The armies in heaven… followed Him Rev. 19:14
Many people have asked, “Does God laugh?” In reaction to the ironies of life, others suggest that God must have a sense of humor. Both statements might mask other questions: Does God have a sense of humor anything like ours, and does He laugh at things like we do? Does God exhibit happiness, or is He cold and unmoved?
The Bible teaches that there are three sources of revelation available to those wanting to learn about God: nature (Ps. 8; Ps. 19; Rom. 1:19-20), the inspired Word of God communicated through prophets or apostles (Deut. 18:18-19; 1 Cor. 14:37), and the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:18; 14:9; Heb. 1:3). While nature might not help us answer the question about whether God laughs, the Scriptures and the Lord Jesus Christ certainly do.
The Nature of God’s Laughter
Isaiah 55:8 reminds us that there is a vast difference between God’s thoughts and emotions and those of humanity. Thankfully, such affirmations of the transcendence of God are balanced by verses like Hebrews 4:15. Though vastly beyond us, God is personally familiar with human emotion and experience.
Nonetheless, the idea of God laughing, in the sense of being amused by a joke as we would be, is not found in Scripture. In such cases, our amusement and laughter are reactions to novel combinations of information or unique perspectives on life. God’s omniscience renders surprise and novelty impossible for Him.
God’s Laughter in Scripture
While the image of God laughing is rare in Scripture, three verses in the Psalms mention a setting in which God laughs. This laughter is nothing to smile at. It is a terrifying event. What is it that makes God laugh? Psalms 2:4, 37:13, and 59:8 all give a similar answer. God laughs at the confident intentions of the wicked in their attacks on the righteous. Consider Psalm 2 as an example.
The second psalm is one of the most frequently quoted psalms in the New Testament. It stands at the head of a category of psalms known as “royal psalms” (see also Psalms 18, 20, 21, 45, 72, 89, 101, 110, 132, and 144) because they address themes like authority, rule, and Israel’s king.
Psalm 2 opens with a question of amazement. What futile expectations have infected the nations? What could be more vain than to attempt to attack the God who upholds the galaxies (Heb. 1:3)? The kings of earth are delusional to speak of throwing off God’s rule. They are unified in their threats and the marshaling of international forces (v. 2). They announce their intentions (v. 3). The planet has spoken. God and His King are no longer welcome to rule.
The scene shifts to heaven for God’s response (v. 4). Laughter is heard. God is laughing! It is not a laugh of amusement, but of derision. God is in fact scoffing (nasb)—taunting even (net)! What makes God laugh? The idle threats of the ungodly make God laugh.
After expressing disdain for such nonsense, God announces the one reality that all authority on Earth must come to grips with: He has placed His King on the earth (v. 6). The anointed King joins in by echoing God’s pronouncement of the Davidic covenant to Him. God has decreed that the Davidic king, in Zion, is His only begotten Son. To oppose Him is to oppose heaven. Furthermore, He will not rule on earth as one King among many. It is God’s intention to give all nations to His Son as an inheritance (v. 8). Like a man smashing clay pots with an iron rod, God’s anointed King will put down all rule and authority (v. 9). He will be King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14). The wise reaction to this revelation is twofold: service (v. 11) and worship (v. 12). We are reminded of 1 Corinthians 2:7-9. If only the rulers of this world had listened!
Did Jesus Laugh?
There is more for us to consider, though. One can look at the life of the Lord Jesus Christ as a second source of revelation on the question of God’s laughter. Being fully man, the Lord Jesus had the human ability to laugh. Yet we ought not to rush to the assumption that He did.
Throughout His ministry, the Lord Jesus was very clear about the fact that the words He spoke were the words the Father gave Him to speak (Jn. 12:50; 14:10). This dispenses with the idea that our Lord walked through Israel saying or doing whatever came naturally to His mind, even in its moral perfection. While we cannot say that He never laughed, no verse in the four Gospels records His doing so. As the express image of the Father (Jn. 14:9; Heb. 1:3), this is an extremely significant revelation about God.
Why would Jesus, as the express image of the Father, not laugh? In Christ, God came to His own, and His own received Him not (Jn. 1:11). He had no place to lay His head (Mt. 8:20). He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3). His Father’s house was turned into a house of merchandise (Jn. 2:16). He wept over the blindness of Israel (Lk. 19:41). His hour of suffering and death was always before Him (Mk. 10:45; Jn. 12:27). The whole world lay under the sway of Satan and wickedness (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 Jn. 5:19). Painful verses like these cover the Scriptures. In Christ, God entered a world horribly defaced by sin. He found little in a fallen world to be joyful about, let alone laugh over.
If the Savior did not laugh and if the only statements about God laughing are expressions of His scorn, is the situation worse than expected? Does this confirm the fears of some that God is cold, distant, and unmoved? Thankfully, Scripture answers with a resounding “No!” Although we do not see God laugh (in a happy sense) in a world of rebellion, it does not mean that He is cold or lacking in positive emotion.
Passages like Isaiah 62:5, Zephaniah 3:17, and Luke 15:7-10 show God rejoicing. Like a person celebrating over a lost sheep that is found, so God rejoices when even one person repents. He also promises to rejoice one day over His restored people Israel. His Word tells us that He delights in obedience (1 Sam. 15:22), justice (Prov. 11:1), and truth (Prov. 12:22). Most of all, God took such delight in His Son that He publically announced His pleasure from heaven (Lk. 3:22). Futhermore, we are told that it is God who will one day put an end to all sadness (Rev. 21:4). In His presence is fullness of joy forever (Ps. 16:11).
In this age, God’s laughter is an expression of anger towards the very thing that robbed this world of true happiness: rebellion. It is no wonder that God delights to set His Son as King upon Zion. The rod of iron wielded by God’s Son is also a “scepter of righteousness.” In a coming day, when the King of Psalm 2 completes His rule on earth (1 Cor. 15:24), we may yet have the joy of hearing God laugh in a new way (Rev. 22:3-5).