“By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Hebrews 11:11).
In the New Testament, Sarah is pictured as the spiritual matriarch and the epitome of all faithful women (I Peter 3:6). Peter tells us that she was a good wife, obeying her husband, Abraham, calling him lord, and doing what was right. Christian women are encouraged to follow her example.
We are all familiar with these facets of Sarah’s life. But there are a couple of things that often get missed in the telling of her story – the love of an all-knowing Father and His sovereign authority over life.
As women, when we read about Sarah’s life and how long she had to wait to have her child, we can really feel her frustration. We can sympathize with her, even in her mistakes.
Did you realize that by the time we come upon Sarah’s story in the book of Genesis, she is already 65 years old? That is so amazing. Perhaps we don’t think of her as that old, because we know the story of how Abraham lied, twice, about her relationship to him when they traveled to other places. She was so beautiful that Abraham was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him so that he could take Sarah for a wife (Genesis 12:12). Imagine at age sixty-five, she was still one of the most beautiful women in the world! She would still be so beautiful at age ninety that Abraham would lie again, this time to King Abimelech. To this day, her beauty is legendary.
But Sarah only desired one thing above everything else. She wanted to have children. She had all the natural desires of a woman to have a child. She also knew about God’s promise to Abraham. She knew that they would be the founders of many nations. God had promised her husband that he would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). By the time she was ninety years old, she must have been wondering when God would help them start their family.
The story of how Sarah took things into her own hands and asked Abraham to give her a child by using her maid, Hagar, is very famous. It is a sad and tragic story. Mostly what is sad about it is that Sarah’s faith wavered here. She concluded that God Himself was restraining her from having children (Genesis 16:2). As sinners ourselves, we can identify with her. Sometimes when we pray for something for a long time and don’t see an answer, we wonder if God is going to answer at all. Sarah’s mistake should be a lesson to us to wait for God to answer. Her solution was immoral, unrighteous, and terribly foolish. The results of this sin are still with us today in ongoing wars between the Jewish descendants of Isaac and the Arab descendants of Ishmael.
God always answers our prayers. Sometimes He answers “yes”. Sometimes He answers “no”. And many times He says, “Yes, but in My time.” Sarah had to wait a really long time before God granted her a child. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to go on year after year for probably seventy years before she bore Isaac. It must have been torture for her. She knew that her long years of childlessness meant that God’s promise that her husband would be the father of countless descendants was, humanly speaking, growing dimmer and dimmer as she passed the childbearing age. But in the end, she trusted God and waited for Him and was rewarded with a son.
We now know why God had her wait so long. We know that God intended for Sarah and Abraham to see that nothing was too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14). God waited until Abraham was nearly one hundred years old, and Sarah nearly ninety before He changed their names from Abram and Sarai to Abraham (“father of many nations”) and Sarah (“Princess”) and the mother of many nations. God did this on purpose. They were so old that people were probably laughing when they were told about the promise of God. God wanted everyone to see that this child was very special because it was all of His doing; there was no mistake about it. Only God could perform the miracle of a baby being born to a woman who was past the age of childbearing.
God, in His love not only for Abraham and Sarah, but for the whole world planned the events in the way that He did. He had a purpose for calling Abram and Sarai and making a covenant with them. It was all part of His plan for the redemption of His people. Salvation in Jesus Christ would come through Isaac’s line. A tender, loving heavenly Father cared about Sarah and her anguish in waiting for the promise, but in His wisdom He waited to give her a son until it would glorify Him as the only wise, eternal giver of life.
That brings us to a second point not often mentioned in Bible studies. This idea of God’s graciously giving a son to a woman in a miraculous way shows us that He is THE author and giver of life. In many other places on this Blog, we have related stories that have to do with the Pro-life cause. We have shown that for the most part, faith, love, life, and service to others go together. Even unborn babies are little image-bearers of God and we must protect their lives.
We have shown that the opposite is also true. Those who hate God love death. Women who think it is all right to kill their unborn children either don’t believe in God, or they think that God is like them, or worse yet, they think that THEY ARE God. They believe that they can take God’s place and decide who lives and who dies. But only God may make those decisions. Women who think that they can terminate a life, based on their own selfish choices will face the One Who does have the right and the authority to begin and to end life. It would be better if they would repent and seek the forgiveness of God. For those who have made a mistake, and change their minds, and truly repent, God is ready to forgive. But for those who shake their fists in God’s face and say, “But no; we will decide for ourselves,” there awaits a big shock at their death on judgment day.
There really is a God and He really cares about life. He really loved Sarah and she knew it all along, even though in her humanness she got impatient and made a big mistake. She overcame that and lived the rest of her days in joy and peace with her husband and son. She remains a great example of a courageous, faithful woman for us today. She was beautiful outwardly, but even more inwardly. Modeling ourselves after her, we too can have, “the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” (I Peter 3:4).