Thursday, October 05, 2006

Sarah - From Barrenness to Laughter

Abraham's been talking to those strangers for quite some time. I wonder what they're discussing. Hmm... The foods prepared, and the strangers are eating, so it wouldn't hurt if I just rested here inside the tent for a while. Yes, it is quite close to them, but it wouldn't hurt for me to just hear a little of what they're saying.

What? They say that I'll have a son? After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure? Those strangers must be crazy! Don't they know that I am already into my nineties? No! Impossible! Why, the whole idea's one big joke...

Sarai was the wife of Abram, who was called by God to leave his country and follow Him to a land of Abram's own. Sarai was barren; she had no children. (Genesis 11:30)

I wonder how Sarai felt, to leave her homeland, relatives, and comfortable surroundings, to follow a God that she may not have even heard of before! However, like a good wife, she went with her husband.

Abram and Sarai were far from perfect, like us all. In fact, early on we see their fear and mistrust of God. When going to Egypt, Abram instructs his wife to lie, and say that she was his sister, in order that he wouldn't be killed because of jealousy. We're not told of Sarai's reaction, but she obviously obeyed her husband. As a result she was taken to live in Pharoah's harem. God protected her, however, and Pharoah eventually realized his mistake and gave her back to her husband, sending them on their way.

Some time later, God appeared to Abram, telling him that he would have a son. In fact, God promised Abram offspring as numerous as the stars! And Abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness.

Sarai, as we see did not believe that she would have any children. She was probably afraid to hope, since her hopes had most likely been dashed many times. She said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." (Genesis 16:2) Abram listened to his wife, perhaps because he, too, had given up hope; or, perhaps because he just wanted his wife to stop bugging him! In any case, Sarai's maidservant became pregnant.

Although all of this was Sarai's idea, she became jealous of her maidservant Hagar, who had begun to despise Sarai. Sarai, in turn blamed Abram for what had happened (Genesis 16:5), and Abram gave up his authority, allowing Sarai to do what she wanted with her servant. Eventually, Hagar bore Abram Ishmael, but he was not the promised son.

Even though Abram and Sarai didn't trust God to work everything out, and instead took matters into their own hands, God didn't give up on them. God again appeared to Abram and again promised him a son. This time, He even specified that Sarah would be the mother, and that they were to name their son Isaac.

God also changed their names; Abram was now to be called Abraham, and Sarai was to be named Sarah. About Sarah, God said, "I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her."

Abraham wasn't too sure this time, that what God said would come to pass. He fell facedown, and laughed! (Genesis 17:17) It is understandable, for who would believe that a 90 year old woman who had been barren all her life would finally have a son? But, "nothing is impossible with God." (Luke 1:37) God even went so far as to specify that Sarah would bear Issac that same time next year.

Soon afterwards, God again appeared to Abraham, along with presumably 2 angels, in the form of 3 strangers. Abraham, ever hospitable, hurriedly asked them to stay for a meal, instructing his wife to prepare the food. While the strangers ate, Abraham stood with them. After asking where Sarah was, and hearing that she was close by, inside the tent, the LORD said, "I will surely return to you this time next year, and Sarah will have a son."

Sarah heard this, and laughing to herself, didn't believe it. Who would, if they were as old as she? Still she should have believed. God knew that she doubted, and asked why she had laughed. Sarah however, was afraid and lied, saying that she hadn't laughed. God knew better, though.

Abraham and Sarah moved again; not learning from their first deceitfulness, they again tried to protect themselves by saying that Sarah was Abraham's sister. God again protected Sarah, despite their disobedience in lying. He kept Abimelech (the king who had taken Sarah into his harem) from touching her. God also told Abimelech to give Sarah back to Abraham. Abimelech did this, and also gave them many good things. He, however, seemed all too happy for them to leave.

Abimelech also asked for Abraham's reasoning behind doing this, to which Abraham replied, "I said to myself, 'There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.' Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her, 'This is how you can show Your love to me; Everywhere we go, say of me, "He is my brother". ' " So, Sarah was obeying her husband, even though what he told her to do wasn't right.
"God was gracious to Sarah, as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what He had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God had promised." (Genesis 21:1-2) Sarah became a mother, and God really did make the barren woman become a happy mother. (Psalm 113:9)

Can't you just imagine that day of Isaac's birth? Sarah - who for years had probably hoped upon hope for a child, until all the hope had gone - had a baby! All those things that Sarah had missed and wished for... The soft skin of a baby, the gurgling laugh, the very first smile, and eventually the words "mama"... Finally came true. She must have rejoiced! Indeed, Genesis 21:6-7 says "Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.' And she added, 'Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.' " She truly realized that God is the one who gives children, even when it seems impossible.

