At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
- 1 Kings 18:27
David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
- 1 Samuel 21:12-13
And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife.
- Genesis 26:8 (KJV)
“Maybe I’m weird, but there are times the Bible makes me laugh. I mean really laugh. The older I get and the more comfortable I feel in the Book, the more often it happens. I’d like to think it’s because a more relaxed mind-set gives me the freedom to see what l once missed. But, in all honesty, I’m finding more and more times when a smiling response is not only appropriate, it’s expected.
“Perhaps you find yourself doing the same. It’s not that we are getting soft on inerrancy; it’s just that some scenes, stories, actions, and reactions strike us funny. Actually, they’re supposed to!
“Because the Bible is good literature (along with being God—breathed truth), we find in it all the makings of such; color, intrigue, mystery, romance, surprise, subtlety, tragedy, poetry, art, and a dozen other ingredients that make it interesting. So why should anyone be shocked to think that some of the stuff is funny?
“There is humor in both Testaments, but the Old Testament seems to have an abundance. Like that time when the main event at Mount Carmel brought out 450 idolatrous prophets on one side and Elijah, all alone, on the other.
“You remember the story (1 Kings 18). Baal vs. Jehovah. Big altar, prayer for fire, the classic wait ‘n’ see plot. The One who ‘answers by fire’ . . . that’s the One to follow. …
“Truth is not only stranger than fiction, it’s often funnier. When it is, we don’t insult God by laughing, we honor Him. It is our way of expressing appreciation for His desire to touch us where we live and to keep His truth interesting, appealing, and, yes, real … for so much of life is funny. Really funny.”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
This quoted devotion is pretty much at the midpoint of Rev. Swindoll’s book. Did he place it there as a change of pace? I think he placed it there to make sure that we were not getting too full of ourselves. After all, if we have been following this devotional book for six months, we might think we have arrived. Arrived where? I don’t know. I never got there.
The first Scripture above is Elijah taunting (translated today as “trash talking”). Did Elijah invent “trash talking?”
The next Scripture is David acting like he was insane so that King Achish would not have him killed.
The last Scripture is when Isaac passed Rebekah off as being his sister, as his father had done, twice. The word “sporting” in the KJV is translated as “caressing” in the NIV, and that might be downplayed for family reading. As Rev. Swindoll said in the devotion, they were definitely not playing Ping-Pong.
Rev. Swindoll gave a couple more references. One other example was his surmise that Jonah was probably stomping around trying to kill that worm before the worm killed all his shade in Jonah 4.
The key is that when we read the Bible, we get the glorious stories, the sad stories, the naughty stories, and the funny stories. It is okay to laugh. Just as it is okay to laugh when the world seems to have turned upside down and there is “nowhere” to turn.
Of course, there is somewhere to turn. We have a secret. It is not really a secret, but the world has rejected the secret.
We can turn to God. We can read about David fearing his life and pretending to be insane. We can ask, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” Tim Allen spent a little time in prison. He developed his comedy routine there, sort of. He said that the bullies in the exercise yard might not beat him up if the joke was good enough, but if he still got beaten up, the punches were not as bad if the bully was laughing. David’s ploy might work, even today.
I doubt if I would ever pass my wife off as being my sister, although we are best friends forever. Elijah’s trash talking is something that I do not do, or when I try, it comes off wrong. Elijah’s trash talking is hilarious.
If you think the Bible is boring, you have not truly read the book. Sure, reading the genealogies is not much fun, but try reading it out loud, with an audience. About the 20th or 30th name that you stumble over trying to pronounce who begat whom, your giggle box may interrupt the next begat. See! Not boring at all.
Making fun of the Bible? Not on your life. But finding, and learning from, the “humanness” in the Bible stories? Absolutely.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.