She struggled with disappointment, unfulfilled dreams, and doubt. She would also rush ahead of God and take matters into her own hands thinking she knew better than God. Can you relate to any of that? I know that I can personally relate to these issues, as I have been guilty of all of the above on more than one occasion. The life of Sarah is filled with memorable moments and has so much to teach us, so let's unpack it a little.
She was barren
Our first introduction to her is that she is Abraham’s wife and that she is barren. Not a very flattering beginning especially in a culture that thought a woman’s worth was linked to children. At this point Sarah is around 65 years old and the hope of ever having a child of her own was slipping away fast. But while most people would say her story was over, it was just unfolding. God has called her husband to separate from the familiar and venture into the unknown, as I have said before, women like stability especially as they grow older. No doubt she was settled, perhaps had some friends and had the security of being in the familiar, and now she was trading it all for a nomadic life, never again to truly settle anywhere. That was not an easy thing to do, especially since she did not know God as intimately as Abraham but she followed her husband’s leading, trusting his leadership. I think something important to remember is that God did not call them away from their family to be mean or unkind, it was essential to them that they leave their past so that they could embrace the future God had for them a future that would shape a new nation and forge a history that includes the lineage of Christ.
An Egyptian detour
Now we are not told when, but at some point Abraham faces a crisis, there is a famine in the land and instead of choosing to trust God, he leaves the place God has led him to go into Egypt. Before they arrive, Abraham tells Sarah to lie, to say that she is his sister so that his life would be spared. I believe Sarah must have felt abandoned by her own husband. The one who was supposed to care for and protect her, begs her to tell a lie. Here is the man who left all that was familiar in order to follow after God and he buckles to fear. Sarah chose to lie for Abraham but how it must have hurt her, especially when she was left in a very vulnerable spot. Because she was so beautiful, it wasn’t long before Pharaoh took notice of her. Again this is where my imagination kicks into high gear as I try to comprehend how she must have felt. Think about it for a minute, your husband has asked you to lie which you do, now you are in a situation where another man, a powerful one, has asked to marry you and your husband sits there and bargains for a dowery! Now I don’t know about you, but I would be more than a little mad! But even though her husband failed in his responsibility to her, God did not, He stood for her when Abraham was too afraid. Pharaoh sent them out of Egypt and while they were richer than when they arrived, that wealth would come at a price.
In her own hands
Some time has passed, God has told Abraham again that he would be the father of a great nation, that it would be his own son. Well, Sarah sees that time has passed and they are still childless, it is at this point that she decides to take matters into her own hands, and it would lead to a never ending feud, one that we still suffer from today. She tells Abraham that God has restrained her from having a child, ( so it seems that she blames God) and she comes up with her own plan. She tells Abraham that he should take Hagar and let her have their child. What’s sad about this story is Abrahams passivity. The Bible says that he “hearkened to the voice of Sarai”, the word hearkened has the idea to hear intelligently, to consider. This could imply that Abraham was not mindless, but actually thought about what she said, and agreed. Abraham, the one who had believed God’s promise, felt that this was the right thing to do. This is why it is so important to stay rooted in the Word of God, we must surround ourselves with the truth of who He is and that none of His promises are void. Sadly, both Abraham and Sarah chose to trust their own plan over God’s. And let me just say that God does not need us to improvise His plans, nor does He want us to use the world’s customs to accomplish what we believe are His plans.
Now however poor their plan, it is successful, Hagar does indeed conceive a child, but now the tables have turned, she believes she is valuable now and treats Sarah with contempt, that is what the word despised means that is used in Genesis 16:4. Now I won’t talk much about Hagar at this point as we will be talking about her story later, but Sarah did not appreciate Hagar’s new attitude, not at all and she runs to her husband, who again takes the passive route by telling her to do whatever she thinks is best. So Sarah lets Hagar have it, sadly, instead of taking responsibility for her poor decision she chooses to lash out at Hagar and it must have been something, because it caused a pregnant Hagar to run away. She does return and gives birth to a boy whom they name Ishmael.