Sarah lived to raise her son, though I'm sure it wasn't easy. God granted her life to the age of 127; then she died and was buried.

There is much to learn from Sarah. We need to learn not to doubt God, but to trust what He says, even when it may sound ridiculous. Even though it's so very hard, we need to also learn to believe and not give up, even when God's promises take a while to be fulfilled. There were years between God's first promise of a son, and the joyful birth of Isaac. Abraham and Sarah gave up hope, but let us strive to keep trusting Him!

In 1 Peter we read about another way we can learn from Sarah. 1 Peter 3:3-6 says, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and find clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is how the holy women of the past used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."

Girls, purpose to be daughters of Sarah. Purpose to "do what is right and not give way to fear." Purpose to have a beautiful inner self, and to be submissive, to God and to your authorities. Make yourself beautiful with a gentle and quiet spirit, following in the footsteps of the women of old.

Learn from Sarah, and trust God, for He will bring everything He has promised to pass, in His perfect time. Just believe!

Read all about Sarah in Genesis 11:27-23:20


Samantha C. Brooks said...

Great post, Anna!!! Sarah's story is really encouraging, especially how God blessed her with a son when she didn't think it would ever happen.

P.S.- this is completely off-topic, but I showed my friend Stephen those verses you sent, along with other stuff, and he asked how to pray! I told him and he said he thinks he'll recieve Christ, but he has to sleep on it. I'm pretty sure he'll do it, Praise God! thank you for your prayers

Ella said...

Isn't it wonderful that even when we doubt, or take matters into our own hands, God is in control!!!! Oh, how refreshing.

Waiting, though, is hard. I am only sixteen, but I have had to do it several times. And you always give in to Satan and say, it won't happen. But God, in his infinite mercy meets us right where we are at.

From Sarah, I also can learn that we are never too old for God to use us. Whether that means having the child he wants at an old age, or standing up for him now. If we are willing, God will use us!

Miriam Rebekah said...

How wonderful! I have thought the story of Sarah so amazing because she had a child in her 90's! It great what God can do!

As a sidenote, if I do any posts on the women of the Bible, they will definitely not be as long as yours! Anna can write such long, wonderful posts, while mine are "short and sweet" as Daddy says.

Anna Naomi said...

Thanks for the responses, girls!

Samantha, that's so wonderful!! Praise God!

Ella, waiting is so hard. I've had to deal with it many times myself, and still do.

Miriam, sometimes it's better to do shorter posts. People can read them easier! =) I just have so much to say, I don't even get to write half of what I think sometimes. Short and sweet is good too.

Elizabeth Ellen Moore said...

Excellent! I have always found this story full of lessons: Trust, Obedience, and Faithfulness. Thanks for writing this.

John Dekker said...

Three comments (even though I'm male):

i) Just in case anyone is not clear on this, "Isaac" means "laughter".

ii) You know, it doesn't actually say that Sarah didn't believe what God said. Could it be that her laughter even back then was joyful, rather than mocking? The whole thing was "too good to be true".

iii) Contrary to how the NIV translates it, Hebrews 11:11 holds up Sarah as an example of faith - "By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised" (ESV).

Anna Naomi said...

John Dekker: Yes, I did know that Isaac meant laughter. I was meaning to mention that, but never actually did, I realize now. Thanks for pointing that out for those who didn't know.

You're right, the Bible doesn't overtly say that Sarah disbelieved. However, God said in Genesis 18:13-14 - Then the LORD said to Abraham, "Why did Sarah laugh and say, 'Will I really have a child, now that I am old?' Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year and Sarah will have a son. Also, why would Sarah then lie and say she hadn't laughed (in Genesis 18:15) if she believed and was laughing out of joy? My conclusion is that she really didn't believe at first, which is considerably understandable.

You're right, NIV does translate Hebrews 11:11 differently, though it has a similar translation like the ESV in the footnote. I don't know. Perhaps she began to trust later? I know she was very thankful and praised God when Isaac was born.

Maria Pauline said...

Thanks for sharing such an encouraging story! I thouroughly enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

The Lord was just speaking to me about being like Sarah through the verses in 1 Peter 3, when I ran across your blog. Thank you for your notes, and commitment to modesty, Godliness, and having a meek and quiet spirit.