For my February goal, I’m studying the women of infertility in the Bible. This week, I’ve been reading the story of Sarah, and I wanted to share with you some things I’ve learned.
Sarai was in her 60s when she and Abram traveled to Canaan. When famine brought them to Egypt, and they stretched the truth about their relationship to Pharaoh (because they were technically half-siblings), they received a lot of livestock and servants from the Pharaoh during their stay there. Because Sarai was that beautiful. This is more than likely where Hagar enters the picture because it’s noted that she was an Egyptian maidservant to Sarai.
When they returned to Canaan, after separating from Lot, Abram settles in Hebron, living near a friend, Mamre the Amorite. God made a covenant with Abram there, telling him not only that he would have countless descendants, but he even foretells when Abram’s descendants would go to Egypt, become slaves, and leave Egypt to inherit the land that God was promising to Abram.
I don’t know how much Abram told Sarai about the covenant between him and God. But up to this point, Sarai isn’t mentioned in the promise. This is when Sarai offers Hagar to Abraham. This was a common, culturally acceptable practice for the wife to use a maidservant to have children. Perhaps Sarah knew about the covenant and thought this was how it was meant to be.
But whatever the reason, as soon as Hagar knew she was pregnant, it got chaotic. Being the mother of the heir meant something, even if she was still Sarah’s slave, Hagar’s grab for power was evident. Sarah doesn’t respond well. First, she tries to get Abraham to resolve it, but he throws the ball back in her court. Sarah has to deal with this on her own, and I can only imagine how hard it must have been to see someone get pregnant so easily by her husband. And by a woman who would try to levy power because of this pregnancy. So, Sarah begins to mistreat Hagar in response. Hagar runs away, a pregnant slave which was dangerous, but comes back and has Ishmael.
Following this, in the covenant of circumcision, Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, and it’s foretold that she will have a son. This is the first time Sarah is specifically mentioned in the covenant between God and Abraham. At this point, though, Ishmael is 13 years old. A decade has gone by since Hagar became pregnant. When the Lord reveals this promise to Sarah, she laughs. I’m not really surprised that she would laugh. She had come to terms with her barrenness a long time ago, and Abraham already had a son with Hagar. But one year later, Sarah would have a son.
God did something extraordinary in the life of Sarah so there would be no doubt that it was He who was in control. There was no doubt that the promise given to Abraham was directly from God. In Galatians 4, Sarah and Hagar represent the Law and the Promise. If we try to do things by our own power, we are slaves to that power, and it will never be enough. It can even bring us into chaos and strained relationships. But if we are faithful to God’s promise, he can do extraordinary things in our lives, things that can’t be explained away. Like Sarah, I want to work towards faithfulness, humility, and submission to the will of God, even if it’s hard for me to understand, even if it makes me laugh.