Some more time passes and something interesting happens. God comes to Abraham and tells him that his name is going to change from Abram to Abraham. And that is not all, He also has a new name for Sarai, she would now be Sarah. Isn’t that something? God included Sarah in the conversation, He thought of her and gave her her own name. Most agree that both names had a variation of the meaning Princess but they carried a different weight. After some digging I found that the first has the idea of dominance, someone in charge while the other is a noble woman, a princess of the multitude. Maybe it is similar to when Eve’s name went from simply woman to Eve, the mother of all living. It was to signify what was to come. For she would be the mother of the Hebrew nation. God was preparing them both to receive the long awaited fulfillment of His promise. Though they both had doubted, God’s plan never weakened or wavered.
A little eavesdropping and a laugh
Sometime later Abraham received a visit from God who again told him that Sarah would have a child of her own, in typical female form, Sarah was eavesdropping behind the tent flap. She overheard what God said and she laughed within herself, a sign of doubt. She said she and her husband were old, and they were, but she allowed her circumstances to cause her to doubt God’s ability. God is not limited by our surroundings or our current situation and He confronted her. She tried to say that she didn’t laugh but it is pointless to lie to God. When things look impossible they usually are until God steps on the scene. For with God nothing shall be impossible. Luke 1:37, words that were spoken to another woman facing an unusual situation.
But I will say that it is easy to let our circumstances dictate our belief. We let what we see, affect what we know to be true. This is why it is essential for us to remember that we walk by faith not by sight. Both Abraham and Sarah would see God do the miraculous.
One more detour
Now before this amazing event would take place, Abraham chose to journey into the land of Abimelech, King of Gerar, why we are not told but it would cause him to buckle once more and abandon his wife again. You would think he learned the first time, nope, not Abraham, he fell into the same old habit...sound familiar?
Once more, he asks his wife to lie, to say that he is his sister so that his life would be spared. Once more, Sarah is placed into a vulnerable position. Sarah is still a beautiful woman and she catches the eye of the king. Abraham stands by and watches his wife being escorted off to another man’s house. Before anything can take place, God comes to Abimelech in a dream and tells him that he was “a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man’ wife” Gen 20:6. Now what is interesting is that the king actually has a response, he tells the Lord Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.
God acknowledges this and simply tells him to restore Sarah to Abraham or else. And you never want to ask God, or else what?
Abimelech does exactly that but not without having his say, he confronts him for his sin. Abraham says he thought that there was no fear of God in this place. Isn't that interesting that Abraham accuses Abimelech of not fearing God, yet was the only one to follow God’s leading? Sadly there have been times that the lost have acted more justly than the believer. Unlike the last time, Sarah did not escape a reproof. This is what he said to her.
And unto Sarah he said, Behold, I have given thy brother a thousand pieces of silver: behold, he is to thee a covering of the eyes, unto all that are with thee, and with all other: thus she was reproved. Gen 20:15
Now I did some reading and several said that it was almost a sarcastic remark when he commented on her brother and the covering of the eyes may have referred to having her husband buy a veil for her so she would not be a temptation anymore, and this was probably said in public which is why it says she was reproved. I believe God held her responsible for her part in the lie. She should have said something, remember Abimelich stated that she confirmed her brother’s statement that she was indeed his sister. God never wants us to help someone else in a wrong, even if they are in a position of authority. We are to always do right no matter who asks us to bend the rules.
