The Bold and The Brave: Sarah
Sarah's story offers a glimpse of what it looks like to trust God in His faithfulness, through every high and low, every seemingly 'impossible' circumstance. We hope you love this one! MP x
When I think of self-sacrificing women of the bible I think of Sarah. She was a fantastic creation of God’s handiwork in whom there are many lessons of God glorifying behaviour, as well as very human responses to His seemingly crazy plans.
Sarah is first introduced in Genesis 12, as Sarai, wife of Abram. They both receive anointing from God that they will be made into “a great nation… all the peoples on earth will be blessed by you” Genesis 12:2-3. What a wonderful calling! But the road from there onwards wasn’t simple. Abram and Sarai face famine, conflict, challenge, and desperation. They lie to keep themselves safe, which lands them in still more trouble. But God delivers them from their plights and reminds them, ““Do not be afraid, I am your shield, your very great reward” Genesis 15:1.
Years go by, and still the promise of being “a great nation” goes unmet. In Genesis 17 Abram challenges God’s plan, asking how an ageing and apparently barren woman could be the mother of the next generation?
This prompts God to confirm His plans by renaming Abram and Sarai to reflect their promised future. Abram becomes Abraham, meaning ‘Father of many’, and Sarai becomes Sarah, meaning ‘Queen’ or ‘Captain-ess’.
Up until now, the couple could have remained quiet about their calling to have many descendants, avoiding public humiliation that God has as yet not fulfilled His promise. But now, with new names which reflect their new identity, they can’t hide. Imagine introducing yourself as the “mother and father of many” but confessing to having no children when people ask about your family.
This is the first prompt Sarah receives to be self-sacrificial: giving up her public image to instead be a model of God’s unfolding plan.
I love looking at the name changes in the bible. So often a person receives a new name, long before the fulfilment of it.
Simon became Peter before he had attributes worthy to be the ROCK on which the church was built.
Saul became Paul before he HUMBLED himself to be used by God.
God decides who He will use before they show ability to compete the task, but each must sacrifice their own agenda before they see its realization.
In Sarah’s case, the name change doesn’t just signify a work in progress which she needs to ‘get on board with’. It represents a highly improbable series of events. She was far beyond the age at which we would consider conception possible, pushing into her 80’s, and starting a family must have felt not only impossible but also highly impractical! It was laughable in fact (Genesis 18). Here Sarah must sacrifice yet more of herself. She needed to make herself vulnerable before God, trusting in Him for something she daren’t believe in, for fear of devastating disappointment.
One of the most frightening things I’ve ever done is pray for my Mum to be healed. Asking for something opens you up to the possibility the answer is no, and therefore the temptation is not to ask. The best self-protection is to never admit it was something you desired.
And yet, this is not what our Heavenly Father wants in our relationship with Him. It’s tempting to back up this point with verses about God giving us the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37.4) or receiving when we ask (Matt 7.7). But, although this is bible truth, I think a helpful example is the determination David expresses throughout the psalms as he earnestly shares the desires of his heart.
He recognises that “when I kept silent, my bones wasted away” (Psalm 32.3). Pretty much every psalm starts with a plea for God to act, and pretty much all end with declaration of God’s goodness and power.
The Psalms give us an example of how appealing to God in prayer causes our hearts cry to become one of worship.
Sarah dare not believe this promise could be fulfilled through her, resisting multiple times when it’s declared over her. Instead she takes things into her own hands and makes a backup plan. Sarah’s heart must have broken as she offered up her maid servant to sleep with her husband, hoping that the promise of being the father of many might be fulfilled through Hagar instead(Genesis 16). And it must have broken again when Hagar did indeed conceive and bring Abraham a son. But this was not God's plan. We don’t worship a God of plan Bs. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.” (Proverbs 16.9) Sarah’s determination to be self-reliant was squashed when God proved Himself faithful and caused her to become pregnant, over 20 years after the initial promise of motherhood was made.
Thousands of years later, Sarah is honoured by the writer of Hebrews as one of God’s people who lived by faith. “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) Despite all the failings and stubbornness, this is how Sarah is remembered.
She chose multiple times to consider God faithful. We might not see her as the best example of obedience, but we do catch a glimpse of a woman who knew the highs and lows of trusting God.
My prayer is that we, too, may be described in this way when Jesus comes, and I think learning from the self-sacrificial lessons of Sarah is a good place to start.
Emma is a final year medical student in Sheffield, who can most often be found exploring the beautiful peak district, attempting DIY or embracing all things Narnia.