Pastor Terry Tatum
Over the last few weeks we have been looking at characters from the Book of Genesis in our sermon series called Family Album. We have talked about God, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, and today we will turn our attention to Abraham’s wife, Sarah.
There’s a saying that goes like this, “behind every great man is a great woman.” As we learned last week, Abraham was definitely a great man. At one point God even tells Abraham that, “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” And Scripture makes it clear that Abraham’s wife Sarah was a great woman standing beside him. When God chose to bless the world through Abraham, he also chose Sarah.
Abraham and Sarah were both great people, but as a family it’s fair to say that they were a bit dysfunctional and far from perfect. We can learn a lot about God by studying Sarah’s role in the story and seeing how God used an imperfect person and a dysfunctional family to change the world and accomplish His perfect will.
Keep in mind the story I am about to tell you is 100% true. You can find it in your Bible. I couldn’t make up a story this good if I tried! As you read, remember that God later changes Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s to Sarah, and they are referred to as both in this study. Let’s look at four key events in Sarah’s life…
Where God called Abraham, Sarah followed.
As Craig shared with us last week God speaks to Abraham in Genesis Chapter 12: The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.”
This would be hard for a man to believe and if he believed it would be even more difficult to follow. But Genesis 12:5 tells us “He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there.”
This is a little different than coming home and saying, “Honey, I’ve got a great new job in Dothan. It’s not very far away and I really think this is the best thing for our family.” No. Abraham comes home and says, “Sarah, honey, God told me to move, I’m not really sure where. I’m not sure what we are going to do when we get there but we need to go.” Sarah being the good wife that she is goes with her husband as he follows God’s will. Where God called Abraham, Sarah followed.
Now, remember when I said I couldn’t make this stuff up? Listen to this. When Abraham and Sarah reach the “promised land,” there was a famine in the land, and Abram and Sarai moved to Egypt to live there for awhile. It’s at this point that Abraham has a great idea. “As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” (Genesis 12:11-31) He tells his wife to go be the wife of another man, to be a part of his haram. If you want to know what a haram is, Google it, I ain’t going there at church.
Abraham’s plan seems to work at first then, “the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.” (Genesis 12:17) So Pharaoh gets mad and they pack up and leave. Here we go again. The bottom line is, where God called Abraham, Sarah followed. She and Abraham make mistakes along the way, but I see a woman trying to honor God by following where the Lord leads her husband, even through a few detours that were their own doing.
When her faith was tested, she took matters into her own hands.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.” (Genesis 16:1-2)
As crazy as this sounds to many of you, it wasn’t an uncommon practice in Abraham’s day. If you had a “maidservant,” they were your property and you could do as you wished with them. Because she was old and had not given Abraham any children, Sarah decides that the logical thing to do is to encourage her husband to sleep with their servant so they could “build a family through her.” What could possibly go wrong? (note the sarcasm with which that question is posed)
Just a few verses later we see where things turn. “When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me.” (Genesis 16:4b-5) Sarah realizes all of this is wrong, she blames Abraham for it, and begins to treat her maidservant, Hagar, horribly.
Several years later Abraham’s son from this relationship, Ishmael, is a young teenager and begins to mock Sarah. So, Sarah, who as we can see always makes good choices, tells Abraham “that’s it, get rid of that slave woman and her son.” So Abraham sends them off.
I don’t think there is anyone here today who would think Sarah did the right thing. She initiated the relationship between Hagar and Abraham, she was the one who wanted Hagar to have a son to bring into the family, and later, instead of making things right, she blamed her husband and cast out the slave woman and her son. Remember earlier when I told you Sarah was a great woman? Well, I said she was great, not perfect. When her faith was tested, she took matters into her own hands. Thank heaven that “God uses imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will!”
When God made her a promise, she laughed.
In Genesis 18 we read that the Lord visited Abraham in the form of three men. Abraham goes out of his way to treat these men well. They get the tender calf for dinner, and many other special things. During dinner God asked, “Where is your wife Sarah?” Abraham replies, “In the tent.” Then God said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already old and well advanced in years, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:10b-12)
She laughed at God’s promise! Trust me when I tell you, when God makes a promise, he keeps it. Yet, Sarah laughed.
Do you recall last week when Craig mentioned how many times in scripture God makes promises? More than 7,000 times. You can show me some promises that haven’t been fulfilled yet, but you can’t show any promise God makes that is untrue. GOD KEEPS HIS PROMISES!!!!
God tells Abraham, “about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Keep this in mind as we move forward: When God made her a promise, she laughed.
God still blessed her.
Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. (Genesis 21:1-3)
So, after all the mess-ups – Egypt, Hagar and Abraham, telling Ishmael and Hagar to get out, and laughing at God – God still keeps his promise and blesses Sarah with a child. An ordinary imperfect woman, who tried to follow God by following her husband, but still messed up a lot, is blessed after all.
The main point is that no matter where you have been, no matter what you have done, you still have a chance for God to do great things through you. Every day since the beginning of time God has used ordinary people to do extraordinary things, even “imperfect people like Sarah, like me and like you.
You matter more to God than you could ever imagine, plain old ordinary, imperfect you! Isn’t Sarah a great example of this?