Sarah – Faithful and Submissive
Genesis 11:30 states: “Now Sarai was childless because she was not able to conceive.” 12:1, God calls Abram and gives him a promise, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.”
15:2,3,6,8 God comes to Abram in a vision and tells him that he is his “shield” and “great reward.” Struggling with this promise, Abram reminds God: “Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless … You have given me no children … how can I know that I will gain possession of it?” Verse 6 says, Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. However, as Abram is wrestling with this, Sarai, has her own struggle.
When Your Faith is on Trial
I would like us to think through Sarai’s pain as she considered her barrenness. What do we do when the promise delays? What do we do when the pain is more than we can bear?
Genesis 16:1-6 “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.” Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
Sarai chooses to compromise! She chooses to turn to culture to cover her shame! Gen 16:3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. However, did she consider the consequences of her action. Her decision brought her more pain than the joy she anticipated.
Genesis 16:5 “Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.” “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.”
The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre in Genesis 18 (as he looked up he saw 3 visitors). Could God have see Sarah’s struggles? One of the visitors asks, “Where is your wife Sarah?” The visitor added, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Sarah was listening as she stood at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. When Sarah hears this, she laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” Although she is struggling with the pain of having a child from the slave woman Hagger, she finds it hard to see what God was seeing.
In Genesis 21:7, Sarah says, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” It is strange that, her joy was not complete. The war that was between her and the slave girl was now between her son and Isaac.
Not able to withstand the mockery on her son by Ishmael, in Genesis 21:10 she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” Sarai’s pain was great! She could no longer handle the jealousy, mockery, and ridicule – first from the slave girl, then from Hagar’s son.
Jeremiah 17:5 reminds us, “This is what the LORD says: “Cursed are those who put their trust in mere humans, who rely on human strength and turn their hearts away from the LORD.” In life, a mere miracle is not enough to take away our pain.
This reminds me of what happened between Jacob and Esau. Esau comes home hungry. Finds his brother making stew. 25:21 “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant … 31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?” 33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright.”
When hunger was biting, Esau thought only about the need to satisfy his fleshly needs. He did not realize what this would cost him later. It is amazing that God’s promise for Sarai was not limited by the issues she had faced. God was still gracious. His compassion for Abram’s wife comes when he is 99 years old. God reminds him of the promise to be a blessing to him.
Genesis 17:1,2 “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.” As a sign of sealing this covenant, Sarai name was changed to Sarah.
What do you do when your faith is on trial?
God is Faithful Even in our Failure
Sarah’s faithful obedience to her husband cannot be questioned. Her faithfulness was looking to the future by remaining loyal: She was loyal to both her husband and God.
Genesis 12:5 “The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. Then Abram took Sarai his wife… and all their possession that they had gathered, and the people whom they had acquired in Haran, and they departed.”
Ur was a wealthy and Sophisticated City located on the banks of the great Euphrates River. The City of Ur was a harbor that received goods from far places. This was the only family home that Abram and Sarai knew. If God’s call was difficult for Abraham, how much more for Sarai. After all it was Abram who had been called by God. Responding to God’s call meant shutting the door to past ties and connections and embracing a completely new direction.
This is what the apostle Peter had to say of Sarah’s action: 1 Peter 3:5–6 “For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him ‘lord’. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
By being obedient to her husband, she was by extension obeying God. She is commended for her faith, not because she was perfect, but because she was obedient. The Bible states that we are Sarah’s spiritual daughters if we do good and are not afraid of terror” (I peter 3: 6)
God Does not Blow our Cover
Even when things do not go the way we thought they would, if we remain obedient and honest in our submission, God has the power to protect us.
First: God protects Sarah’s loyalty.
In Genesis 12:10-18, Abraham goes to Egypt to search of food because of famine in Negev. He fears for his life because of Sarai’s beauty. He thinks the Egyptians might kill him for her. Fear drove him to tell a lie and ask the wife to agree with the lie. At 65 years her beauty was noticeable. When Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to the King.
The Bible is not promoting sin here – that women can blindly follow their husbands to sin against God. But the Bible is honest about the fears and hurdles we face. Remember Ananias and Saphairah in Acts 5. Why would Ananias ask the wife to conspire with him to lie to the Holy Spirit? God delivers Sarah, but judges Ananias and Saphairah. God does not ask a woman to submit because the man is perfect. A woman submits out of her reverence for Christ. Husbands will make mistakes in leadership.
Second: God blesses Sarah’s patience
Sarah lived without a child for a long time wondering. She got her son when she was over 90 years. Think of the waiting, the stigma of barrenness and childlessness. Barrenness at her time was painful, the need to have a son to carry on the family name was of great significance. In Genesis 17:15 God confirms to Abraham that He will give him a son through Sarai whose name God changes to Sarah because she will become ‘a mother of nations’
The pain of endless waiting, compromise, and 2 betrayals by Abraham to 2 different foreign kings reveals to us a woman who knows that, just like herself, her husband has the capacity to fail and make mistakes. She failed Abraham while also Abraham failed her, but God remained faithful to his promise. He may not change the choices we make but he has the power to forgive and erase our past.
Last week we saw Abigail demonstrating what true submission looks like and what it does not look like. Some might challenge Abigail’s words and actions as being disrespectful to her husband. Others may question if one should remain faithful and submissive in an abusive relationship.
Abigail’s actions and words reveal her intelligence and wisdom. On the other hand, Sarah’s words and actions reveal to us the struggles of a woman, a woman who falls but is willing to stand – a woman whose promise delays but is commended for her faith.
According to 1 Peter 3:1-7, a woman’s submission has the power to turn around husbands who do not believe the word. They witness without words but with good behavior that shows purity and reverence; their inner self and the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit that the Bible refers to as “of great worth in God’s sight.”
The powerful purity of a godly woman’s life can soften even the stoniest male heart without a word (cf. Titus 2:5). While the world prizes costly clothing and gold jewelry, a woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is precious to God.