God visits Sarah
After this incident, they are again settled into the routine when God visits Sarah, he remembered His promise, not that He had forgotten, but that it was time. Now that she was beyond all child bearing years, beyond any hope of having a child, God came to her and gave her, her deepest desire, a son. After 25 years of waiting, she recieved her greatest wish and she wanted everyone else to laugh with her, this word has the idea of pleasure, she wanted everyone to laugh in joy and celebration with her, to delight in the child God had given her, she who was barren all her life, she who had doubted God’s faithfulness, she who had tried to do it on her own, this was the woman who laughed with great pleasure for the joy she held in her arms. The fruition of God’s fulfilled promise deserved to be in fact needed to be celebrated. God has given us so many promises that we can claim, we can beleive that what He says He will do, we just have to learn to sit still and trust His timing.
Sarah is now enjoying her son, to finally be a mom to her own child was a delight that she no doubt brought a deep satisfaction to her soul. But something arose that disturbed her, she witnessed Ishmael mocking Isaac, now I am not sure of the age of Isaac at this time, but whatever took place was enough to send Sarah into full mother bear mode. She immediately takes her problem to Abraham and tells him he needs to do something. Now of course this was not an easy thing for him to do, after all I am sure there was some affection between Abraham and his son, some believe Ishmael was around 14 years old at this time, close to becoming a man. But there is something interesting that takes place. God tells Abraham, he promises that he will bless Ishmael for his sake but God says that Abraham should listen to his wife, in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice” Gen 21:12 I find that so interesting, remember, the first time Sarah offered her advice about Hagar, Abraham should have said no, but now in this situation regarding the same person, God tells him to heed her counsel. She spoke truth, it was Isaac, not Ishmael who was the rightful heir and fulfillment of God’s promise, Abraham just needed the encouragement to do the right thing. It was necessary for Abraham to cut the ties between them, just like it had been necessary for him to leave his family to follow God all those years ago.
A lasting legacy
Now 37 more years have passed, Isaac is now an adult and his mother has enjoyed watching her promise from God grow into a mature man, but her days have come to an end. At the ripe old age of 127 she passes away. Two things are unique about her recorded death, she is the only woman that we know how old she was when she died and it also says that Abraham weeps for her, this is the first time man’s tears are mentioned in the Bible and they are for a beloved spouse. I found that so interesting. These two individuals, though different in many ways, had spent an lifetime together, they had experienced doubt, had tried to do things there own way but in the end they both also witnessed the incredible faithfulness of God. This, above all else is her legacy to us. She is a woman who is so like us, quick to let doubt creep in, to get impatient in waiting on God and lack courage to speak out for what is right. I believe this is one of the reasons we can relate to Sarah in so many ways, because she is a reflection of us, but on the flip side she also gives us hope, we are not a lost cause just because we make mistakes. God still loves us, God is still faithful and He can still use us. Look what is said of Sarah in Isaiah 51:2 “Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you: for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.” The prophet Isaiah included her in the example to the people of Israel, she was just as important in their history as Abraham. And in Hebrews 11:11 we find this verse, Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. The word strength has the idea of miraculous power, remember Sarah was well beyond the years of child bearing, she biologically should not have had a child but God with His miraculous power gave her the strength to conceive a child and to give birth to a son, why? Because she judged Him faithful who had promised. In the end Sarah learned that God was enough, He was who He said He was and once He had given a promise there was nothing that could hinder that promise from being fulfilled.
A few closing thoughts
Nothing can hinder God’s plan, not even our own foolishness, sometimes we feel like we have blown it but we are not that powerful. God’s plan for Sarah would not be thwarted - not by outside events or by Sarah’s own actions. And I cannot ruin His plans for me, I was talking to a friend who said that
God has a special name for me, I will get a new name in heaven, what will it be a reflection of? We need to place our broken dreams in God’s hands and allow Him to have full control, trusting in His goodness.
Sometimes it is essential to break away from our past so that are able to step into the future God has planned for us.
God is always faithful to us, sometimes we just need to have patience, learn to sit still and trust in His impecable timing.
I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.
Love Jane Austen? Looking for a unique gift for those special people in your life? Visit Return to Innocence Era and take a step back in time when the simple things were still valued.