Sarai – ‘my woman of high rank’, married to Abram – ‘father of Aram’, left her home at the age of 65 to wonder the lands, following the call of the Lord. (Genesis 12:1-5)
Sarai was a faithful woman with a strong trust and belief in both the Lord and her husband. She was not afraid of leaving behind the known to risk the unknown and the challenges that came with it. And boy, were there challenges!
First comes famine (Genesis 12:10), then comes being allowed to enter the harem of a Pharaoh (Genesis 12:16) then of a King (Genesis 20:2) because, in a moment of fear, her husband had claimed she was his sister! I’m not sure about you, but I think I would be slightly annoyed if my husband did this to me!
But the Lord favoured Sarai and Abram and each time he rescued Sarai from the palace and protected Abram from the anger of the Pharaoh and the King. In fact, so in fear was the King of the Lord of Abram and Sarai that he allowed them to settle wherever they liked on his land and he gave to them gifts of cattle, slaves and money. God’s favour was upon this couple! (Genesis 20:14-16.)
So far, so good! The Lord had called and Abram and Sarai had faithfully followed. Trials were experienced and each time they came through stronger and just as faithful.
Now comes the ‘who me?!’ part.
In his word to Abram, the Lord had said that he would make Abram into a ‘great nation’ (Genesis 12:2-3.) That Abram’s offspring would be ‘like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted.’ (Genesis 13:14-17.)
Wow! Slight problem - Sarai was barren. She had been all her life and now she was old too.
When everything we see seems to be pointing in the opposite direction to what the Lord has said, how quickly can we begin to doubt in our own ability to do his work? Sarai wanted a baby and she set out on her journey with hope in her heart because of the Lord’s word. But as time passed by, she began to doubt in her own ability to do what the Lord had said. Maybe the Lord meant that Abram and Sarai would start a family with the help of a second wife for Abram? This wasn’t unusual in their times and it certainly seemed to be more possible than the idea of Sarai bearing a child by herself. Doubt was leading to compromise in Sarai’s heart and mind.
So in her ‘wisdom’, believing that she was doing the right thing by her husband and her Lord, Sarai gave to Abram Hagar her maidservant as a second wife with whom he lay and gave her child. (Genesis 16:3.)
Problem solved. It was not what they had hoped, it was not exactly what was in their hearts, but a child had been conceived and now the chance for Abram to become ‘a great nation’ had come to light.
But was this God’s way?
Sarai and Hagar stopped seeing eye to eye and began to fight. In anger and distress Sarai lashed out and pushed Hagar to run away. On the Lord’s prompting Hagar returned to the camp and gave birth to Ishmael. (Genesis 16:4-16.) Was he to be the son the Lord had spoken about? I should think Sarai was hoping that he would be – after all, so much heart ache had been experienced in order that he could be born.
But soon the Lord appeared to Abram again. In this word he changed Abram’s name to Abraham – ‘father of many’ and Sarai’s name to Sarah – ‘woman of high rank’. He revealed to Abraham that although Ishmael would be of many, he was not the son that God had spoken of. It was Sarai who was to give birth to the son God spoke about (Genesis 17.)
By now, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 – not only had she lived a barren life but the natural ways of a woman had left her. So, naturally, when Abraham and Sarah were visited by the Lord through three men who spoke of Sarah bearing a child, Sarah laughed to herself through doubt and fear (Genesis 18:10-12.)
‘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.”’
Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”
But he said “Yes, you did laugh.” (Genesis 18:13-15.)
Ouch – God could see it all; there was no murmur or doubt that escaped him. I think that this was a turning time for Sarah. Up until now she had been living full of doubt in her role in the Lord’s plan, but now, as he spoke directly to her for the first time, she realised that it was not by her ability that she would bear a child but by the Lord’s.
Sure enough, at the appointed time the next year, Sarah bore Abraham a child and they named it Isaac as the Lord had told them too, meaning ‘laughter.’ (Genesis 21:1-5)
‘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.”’ (Genesis 21:6-7.)
Sarah’s doubt in her own ability had caused heart ache for herself, Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac (Genesis 21:8-21.) Through God’s grace she still played the role she was meant to play, for the Lord’s plans are always stronger than our own.
Do you believe that God can work wonders through you? That you can step
out in His strength and He will make things happen through you?
Challenge yourself to go one step further than Sarah – to be a faithful
follower and a loyal believer but to also accept that God in you is a
powerful thing and through you God can achieve what even our eyes can’t
Penny Simpkins is Falcon and Venture Co-ordinator for CPAS