These last few weeks we have been deep diving into people from the Bible and taking an in depth look at what lessons they learned in their lives and what they can teach us. So far, we have looked at Eve, Adam, Abel, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Lot, and this week we’ll be looking at Sarah.
Originally, her name was Sarai, but was later changed to Sarah. After God made the promise to Abraham that he would have a son in his old age. But when Sarah and Abraham still didn’t have any children, Sarah decided to try to take matters into her own hands. Rather than wait patiently on God and His plan and timing, rather than trust that God would fulfil His promises and keep His Word, Sarah chose to handle the entire situation herself.
In Genesis chapter sixteen verses 1 through 4 says, “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. And she had an Egyptian maidservant whose name was Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘See now, the Lord has restrained me from bearing children. Please, go in to my maid; perhaps I shall obtain children by her.’ And Abram heeded the voice of Sarai. Then Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar her maid, the Egyptian, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan. So he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress became despised in her eyes.”
Not only did Sarah try to take matters into her own hands by giving Hagar to Abraham to try to bear the son that God had promised—literally, trying to make God’s plan happen herself, in her own way and timing, rather than His—but then, after Hagar bore a child, jealousy kicked in. Part of it is understandable in a slight way—a barren woman would have feelings of envy and jealousy toward one who can. But in Sarah’s case, our sympathy for her stops there because she told Abraham and Hagar to do it. It wasn’t like this was a huge surprise—that was the entire point of giving Hagar to Abraham was so that she could bear him the son that God promised.
The problem is that what Sarah did wasn’t what God planned. God’s intentions were for Sarah to bear Abraham a child in her own years. Not only would that bring God glory, showing off His power to do anything—by giving them a child in their old age—but also it proves how faithful God really is and that He keeps His promises.
We went to a Bible study this morning and we were learning about moments in life when God calls us to the in between places—like when He led the Children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years. That must have been a trying time, just like the waiting period for Sarah to have a child was trying. It was so trying, in fact, that one day she stopped trusting God, stopped believing that He would give her and Abraham a child, not Abraham and Hagar.
The moment that Sarah tried to interfere and do it her own way actually caused more problems than anything else. Yes, Hagar had a son named Ishmael, whom Abraham loved. But later on, when Sarah’s jealousy only continued to grow, it caused Sarah to become so bitter that she mistreated Hagar. Enough that Hagar ran away and God had to bring her back.
Then, when God appeared to Abraham and, in Genesis chapter 18 verses 12 through 15, “And He said, ‘I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ (Sarah was listening in the tent door which was behind him.) Now Abraham and Sarah were old, well advanced in age; and Sarah had passed the age of childbearing. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself saying, ‘After I have grown old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ And the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, “Shall I surely bear a child, since I am old?” Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh,’ for she was afraid. And He said, ‘No, but you did laugh!’”
Wow. First of all, God is speaking to them in person, likely through an angel or Jesus in the flesh, and saying specifically that Abraham and Sarah will bear a child and Sarah laughed. She clearly didn’t believe Him. Then, when God told her the thoughts she had and confronted her about it, she denied it and lied, saying that she hadn’t laughed, when she had. God knew that.
Guess what happened? Sarah had a child. But here’s the problem. Because Sarah took matters into her own hands years before, now her maidservant Hagar has a son named Ishmael who is older than Isaac. Jealousies fly, between Sarah and Hagar and the way Sarah thinks Abraham is treating Ishmael versus Isaac. Ishmael scoffed one day, and it made Sarah angry. Genesis chapter 21 verses 9 and 10 say, “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.”
Sarah’s gotten herself into a huge mess. All because she took matters into her own hands and tried to do things herself, rather than waiting and trusting on God—on His perfect timing and plan. Now, there were two boys jealous of each other, two women jealous of each other, and hurt feelings on all sides with Abraham stuck in the middle. In the end, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away and God made Hagar a promise and saved Ishmael. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham, not just in giving Abraham and Sarah Isaac but that the entire nation of Israel came from Abraham’s seed—from Isaac.
God turned Sarah’s mistakes into something good, but we have to have faith in God—that He will keep His promises and that He will help us through those painful periods of waiting. Those times in the wilderness, when it doesn’t seem like God will bring about what He said He would bring—when it doesn’t feel like He’ll fulfil His plan and purpose in our lives. But Sarah’s example to us is to NOT do what she did; to not take matters into our own hands and try to force our own way.
Instead, we should wait for God—His way and timing and plan is so much better than our own.