“Where are we going?” She asked her husband.
His eyes rose to meet her own, and replied, “I…I don’t know. ”
He looks away.
“He only said, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So we go. ” He walked out of the tent.
Sarai knew her husband always had a special closeness to the God who created the Heavens and the earth, and that when he got that look in his eye, she knew he would do to do what he said. She wasted no time. She gathered all the help she could muster, and started packing their belongings for the long venture to… who knows where? She only knew that this God that Abram had come to know and speak with, would tell them when they got there.
Genesis 11 starts our story of Sarah, but it’s not until Genesis 12 that we see Abram and his wife finally go on their journey of faith. I notice in reading about this mom of Faith, that her story is so noticeably entwined with her husband’s that both of their stories need to be told to get the full understanding of the Lord’s work in this families lives.
This journey may have started with Abrams father taking his family, but for some reason he camps at the same city as the exact name as his dead son. Coincidence?
But the Lord speaks to Abram while there, and says:
The lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.
I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others.
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.”
So, he obeys, and goes. Taking his wife, Sarai, his nephew, Lot, and all of his possessions, they travel, going as the Lord leads east, to an unknown land. Canaan.
Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites.
Then the lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the lord, who had appeared to him.
After that, Abram traveled south and set up camp in the hill country, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. There he built another altar and dedicated it to the lord, and he worshiped the lord.
Anne Graham Lotz once gave a message about Abram. She makes the point of how when Abram erected these altars to God in Canaan, he was making a bold statement, in a land where people so blatantly worshipped other gods. It must have taken great faith and guts to openly worship God, or “go public” as most would call it, when he had no idea what the locals might think or do to him.
And we see that the Lord appears to him and speaks a promise that this land would be given to his descendents.
A PROBLEM ARISES
There’s just one problem: a big famine hits the land, and Abram has to find food for his family and his flocks. We read here:
At that time a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
Notice what happens when they arrive in Egypt:
As he was approaching the border of Egypt, Abram said to his wife, Sarai, “Look, you are a very beautiful woman.
When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife. Let’s kill him; then we can have her!’
So please tell them you are my sister. Then they will spare my life and treat me well because of their interest in you.”
I bet in Abrams mind it sounded like a great plan. But what it was lying and compromise. Not only did he not trust the God of all kings and kingdoms to keep them safe, but he would drag his wife, Sarai into the deceit as well.
Sin has a terrible way of producing death. James 1:15 gives note to this. It also has a way of causing rifts in relationships, especially marriages. A little white lie here, some compromise there… And you’re on your way to a marriage full of mistrust and conflict. It may not come right away, but it’s there.
I wonder if this was the first seeds we are sown in Abram and Sarai’s lives that caused Sarai to start to believe it was okay to take control of their lives. We read that she does go along with the plot, though:
And sure enough, when Abram arrived in Egypt, everyone noticed Sarai’s beauty.
When the palace officials saw her, they sang her praises to Pharaoh, their king, and Sarai was taken into his palace.
Then Pharaoh gave Abram many gifts because of her—sheep, goats, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
But the lord sent terrible plagues upon Pharaoh and his household because of Sarai, Abram’s wife.
So Pharaoh summoned Abram and accused him sharply. “What have you done to me?” he demanded. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?
Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ and allow me to take her as my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and get out of here!”
Pharaoh ordered some of his men to escort them, and he sent Abram out of the country, along with his wife and all his possessions.
That wouldn’t be the last time this happens, unfortunately. This same lying mistake happens again in Genesis 20, decades later. But, even before that, we see that the mistrust has already been birthed inside of Sarai. It’s not until Genesis 16 that her words noted, and the first thing she says shows just how much control she’s willing to take.
THE PROMISED FAMILY
Genesis 15 gives us the account of God’s blessing to Abram:
Then the lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
And Abram believed the lord, and the lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.
I think verse 6 is an important reminder for the reader: this is what God counts as righteousness because of faith. That will be very necessary for us to understand as we continue in our story.
