugh if they are really approaching the text and treating it properly? Yeah. Of course this is Holy Scripture, but why can the holy never be funny?

Have you never laughed at a joke a pastor told during a sermon? Does he not tell the jokes also to make a point? As one who has been in the pulpit a number of times, I try to use humor at some points every time. It helps to make a light mood and it actually helps to aid recall. People can remember jokes easily and if they can connect a point with the joke, all the better!

My concern at this point then is that we not foster an attitude and a view of God that hinders us from reading Scripture as it is to be taken. As my roommate walked through here last night and saw me reading my Bible, he did see me laughing. I couldn’t really help it, and I had no shame in doing it. Isaiah made his point brilliantly and it was funny.

As I ponder it, it makes me wonder how the people responded. How could they not see the futility of what they were doing? (Unfortunately, Scripture records the hardness of hearts well. Jeremiah’s audience after Babylon came thought that it might have been because they hadn’t been honoring the pagan gods enough.)

This is also an excellent argumentation technique that Isaiah is using. Let’s remember that the people of the time knew how to argue their case. Isaiah was wanting his people to reason to see the truth of what he said. One way to show a view is false is to show the absurdities that exist if that view is true.

What do we get out of this passage then? Well, we get a good laugh and we get a good lesson in how to argue. We also get something else. We also get some joy in seeing that people in the biblical times used argumentation like we do today and enjoyed showing the absurdity of false views. If they enjoyed expressing it, should we not enjoy reading it?

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