31 Days of Women from Scripture
Lessons from Sarah
In my first post for #write31days I mentioned that God uses circumstances to accomplish His will. What I mean by that is there is nothing we can do that will get in the way of God accomplishing His will. What we do ourselves may not be His will, but He will use the outcome to meet His purposes. In Romans 9:3-13, Paul makes this very point. He is telling the Roman Christians that God has adopted the Gentiles along with the Jews. There were many teachers who were saying that only Jews could be Christians because they were descended from Abraham. In verses 7-9 we read, “nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘through Isaac your descendants will be named.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants. For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come, and Sarah shall have a son.'” It was not the blood, or the flesh, that decided the relationship with God. It was the PROMISE that God made that determined who the children of God would be.
1 Corinthians 1:18-31 teaches about the wisdom of the world versus the wisdom of God. Over and over men think that God’s way is foolishness, when it really is wise. It did not make sense to the Jews that Gentiles could be included, because their “wisdom” was not spiritual – it was physical. Sarah is an example for us of God using circumstances to accomplish His will in ways that men just do not understand at first.
In 1 Peter 3:5-6 women are told to be like Sarah, “For in this way [adorning oneself with a gentle and quiet spirit] in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” Her adornment, her jewelry of choice, was a gentle and quiet spirit, being willing to recognize and submit to the authority of her husband. She is lauded in Hebrews 11:11 for having the faith to be with her husband, while being “beyond child-bearing”, so that she could conceive her promised son. (No, sex is not only for the “younger” people.) She did not give up on that aspect of her marriage when it did not, literally, bear fruit.
This woman was respectful and full of strong faith. But, Sarah did NOT always have good days!
With two different men the Lord had to protect her reputation as a “one man woman” so the lineage of the promised son was not in question. First with the Pharaoh of Egypt (Gen. 12:10-20) when she was 65 years old, and again with Abimelech the king of Gerar (Gen. 20:1-18) when she was 89 years old. Sarah went along with Abraham’s half-truth and did not tell these men she was Abraham’s wife. Even though the men were mistaken in what they knew, she was still Abraham’s wife, and they did not have a right to her. Both men go to great lengths to make sure others are aware that Sarah’s virtue was intact (Gen. 12:20; Gen. 20:14-16) Sarah did not make the right choices here, she kept silent because of Abraham’s fears (Gen. 20:11). His fears allowed her to be put into a situation that was not good for her. Good thing God protected everyone!
It was going to matter whether or not the world knew for sure who sired Isaac. God would not allow Abraham’s and Sarah’s poor decisions to get in the way of that. He kept her reputation for her when she and her husband were not being careful with it themselves. As women today, even though we are not appointed to bear a child of promise like Isaac, we need to be aware that our reputation is important to the Lord and it should be important to us!
This does not make a point about Sarah, but I love in Genesis 20:3 where God tells Abimelech in a dream, “Behold, you are a dead man because of the woman whom you have taken, for she is married.” Can you imagine being asleep and having that said to you in a dream? That would wake you up! Who says the Bible is dry reading? God is the Master of drama!
Also, I note her age at each time, because our society has us believing that women of 65 or 89 are not to be considered desirable or beautiful. Supposedly they are past that time of their life. Not so! A woman who is found to be beautiful in this time of life is said to be “amazingly youthful looking”. We need to start recognizing our natural beauty at whatever age! We need to be caring for ourselves in such a way that we ARE able to have these blessings far into our later years. I am afraid that we have denied ourselves a great deal of LIFE while on this earth because we have given things up that ought not to have been given up.
Now, in the middle of all of this, Sarah got it into her head that the way for Abraham to have that son of promise would be for a servant woman to bear his child and Sarah claim it as her own (Gen. 16:1-2). Notice verse 2 says, “And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.” Does that remind you of Genesis 3:17? Abraham had a choice here as much as Sarah did. They both failed to make the correct one. The obvious problem here is that God fulfills His promises – men do not fulfill them for Him. Ishmael would be born of Hagar, but God would not accept him. God protected Ishmael and made him a great nation (Gen. 16:7-14; Gen. 25:12-18), he just was not the nation of promise.
Have you ever considered that all of the turmoil in the Middle East began with Sarah’s decision? Ishmael’s people became the Arabs to the East of Israel. We are still watching their family rivalry today! Our decisions NEVER affect ONLY ourselves. Every decision we make, good, bad, or indifferent is going to make a difference in someone else’s life as well as our own. Be careful what you do!
We learn a bit about Sarah through her dealings with Hagar. Sarah was impatient about the son that would fulfill the promise. When Hagar despises Sarah because Hagar was able to carry a child for Abraham and Sarah was not – Sarah first turns to blame Abraham. He tells her this is her affair not his (again, sounding like Adam and Eve) and to deal with Hagar as she sees fit. So Sarah proceeds to deal so harshly with Hagar that Hagar runs away. Hagar trusts God enough to obey Him and return to submit to Sarah. This put she and Ishmael back under Abraham’s protection. Oddly, we do not hear how Sarah responds to her return. But when Ishmael is around fourteen years old, after the birth of Isaac, Sarah is very quick to remove Ishmael because she saw him “mocking” or playing. She does not seem to have moved beyond her frustration with the situation she had created, even after 14 years! She is in her nineties now, and still bearing a grudge. God used her moment of unpleasantness as a vehicle to get Ishmael out of the way for Isaac, but it did not mean her behavior was right. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.” Sarah forgot to wait.
Sarah lived until she was 120 years old. Isaac will be 30 years old at this time. Nothing is told to us of her mothering. We know that her husband mourned and wept for her after she died (Gen. 23:1-2). Ten years later Isaac marries Rebekah and only then “thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Gen. 24:67). She was a woman who was loved by her husband and her son. That says a great deal about her. Her moments of selfishness and bitterness with Hagar were not her every day. They were moments when she did not have herself in check. Can you sympathize with that? I sure can. I can also be hopeful in the knowledge that despite those bad days – and they were such that God chose to share them with us – Sarah is one I am to imitate.
Remember how God summed up Sarah’s life (Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:1-6). Sarah is an example to us of many things, but one of the most important is God keeping His promises. This is a thread that runs from Genesis through Revelation. It is brought to fruition in Christ’s death and resurrection. We need to understand and KNOW this concept. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES. We see in Galatians 4:21-31 how God uses Sarah and Hagar to make this point, and to drive home the FREEDOM found in His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ. In verse 23, Ishmael is said to be a son “according to the flesh” and Isaac is the son “through the promise”. Hagar’s children go on to remain in slavery, while Sarah’s children are free. Freedom is found in doing things God’s way, in His time, not our own. Bondage is the only thing found in holding to something other than God’s will for us in Christ. So CHOOSE to be a child of Sarah – the FREE woman – be dressed in subjection with a gentle and quiet spirit, and in this way begin to put on the beauty that God finds “precious”!
Click here to go to Day Three: Lessons from Rebekah
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