WHERE CONTROL STARTS
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar.
So Sarai said to Abram, “The lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal.
So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
What do you think was on her mind? Was she mad at God for not letting her have children? What was her motivated her that caused her to assume responsibility for this family?
Maybe she was getting tired of waiting for something she thought might never come through her. Maybe Abram had told her what God had promised him in Genesis 15, and she was just “helping it along. ” Maybe she stopped hoping and gave into unbelief, exposing her weakness in trusting this God, who had called them on a wild adventure in the middle of nowhere, when maybe all she wanted was to settle down some where with a happy, healthy family. You couldn’t blame her for wanting that.
Whatever her motivation, she, now old and grey, sees the young beauty of her Egyptian slave, Hagar, and devises a plan:
So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt.
Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!”
I realized that, if Abram had never lied to the Egyptian Pharoah, he might never have received all that wealth, including Sarai’s Egyptian servant. Not all wealth is a blessing. It can give you the opportunity to choose wrong, not because it’s bad in itself, but JUST BECAUSE IT’S THERE.
Like that online sale where you only have to pay for shipping, when your husband already told you not to spend any more money. Like that chat group with all those good looking, nice men (or women) struggling with their marriages. Like that dessert that you really shouldn’t eat, but it’s just sitting there in your house, and it’s purpose not being fulfilled. Bad things normally start our as good things, then become bad things when the temptation for abuse gets attached to them.
A MOTHERS CHOICE
Sarai’s choices don’t only affect Sarai, though. There’s another mom in this story that plays a vital role:
Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.
The angel of the lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur.
The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
The angel of the lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.”
Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the lord has heard your cry of distress.
This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”
Hagar is tired of the terrible way she is being treated by her mistress. Maybe Sarai was getting back at Hagar for her contempt. Maybe she wanted to show her just who the master really was, and who the slave is. We know here that Abram is okay with it. But Someone else isn’t. Hagar runs away. And God finds her.
But He says something remarkable. He tells her to return, and to submit to Sarai’s authority. God still wanted to keep her and her son in the story.
Hagar calls Him the “God who sees me. ” she is overwhelmed by the knowledge that the God of the universe, the God over every situation, saw her, little her, right where she was at.
THE FIRST BIRTH
And then, Ishmael comes on the scene. Abram is 86 years old when he is born, and Sarai is 77. Ishmael’s birth ends chapter 16.
What I find interesting is that the next chapter starts with announcing God coming to make a covenant with Abram, and changes his name to Abraham. That is the incredible story of how Abraham will have descendents ‘as numerous as the sea.’ That is all of Israel, and you and me, for those of us who believe.
But he is 99 years old. What happened the other 13 years? Ishmael was growing up in their home, and they were getting used to the idea of him becoming Abraham’s heir.
But that wasn’t God’s plan. Not that He didn’t have a plan for Ishmael (because He has a plan for everyone on the earth), but He had another plan, and that plan was still going to be carried out, and not through Sara’s means.
You see, we may think that we can take God’s promises and fulfill them ourselves, but God’s plan is His plan, and it shall be fulfilled His way. When we get in the way, it only leads to problems, not for God, but for us.
Here’s a quick test to see if you might be dealing with control:
TEST WHETHER YOU ARE CONTROLLING
Are you, (whether you do it consciously or not):
•the main decision maker for your household?
•constantly finding yourself yelling or nagging at your husband for certain issues?
•always in the driver seat?
•the main one who will get their way after an argument, or a decision that has to be made?
•leave no wiggle room in your schedule for you and your family?
•default to your hurt feelings when dealing with conflict? (of any sort)
•force your husband to go along with your idea, and then blame him when it doesn’t work out? (as in Sarah’s case)
I understand you could a stronger personality than your husband, or maybe your mind works better about finances. And those are ways that God has equipped you to be your husband’s help meet. But in no way are you to be the head of your household. You may say you are not. You might really believe that your husband runs your home. But, we show we are really in charge when we scripturally and morally take charge. It’s part of the curse of Eve, and it will continue down through the generations until we make the choice, everyday, to live in obedience to the bible by submitting to the men, who, we agreed to submit to when we married them. It’s a reflection of Jesus Christ and His Church.
