Women of Scripture: Sarah

 •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Sarah was a remarkable woman. We can profit by considering the growth of her soul as taught by God.
The first time that Sarah acts independently is recorded in Genesis 16, when, too impatient to await the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham that they should have an heir, and evidently faithless with regard to it, she suggests to her husband that he should take her Egyptian maid to be his wife. We are told in Galatians 4:24, 2524Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar. 25For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. (Galatians 4:24‑25) that Hagar represents the covenant made on Mount Sinai-the law-and this speaks to us of bondage.
Abraham yields to Sarah's suggestion, and faith for the time gives place to nature.
Nature finds its resources and even its religion in things down here quite apart from God, in contrast to faith which makes God, who is the source of its very existence in a soul, the center of everything.
Is Sarah alone in this phase of unbelief? If we challenge our own hearts, how often must we plead guilty to the temptation of seeking some relief from pressure, or some way out of a difficulty, by having recourse to this world and to the things of this life.
What a slight upon the God who has given us so many proofs of His love, faithfulness and wisdom! If we know Him in any measure, we are without excuse. Sarah had not the full revelation that has been made known to us, and it does not appear from the text that she was even present when the promise was made to Abraham. Thus she missed the faith-inspiring object lesson of the star spangled heavens, and the deep, solemn, soul teaching of the night's watch by the sacrifice. (See Genesis 15:4-184And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. 6And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness. 7And he said unto him, I am the Lord that brought thee out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give thee this land to inherit it. 8And he said, Lord God, whereby shall I know that I shall inherit it? 9And he said unto him, Take me an heifer of three years old, and a she goat of three years old, and a ram of three years old, and a turtledove, and a young pigeon. 10And he took unto him all these, and divided them in the midst, and laid each piece one against another: but the birds divided he not. 11And when the fowls came down upon the carcases, Abram drove them away. 12And when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and, lo, an horror of great darkness fell upon him. 13And he said unto Abram, Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years; 14And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance. 15And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age. 16But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. 17And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. 18In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: (Genesis 15:4‑18).) Her sad act of unbelief, however, cannot fail to bring sorrow and discord in its train, and this soon becomes evident.
Sarah is despised by Hagar, and harshness ensues in consequence on Sarah's part, so that Hagar flees. But she is not allowed to remain away. Sarah has lessons to learn through Hagar's presence in her home, so God, who is just as interested in Sarah's spiritual growth as in Abraham's, sends her back. It must have been a trial to Sarah when Ishmael was born, and a test during the fourteen years he and his mother remained in the home. But Sarah was doubtless in the school of God all this time, for we do not read of any more quarrels, although she laughed in derision when the heavenly strangers reiterated God's promise, giving all the full details connected with it. (See Genesis 18.) Unbelief still! How loath we are to believe divine statements when they are contrary to nature, forgetting that "with God all things are possible." When faith is not in exercise in a believer, there is something in him that is hindering, because there are no hindrances on God's side. How aptly does Eliphaz put the question to Job: "Are the consolations of God small with thee? is there any secret thing with thee?" I think we shall find that this was the case with Sarah. On two occasions she and her husband acted in a deceitful manner, so that, though knowing more of God, and taking a higher ground than those around them, they are reproached and reproved by them. Let us beware, as Christians, of giving occasion to those about us to blaspheme the name of Christ.
Abraham's excuse for their behavior to Abimelech in Genesis 20:11-1411And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake. 12And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. 13And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father's house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt show unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother. 14And Abimelech took sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and womenservants, and gave them unto Abraham, and restored him Sarah his wife. (Genesis 20:11‑14) tells of a secret arrangement made between Sarah and himself when he first responded to God's call. In spite of a fuller revelation of God to them as time went on, they still harbored this evil thing and had recourse to it, and of this we have a twofold account. (See chapters 12 and 20.) How soul-deadening! No wonder that faith is fettered! Let us carefully avoid secret sins, always seeking to live transparently before God and man, for it is the only path in which fruit can be borne to Him and blessing can accrue to us.
But now let us pass on to a brighter picture. In Hebrews 11:1111Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11) we read, "Through faith also Sara herself received strength... and was delivered of a child... because she judged Him faithful who had promised." We are not told how God worked in her soul to accomplish this marvelous change, but her faith and hope is now entirely and firmly placed in Him, and she trusts Him implicitly.
She has, at last, come to the end of herself, and has discovered her own utter weakness and resourcelessness. When she was acting for herself, everything went wrong and only brought bitter disappointment. God must undertake everything for her if His promise is to be made good in her, and "she judged Him faithful who had promised."
When we reach this point and leave self out of the question, there is no longer any hindrance to our progress in God's things, because the wisdom of the One who has our training in hand is infinite, and "Who teacheth like Him?"
God's promise is fulfilled, and Isaac, the child so long waited for, is born. Sarah now seems almost to outshine Abraham. He names the child at God's direction (see Genesis 17:1919And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. (Genesis 17:19)), but Sarah shows intelligence and interprets it. She seems to recognize what springs of refreshment and joy she has in Isaac, for she says, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." Genesis 21:66And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me. (Genesis 21:6).
What a contrast to her laugh of unbelief behind the tent door! This is the pure laugh of the deep joy of fulfilled desire and faith in God, and it bears its testimony. It is a case of "my cup runneth over."
Do we know anything of this joy in a spiritual sense? We all know that Isaac is a very distinct type of Christ. Is our appreciation of Him so great that He has become the source of a deep joy that no one can deprive us of, and that, bubbling up and over, ministers refreshment to those about us, and becomes the source of true fellowship? Sarah says, "all that hear will laugh with me."
One step further Sarah goes. She now has faith in God, an awakened and intelligent heart that can fully appreciate Isaac, but He must be supreme. He must have no rivals. Now is the time for decision, and Sarah is ready for it. "Cast out this bondwoman and her son" is the advice she gives Abraham, and Ishmael has to go. There is no place for the flesh when faith is in activity and Christ is truly appreciated. God has put a wonderful seal to this decision of Sarah's, and honored it in a very special way. In Galatians 4:3030Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Galatians 4:30) we read, "What saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman," etc. Sarah's actual words are quoted, and God deigns to call them "scripture," clearly showing that she had His mind in her decision, and that her action met His approval.
May we each imitate Sarah, and seek that Christ shall have the supreme place in our hearts.