Posts Tagged ‘Sarah and promise’

Jesus Christ is central to the Scriptures. The stories in the Old Testament show us how God dealt with His covenant people leading up to the coming of the promised Savior. The genealogy of Christ’s ancestry includes the patriarchs including Terah, Abram, Isaac, and Jacob.

Genesis 11: 26-32 – After Terah had lived 70 years, he became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran…. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai … Now Sarai was childless because she as not able to conceive. … Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter –in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.

Terah was a great and wealthy patriarch. In this passage of the Scriptures we are told that he had three sons. We do not learn that Terah had a daughter until later when Abram reveals why he lied to Abimelek about his wife, Sarah.

Terah named his daughter “Sarai” which means “princess”. Sarai truly was a princess as the daughter of the patriarch. Sarai grew up in privileged surroundings and then married her half-brother, Abram. Terah’s family grew and expanded and they traveled to the land of Canaan. But this was a time of sadness for Sarai because she was barren.

Like other women in Sarai’s day her main desire was to give her husband a male heir. We need to understand how important that was for women in patriarchal times or else we won’t understand why Sarai went to such great lengths to give Abram a son.

Let’s continue reading from Genesis 12:1, 4:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. … So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran.

Imagine living all of your life with your family and friends in one place and having to pack up everything and move when you are over sixty years old. Yes, Abram was seventy-five. That means Sarai was over sixty years old! God told Abram to leave the city and his family and move to a place that was totally unknown to him. As a woman, Sarai must have had many anxieties about this, but she left her familiar surroundings to follow her husband in obedience to God.

That may not seem so bad in our day, but sixty was considered really old in 2100 BC. God must have been blessing Sarai with very good health, because she followed her husband Abram around for most of the rest of her life as he wandered from place to place. We don’t have any record that Sarai complained every time Abram decided to move on.

Many people are surprised when they realize how old Sarai was. That is because we know the story of how Abraham lied, twice, about her relationship to him when they traveled to other places. Sarai was so beautiful that Abram was afraid that the leaders in the countries that they traveled to would kill him so that they could take Sarai for a wife. The first time was when they traveled to Egypt.

Let’s turn to Genesis 12:10-13:

Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Imagine at age sixty-five, Sarai 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, that time to King Abimelech. To this day, Sarai’s beauty is legendary.

But I wonder if during this incident Sarai saw her beauty as a curse instead of a blessing. After all, her husband was asking her to take the risk that Pharaoh would put her in his harem, which meant sleeping with her. Still Sarai trusted Abram, calling him lord, and obeying him in his every command. God saved Sarai by inflicting disease on the Egyptians. When Pharaoh realized the cause of the sickness of his people he called Abram to him and rebuked him for lying to him. He sent Abram and Sarai away.

Through all of these years of wandering Sarai desired one thing above everything else. She wanted to have children. She also knew about God’s promise to Abram. She knew that they would be the founders of many nations. God had promised her and her husband that they would have as many descendants as there were stars in the sky. Sarai must have been wondering when God would help them start their family.

The story of how Sarai took things into her own hands and asked Abram to give her a child by using her maid, Hagar, is well known. It is a sad and tragic story. Mostly what is sad about it is that Sarai’s faith wavered here. She concluded that God Himself was restraining her from having children and maybe He wanted her to get children another way.

Look on ahead to Genesis 16:1,2.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

By this time Sarai was seventy-six years old. She must have been feeling desperate. Abram listened to her and slept with Hagar. Hagar conceived a child. Immediately, Sarai’s relationship with her maid changed. Hagar now despised Sarai. Sarai began to treat Hagar harshly. Hagar even ran away for a time. An angel of the Lord met Hagar and told her to return home and submit herself to Sarai’s authority. Hagar did so and bore Abram a son. Abram called him Ishmael. Hagar and Ishmael lived with Abraham and Sarai.

For over thirteen years Sarai would see the daily reminder of her own childlessness. What agony she must have been in. The pain and humiliation of seeing her husband’s child by another woman must have been unbearable. But I think that Sarai must have also suffered much agony wondering why the Lord would seem to be forgetting her. It was painful enough to think that she had not fulfilled her husband’s desire, but how much worse is the thought that she must have been displeasing God.

But finally the day came when God would demonstrate His faithfulness to His covenant with His people in His own way.

Turn to Genesis 17:1; 15-19:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

God changed Abram’s name to Abraham – father of many nations. Then God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah – mother of many nations.

 … God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 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.”

 At this point, Abraham responded in a way that Sarah did later; he laughed. He thought that surely he and Sarah were too old. Abraham suggested that maybe God could just bless him through Ishmael. But God told Abraham that Sarah would bear him a son and that he should call his name Isaac. Isaac would be the heir that God would establish His covenant with.

Then one day three visitors came to speak with Abraham.

We will read this interesting story in Genesis 18:1-15:

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

Abraham invited the men to stay. He asked Sarah to help him get a meal ready for them. Abraham stood near them while they ate.

Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

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.”

I don’t think we should be too hard on Sarah. She was way past the age of childbearing. And don’t forget, even her husband laughed when God promised them a son in their old age. It is easy for us looking back to criticize Sarah for not trusting God. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for her to go on year after year for so many 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 she and her husband would be the father and mother of countless descendants was, humanly speaking, becoming less and less likely as she passed the childbearing age. God knows we are weak as humans. He had patience with Sarah even as He did with her husband when he laughed.

In spite of the fact that Abraham was about 100 years old and Sarah was ninety, they moved again. They traveled to Gerar where the people were pagan and Abraham feared for his life. Sarah was still a very beautiful woman and Abraham decided to lie about her again to protect himself.
Let’s continue with this story in Genesis 20:1- 18:

Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.  

Imagine at age ninety, Sarah is still such an astonishingly beautiful woman that Abimelech would take her to be in his harem!

But once again God rescued Sarah. God appeared to Abimelech in a dream and told him the truth. Abimelech remonstrated with Abraham for lying to him and asked for an explanation.

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.”

 Abimelek sent Abraham away as a wealthy man. He also gave Sarah’s “brother” a thousand shekels of silver. This was to cover any offense Abimelek made and to vindicate Sarah before everyone.

After this, God fulfilled His promise to Sarah.  Turn to Genesis 21:1-6

Now the Lord 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 him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.  

When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.”

Now Sarah’s laughter is the laughter of joy! She had to wait a long time, but she finally came to know that truly nothing is impossible with God!

God granted Sarah about thirty-seven more years. She was able to watch her son Isaac grow up. However, she died before seeing him get married.

Abraham wanted a special place to bury Sarah. He bought a field in Machpelah near Mamre that had a cave in it. This cave would be the special burying place for Sarah. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Leah were all buried there.


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.

As sinners ourselves, we can identify with Sarah. 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.

There really is a God and He really cares about His children. 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).

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. I don’t know if I have that much patience.

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. God did this on purpose. They were so old that people were probably laughing, just as they did themselves, 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.

Truly with God, nothing is impossible.





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