Are you a strong-willed person? One of the most powerful ways God uses to conform to His image is to put you with another strong-willed person. The conflict and personality clashes make for a perfect recipe for humility
Take a strong look at your marriage and family for a moment. Does it look like Jesus and His bride? Does it look culturally relevant? What needs to come back into alignment with scripture? Make that change in your heart and actions now.
Now, let’s get back to the story:
The lord appeared again to Abraham near the oak grove belonging to Mamre. One day Abraham was sitting at the entrance to his tent during the hottest part of the day.
He looked up and noticed three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran to meet them and welcomed them, bowing low to the ground.
“My lord,” he said, “if it pleases you, stop here for a while.
“Where is Sarah, your wife?” the visitors asked.“She’s inside the tent,” Abraham replied.
Then one of them said, “I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!”Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent.
Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children.
So she laughed silently to herself and said, “How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master—my husband—is also so old?”
Then the lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’
Is anything too hard for the lord? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
Sarah was afraid, so she denied it, saying, “I didn’t laugh.”But the lord said, “No, you did laugh.”
Sarah laughs. But this not a laugh of joy. This is a laugh of unbelief, and God heard it. He makes the point that nothing is too hard for the Lord, and pops her unbelief like a pin to a balloon.
You’d have thought that Abraham had learned from his last experience in Egypt, but here we see in chapter 20, that he uses the same lie of Sarah being his sister to appease the house of Abimelech.
God steps in through a dream and says she’s taken, and this time Abimelech brings Abraham in for a stern talk. He makes Abraham fess up to the lie, and admits it is God who is angry with him for taking Sarah into his harem. She’s also responsible for the wombs in the entire household closing.
For the lord had caused all the women to be infertile because of what happened with Abraham’s wife, Sarah.
This shows me: God, the Maker of heaven, earth, our bodies, is in complete control of our fertility. Sure, there’s plenty that we do to try to enforce or prevent lives from coming into this world, but make no mistake – God is the giver of life. He is the one that opens and closes the womb, and His breath that gives life to every man.
It’s this power that can make a 90-year-old woman pregnant, and a whole group of completely fertile women unable to conceive. No amount of fertility drugs or birth control pills can stop it.
Also, did you notice Sarah’s age? She’s 90 years old! She must have been one beautiful woman to be noticed at that age by a ruler who had a whole company of young, beautiful and willing women at his disposal.
A PROMISE FULFILLED
The lord kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised.
She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would.
And Abraham named their son Isaac.
Eight days after Isaac was born, Abraham circumcised him as God had commanded.
Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me.
Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!”
Here we see again the faithfulness of God. Sarah decides to let out a deep, belly busting laugh come out of the depths of her being. But this laugh was not like her earlier chuckle. This was the laughter of a promise fulfilled, and longing made complete.
And throughout the ages, we laugh too, as we see God, our great heavenly Father faithfully work out in our lives what we never thought would be possible. He does it not because we are worthy, or because we are even faithful to His promise. He does it to show His glory, and teaches us who He is.
Then, we can see Him, drop our weapons of control, and lean into Him in loving submission. Even in spite of our terrible plans that only messed things up.
GOOD BYE TO OUR PLANS
I can picture tree joyous scene: Abraham and Sarah laughing, and maybe even crying tears of delight over their beautiful son, Isaac.
But, then, out of the corner of her eye, Sarah spots them. HER. And HIM. The products of her unwise choice of jumping ahead of God:
But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac.
So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!”
So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.
But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.
Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”
And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer.”
Now that God’s promised fulfilled, Sarah no longer wants to be reminded of what she has done to make things happen. Furthermore, she doesn’t want this son of her slave to inherit everything that her Isaac is supposed to have. He was 13 years older.
It sounded cruel.
