The Reward of Sarah’s Faithfulness to God

Jenny ThompsonPosted on Monday, March 31, 2014 by Jenny Thompson

Introduction

Sarah was married to Abraham and they were living in the then very magnificent city of Ur of the Chaldeans, which is modern day Iraq.

Although in 2100 BC Ur’s glory days were fading, the city was still flourishing.

Apparently archaeologists have uncovered objects of gold, silver, precious stones as well as remains of chariots, musical instruments, weapons and even game boards.

Genesis 21: 1-7 and Hebrews 11: 8-12

Now Abraham grew up in Ur of the Chaldeans so all he had ever known was enjoying a fantastic lifestyle and he probably would have also been well educated.

Terah, his father had left Ur with his family to go to Canaan, but for some reason had settled in Haran instead.

Why did he stop halfway? It may have been his health, climate or even fear. What is significant here is that this did not change Abram’s calling (Genesis 12:1). So when Terah died Abram moved on into Canaan.

Of course Sarai went with him, she was prepared to leave her friends, her family and all that was familiar to share whatever Abram’s future might bring. This gives us every indication that she would have gone willingly!

Sarai would have been about 65 years old at the time when God called Abram.

God’s will often comes in stages. Just as the time in Haran was a transition time for Abram, so God may give us transition periods and times of waiting to help us depend on Him and trust His timing.

If we patiently do His will during the transition times, we will be better prepared to serve Him later on.

Losing hope

Ten years had now passed since they arrived in Canaan and Sarai had given up all hope of ever having the child that God had promised to Abram. She was finally convinced that she was not going to bear her husband’s son!

In the Middle East it was common acceptable practice that if a wife could not give her husband sons, she could at least provide a surrogate; so this is why she gave Hagar who was her slave to her husband to bear a son for her!

Abram had been very patient with his wife praying and hoping that he would soon hear that she had conceived. But after decades of marriage and being in Canaan for ten years, she felt compelled to fulfil her obligation to her husband. To be honest, we cannot blame her for doing this!

So Hagar conceived and gave birth to Ishmael.

It is hard for us to try and understand all the various emotions that Sarai would have gone through, in the early days of marriage she would have been expecting to conceive, but then the years wore on, the anger and frustration towards God, she did love Him but, “why, God?”

And of course, the social stigma would have been unbearable in itself!

I wonder how many of us have lost hope about something that we know God has said to us?

Realised hope

Thirteen years after Ishmael was born when Abram was 99 years old and Sarai was 90, God suddenly delivered a stunning message!

Sarai was going to have a child who would inherit the covenant promises God had given to Abram!

“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.”
Genesis 17:16

With the giving of this promise, God changed their names to Abraham and Sarah! Despite her age she did become pregnant and gave birth to Isaac! What an absolute delight and sense of great relief to Sarah this was!

So what was her response?

“Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Genesis 21:6-7

Challenged hope

When Isaac was weaned at the age of 3 or 4, a celebration party was thrown and Ishmael would have been about 16 or 17 at the time.

However, during the party Ishmael began to tease Isaac, which infuriated Sarah. There was of course hostility between Hagar and Sarah and she ordered that Abraham was to send them away.

At first Abraham resisted this but then the Lord showed him that this was the right thing to do, so that the covenant promise through Isaac would remain clear and certain. However, God promised that He would take care of Hagar and Ishmael and that Ishmael would father a great people.

Whenever God eventually gives us the fulfilment of a promise, it will always be challenged!

Let’s be honest – how often do we feel like we are losing hope, then God intervenes and hope is eventually realised, and then we find that our hope is indeed challenged?!

Sarah played a significant role in the unfolding of God’s plan. She was the faithful wife of Abraham, whose faith led her to leave Ur with this wonderful lifestyle. She became the mother of Isaac, Abraham’s son through whom the covenant promises of God were passed to succeeding generations.

In the New Testament, Sarah holds a prominent position in the book of Hebrews.

“And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise.”
Hebrews 11:11

Sarah is one of only two women mentioned here in the great hall of faith! The other woman being Rahab, who hid the two spies!

Sarah was also a model wife, who trusted in God and who was submissive to her husband.

Notice that not only did God change Abram’s name, but He also changed Sarai’s name! Both changes took place in the context of blessing.

She had a faith which was like Abraham’s. So God rewarded both of their faithfulness’ to Him.

The Lord had actually watched Sarah’s faithfulness for many years. Okay, her faith did waver, but only when she could no longer see herself able to conceive.

Sarah has often been criticised for giving Hagar to Abraham.

We do not know how many years they had been married before they left Ur, but we do know that it was common in those days to marry by the age of 13 or 14. So it is likely that they had been married 35 years before leaving Ur. Abraham was 86 when he became Ishmael’s father and Sarah was ten years younger.

Now, if they had married at the age of 15, Sarah would have waited sixty years! This was not the contractual norm of two years before giving Hagar to Abraham to produce his heir.

So the question is why, after waiting for so long, did Sarah finally give in?

When a woman stops producing oestrogen, then her skin begins to age quicker.

We know that Kings wanted Sarah in their harems when she was 65! So clearly she must have been quite a stunner for these men to want her!

This indicates that she would have probably continued to menstruate quite late in life. So all the time she was having her monthly periods, she must have thought that she could conceive.

So she did not even think about the culturally approved alternative of using a surrogate woman. It seems to me that Sarah trusted for longer than any of us could imagine.

So when finally she thought she was finished, she unselfishly offered her slave to her husband to provide the gift that she herself thought she could never give to her husband. However eventually, even though Sarah was so well advanced in years, she was able to conceive, give birth and raise Isaac!

And she spent 37 years with him before her death – how could we ever imagine that?

Yet so often we feel too old or that we do not have the ability to accomplish the task God has for us!

So Sarah was a woman of incredible beauty, she had enjoyed the love of a wonderful man of God, had lived the high life in Ur. But then she had become a nomad and agonised at being unable to conceive!

How it must have hurt her to give Hagar to her husband and then for Hagar to later taunt her – no wonder Sarah got angry and we cannot blame her for that. She was human after all!

Every time she saw Ishmael it reminded her of her barrenness!

So we see that,

  1. Both Abraham and Sarah’s hearts were faithful to God
  2. They were married for over a century
  3. God certainly has a different timetable to us
  4. God does not make a promise that He will not keep
  5. Sarah’s story shows us the importance of faithfulness and commitment
Conclusion

So in the end, God rewarded Sarah for her faithfulness and gave her Isaac whose name means laughter! They were filled with joy and laughter because of what the Lord did for them. How wonderful!

Her greatest achievement was that she became a mother of nations and kings, and Jesus Christ was her descendent. God sees our faithfulness and he rewards us for it.

So may the Lord Himself help us by His grace to keep loving Him, being faithful to Him through prayer, the word, fellowship with one another and by never giving up on the promises that He has given to us.

Amen.

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