Attribute n. - a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something.
Someone might wonder why I’m writing about God having humor or a merry heart. It is something that I got to thinking about awhile back and I just thought I’d write about this month. Maybe someone needs this.
This attribute of God is one that is easy to overlook in some ways. It may be mentioned in connection with some of His creations, but I’m not sure we always see how it affects our relationship with Him directly. However, if you have a friend who has a sense of humor, as we call it today, you will be affected by it. If God is your friend, you will find His humor affecting your life at times as well. (Are You A Friend of God?)
First of all, we know God does have a sense of humor and a merry heart based on some of His creations. There are things in creation that are too comical or funny to be made by a Creator who didn’t have a sense of humor! There are many animals that are just funny to look at, and there are many more that sometimes behave in ways that make us laugh. And, then too, who could love the cuteness of little kids without seeing God’s merry heart?
In the King James Bible this kind of humor is called a merry heart (not to be mistaken for the merriness in relation to the use of alcohol, which is the most common use in scripture.)
Samuel Johnson defines merry as “…Pleasant; sweet; agreeable; delightful; charming…Laughing; loudly cheerful; gay of heart…Causing laughter…to be jovial…” [This is “gay” as in “a state of happiness”.]
Here are some verses to consider:
Proverbs 15:13 A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
Proverbs 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
James 5:13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.
Since we are created in the image of God, we can safely say that the Lord must have a sense of humor, especially since this type of merry heart is spoken of as a good thing.
Another way we know God has a sense of humor is because of some of the things that happen in scripture that are actually laughable. The first one that comes to my mind is Balaam with his donkey. Here he was beating the poor animal unfairly, not knowing that the donkey was in fact saving his life, and what does God do but loose its tongue and let it speak. What’s even funnier is that Balaam answered her back as if it were perfectly normal to have a conversation with one’s donkey. (Numbers 22:22-31) I like the last verse in that section where Balaam “fell flat on his face” when he finally saw the angel! I can just see that in my imagination. :-)
There are other stories that have humorous elements. There’s Barack who refused to go to war without Deborah, so God allowed a woman (Jael) to slay the most important person in the enemy’s army (Sisera). (Judges 4 &5)
It’s also kind of funny when Darius comes to the lion’s den to see if Daniel survived the night. Daniel 6:20-21 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. Somehow that just tickles me.
How many other places have you seen humor in the Bible?
We also can see the Lord’s sense of humor in how He interacts with us sometimes in life. He does not laugh at us. That he reserves for the wicked, curiously enough. Psalms 37:12-13 The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth. The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming. (Also see Psalm 2) But then, we seldom enjoy being laughed at, so that does make sense in a way. No, the Lord’s humor with His friends is always of the kindest and gentlest sort.
A friend of mine went through a number of years of difficult depression. She was having a particularly bad time at one point and her daughter came to take her out shopping in hopes that it would help her. My friend was complaining to her daughter how she just couldn’t cry. She felt that if she could just have a good cry she would feel better, but for some reason she couldn’t cry and she was quite annoyed. When they were getting out of the van at some point during their excursion, my friend hit her head so hard on the door frame that she instantly burst into tears. She immediately remembered her complaint earlier and she saw what the Lord was doing. She had a very friendly relationship with the Lord and she just said, “That wasn’t funny, Lord.” But, she knew it was. She told the story to illustrate how God does have a sense of humor – and also that we should be careful what we say.
I also have two friends who originally came from other countries who absolutely vowed and declared that they would “never” marry an American – particularly a white one. They both married Christian, Anglo, Americans and are confident that it was the Lord’s will for each of them. :-)
My mom has a story where the Lord made her retract her words as well. We were traveling across southern California on our way to Los Angeles when we passed a town in a desert area that was, to my mom’s eyes, particularly bleak and depressing. She made the comment, “Anyone who would live here would have to be crazy.” My dad admonished her to be careful what she said. Sure enough, we ended up within miles of that exact location in just a few months. We lived there more than five years. My dad had his fist pastorate there and that church was so loving and patient (having had a hard time getting any pastor to come at all), that my parents count those as some of the best years of their life. That just makes me smile. :-)
I have my own little story. Texas is notorious for dry spells, often followed by lots of rain. We seem to either be praying that it will rain or that it will stop! Well, we’d been having a really long dry spell in the recent drought (now over), and I was feeling really discouraged about it. One night it came up as my turn to pray for rain again. I told my husband that my faith was too weak to pray for rain and he was going to have to do it. Well, the next morning it was raining when I got up. I went to the front door in my housecoat and noticed that the rain running off of the roof was beating my potted plant pretty badly. I went out the door to move it and the door swung shut behind me. The knob is one that does not unlock when you twist it to open it, so it was still locked! There I stood on the front porch, locked out of my house; it was raining and the spare key was hidden where I had to walk out in the rain to retrieve it. I could see the humor in what the Lord had done to me, and as I set out to retrieve the key I told Him, “I deserved this.” :-) I had to walk in that rain that I didn’t have the faith to pray for the night before!
One of my favorite martyr stories seems appropriate here.
John Bradford, who, while studying Law in London, heard Latimer preach a powerful message which directed him to the ministry, became Chaplain to Edward VI. With the accession of Queen Mary, he was arrested for seditious utterances and heresy and sentenced to be burned at the stake. On the day of his death he displayed great courage. Kneeling and praying, he took a burning piece of wood in his hand and kissed it, and as the flames arose he looked up to heaven and prayed:
"O, England, England! repent thee of thy sins, repent thee of thy sins. Beware of idolatry, beware of false antichrists; take heed they do not deceive you."
Then Bradford turned to a young man who had also been condemned to die for his faith, and as the flames crackled, Bradford said to his suffering companion:
"Be of good comfort, brother, for we shall have a merry supper with the Lord this night."
From Last Word of Saints and Sinners by Herbert Lockyer, p.151
Somehow those last words of his indicate a warm and hearty friendship with his Savior.
There are many little ways that we can sometimes see the Lord’s merry heart in His dealings with us. Some of these things are things that only you will know about because He knows you so well and can show them to you in just the way that will make you smile or laugh. Like an affectionate friend, He will do little things for you from time to time to cheer your heart and give you a chuckle just between Himself and you.
Do we pay attention to His little tokens of friendship? Or are we so busy or distracted with the complications of life that we are blind to His merry heart? It is something we should consider because a friendship that is cultivated and warm will naturally have those things. If we aren’t noticing, we’re probably not paying attention like we should.
Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.