It was Sarah’s fault this boy had even existed.
But she was right.
God told Abraham, repeatedly, that His promise would be fulfilled through Isaac, not Ishmael. This is not only a physical promise. This also represents the spiritual promise for those who trust in God through Faith in Jesus Christ, that we have the right to become heirs, too.
And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.
GOD PROVIDES FOR ISHMAEL
But God doesn’t stop there. In His unfailing mercy, and remembrances of His promise to Abraham, He provides water for the boy in a desert, and tells his mother of his destiny, and that a whole people would come from him. Yes, these people would always be in conflict with Isaacs seed (even to this day), but He provides for them. He shows them He is not only the God who sees her, but the God who also hears, as well.
THE DEATH OF SARAH
Genesis 23 begins with the chronicle of Sarah’s death. She was 127 years old when she died, so we know that she had enough time with her only son to watch him grow up to be a young man. God had been gracious enough to not only let her birth a child at an older age, but to raise him as well.
She was not there when Abraham almost sacrificed him. She may have never heard the story in her lifetime. All we know is that she lived a full life, and experienced the fullness of this great, big promise, even if they were living in tents. Sarah became the first Mom of Faith for a people who would one day bring forth the messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, the firstborn of those who will believe, making one new man for Jew and gentile. It was the greatest promise in history, that God would tear the veil between us and Him, that we would live forever with Him as His own children, one family.
Because, you see, God loves children more than we do, more than your society does, more than this world could. The family is His idea, and so brilliantly uses those who are willing to say yes, and keep saying yes to bring many sons into glory, into family.
I originally thought Sarah’s story ended in the old testament, but it doesn’t. She is mentioned twice in the New testament, and this time it’s not for her mistakes:
It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.
She’s noted here for her FAITH.
That’s not like the story I read in Genesis! But here she is going down as one of the heroes of Faith, along with her husband and many great men of God.
1 Peter 3:5-6
This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They put their trust in God and accepted the authority of their husbands.
For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.
And here, she’s being seen for her SUBMISSION. Ladies, you are no doormat for preferring your husband. Sure, he could take advantage of your submission and become controlling, but so would ANYONE if given the opportunity. Even Christians have a sin nature. You may have dealt with hurt and control in your past, but the bible never tells us to “stick up for yourself. ” Yes, we should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, but that verse does not apply only when the other person submits.
Communicate correctly, but give the control reigns first to God, and then your husband. That’s what you agreed to when you married him, and your control does no blessing to your life or his even if you believe things get done better.
GOD DOES IT
Neither of these traits do I recognize in her in our story of her in Genesis. But God is saying something significant in these two New testament verses: God doesn’t remember your sin and weaknesses when you come to Him in repentance. He replaces your sorrow and guilt for gladness and joy.
Isaiah 43:25 and Hebrews 8:12 both declare that God doesn’t remember your sin after He wipes it clean. He doesn’t cover it up, or pretends it doesn’t exist – He completely removes it Himself. He IS the salvation of the world!
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
So, now that we’ve come to the conclusion of the life of our mom of Faith, Sarah, what lessons can you take from her? I’ve learned these things:
•lies in your marriage breed mistrust and are the open door for control to tempt you
•when God gives you a promise, just trust Him, and don’t try to move ahead of Him, OR YOUR HUSBAND
•God will work His plan out in spite of the problems we cause, but we may still have to reap the consequences we’ve sown.
•God is extremely faithful, even when we’ve lost faith (2 Timothy 2:13)
•at the root of control is fear, but the root of submission is Faith.
•God does not remember you as a screw up and your legacy does not have to end bleak.
•our places of struggle are the very places God has called us to victory.
I urge you to be the daughters of Sarah, and choose to live in surrender to God, your husband, or anyone that God has put over you as an authority. Live in service when no one recognizes or applaudes it. Your worth doesn’t come from that, anyway. Live believing that God can be trusted, your husband is respected when he leads, and your life will be better for it.
At the end of your life, you will not have regretted it.