It’s our last day with Sarah, I know that some of you are about to burst. I can just feel it on the other side of my laptop.
“Rachel! Come on! Hurry up! Sarah’s story isn’t over yet! Get to the part where God works it all out!”
It’s like a movie you’ve already seen and you just want to get to the good part already! I get that, but I think it’s the struggle of the build-up that makes the ending so great.
The best part? As Christians, our own ending is something so magnificent that even the likes of Spielberg couldn’t imagine it up.
One of my favorite quotes from my ‘Sarah studies’ reads like a fantastic blockbuster preview voiceover. Authors Ann Spangler and Jean Syswerda define her as “A real flesh-and-blood kind of lady who lived an adventure more strenuous than any fairy-tale heroine, an adventure that began with a promise, and ended with laughter.”
Alright, anxious friends, let’s move on to Genesis chapter 17. Go ahead and read 17:1-8, and 17:15-21 please.
99-year-old Abram gets another one-on-one encounter with God, and he is renamed Abraham. God promises him again that he is going to be the “father of a multitude of nations.” God then offers Abraham the everlasting covenant of circumcision.
In verse 15, God addresses Abraham about Sarai, who is now to be called Sarah. Here we see it explicitly laid out that the future of the promised nation of descendants will come from her egg, and her womb. Sarah is appointed by God to be a new mother, with a new name, and a new future.
In my prior knowledge of Sarah, I only ever knew her name to mean about the same thing as her first: princess, or chieftainess. It has always been beautiful to think on Sarah’s incredible gift of being re-named by God, but I believe there is something more I’ve missed all these years. In one of the study Bibles I have used to cross-reference, there was a note about the Hebrew verb, ‘sarah.’ Pronounced saw-raw, according to Strong’s Hebrew Concordance, it means “to persist, exert oneself, persevere.”
Oh friends, let’s sit here for a minute. Sarah, the mother of a multitude of nations, with spiritual offspring spreading as wide as “Jews and Christians who trust in the Messiah” (ESV study Bible) was re-named a word that indicates action. A verb that demonstrates hard living. This revelation has set a new tone to my understanding of our sister in Christ. I feel like Sarah’s new name is much more of a calling than I ever realized. A calling from our Most High King, also our Good Father, to Sarah and all her daughters:
Turn your eyes away from your body and your blood. Remember my promises and believe them. Turn your eyes heavenward. Look up. Always look up, my daughter. Don’t believe with your eyes. Believe with your heart.
So Sarah, re-named and officially appointed, is going to become a mother after all within the coming year.
While we don’t see Abraham go run and tell Sarah of this new revelation, or of her new name, we do see him get up and complete his duties to circumcise all the men, including Ishmael, his son from Hagar.
Continuing on together in chapter 18, read 18:1-15.
We see God visit Abraham again, but this time in the form of a traveler. It’s an interesting glimpse into Abraham and Sarah. We, the audience, get to see Abraham scurry to provide the finest dishes and meats, and then Sarah is found out as a tent-listener, trying to get the scoop on who has come to visit.
A second time, the Lord predicts that in 12 months, Sarah will have a son. I kind-of love this, because we see God present, possessing all knowledge and understanding, knowing Sarah is just beyond the fabric walls of their tent listening. He hears her laughter, doubting the Lord’s providence.
I wonder if the Lord did this so Sarah herself might be clued in to the ‘baby in a year’ promise, and she might hear it from Him, for herself. There’s a sweet intimacy here where the Lord corrects her by saying in verse 18:14, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Can you imagine???? The Lord himself, in human form, asking you if anything is too difficult for him?
Is anything too hard for the Lord? No.
Is honoring the Lord hard sometimes? Yes.
Is believing in the impossible often difficult? Yes.
But is He capable? Oh, yes.
Are we capable without Him? Nope.
What are we capable of with Him? Anything.
Almost immediately after the incredible experience of hosting God for dinner, Abraham does something odd, but not necessarily out of character.
For no known reason, Abraham takes his family packing up his entire life once again and goes to the land of King Abimelech. A second time, Abraham enters a new land without clear instruction from God, and even in their advanced age, passes Sarah off to the King as his sister.
Today, instead of condemning Abraham for his actions, I feel convicted. After a mountain-top experience with God, how many times have I gone right back into my old, unhealthy habits? When God has shown me something beautiful, or put a new desire in my heart, how often have I cowered in fear out of a lack of trust in God’s plan for me?
I want to pick and choose which part of the promise I am up for, and which part I can pass on.
Sometimes, God is telling us “Now! Go!” and even after prolonged waiting, deliberate planning, and intense effort—the push to finally proceed is terrifying.
We sputter, stress out, delay, defer, and distract… dare I say it - we even grumble??
Abraham had a son, he was 13 years in with Ishmael, and cared for him deeply. He was old, and felt his age. By the sounds of it, both he and Sarah had put away desires of the past long ago. Maybe Sarah had repositioned her unopened box of a baby from the mantel, to the hall closet, all the way to the far corner of the attic.
So now, Abraham finds reason enough to relocate all over again, and deny his wife, all over again. He is literally and figuratively walking away from God’s perfect plan.
Just like I find reason to give up on this study all over again. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't want to do this study, I have wanted to do something like this for a long time, but now I have cold feet: I feel too young, too inexperienced, and too uneducated. I’m too busy, too sad from the miscarriage, too edgy with past hurts and present pain. I want to give it up and call it quits. Let someone else take my spot.
Even though I didn’t get to host the Lord for dinner like Abraham, I do feel that this has been a divine appointment set up by the Lord’s working through me and the leaders of Undivided Women.
Like a new baby, writing this study has kept me up at night, stretched me to the end of myself, and made me feel completely clueless and inadequate. I can’t help but wonder if Abraham remembered the days of Ishmael's’ infancy with Hagar, and was exhausted just thinking about going through that phase again. Did he feel too old? Too close to the end of his life’s story for another to begin?
God gave Abraham Ishmael, but He also wanted to give him more. All Abraham has to do is receive it.
God wants to give me more. Even when the gaping hole I feel from our miscarriage makes it seem as though my joy has been stolen and that all the wind in my sails is gone, God still gives more. I’ve recently opened up about writing this study to a few friends and family—and God used their words to encourage me in an incredible way. I have felt somehow, more energy; somehow, more words; somehow, more insights. This study has stretched me to my limits, but has also opened a window for God to show me what I’m capable of when I fully trust in Him for the ‘more’ that I need. In being completely undone, I have been able to be re-made again by my Good Father.
I’m still out of gas at the end of each day, and desperate to finish this thing well. But God, in His way, purposed for Abraham to be a father again, Sarah to become a first-time mother, and an ordinary girl from Central Florida to write a Bible study. And just imagine with me what He can do in you?
God intervenes and alerts Abimelech to Abraham’s folly, and to protect our persevering princess, Sarah. A baby is born in chapter 21, and he is to be called Isaac, full of laughter.
God’s perfect plan still came to fruition. The child He promised became the man He needed to become the firstborn of a new people. Insecurities, doubts, and isolation couldn't stop what the Lord was going to complete, and they still can't stop Him today. Nothing can thwart the perfect plan of our loving, sovereign God and all He wants to accomplish in us through Jesus.
Psalms 3:3 But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
- Are you dealing with packages that are similar to Sarah’s?
- Who do you know in your life that may be dealing with similar packages as Sarah? How can you pray for and encourage your sister?
- How can you practice the Hebrew verb ‘sarah’ this week? How can you persist in your quest to holiness, and towards all that the cross accomplished?
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