Bad girl, good girl – Sarai/Sarah

Sarai lived around 2000-1825 BC, and married Abram.  Sarai and Abram had the same father, making them half brother and sister (Genesis 20:12). They were the perfect match; both tended to behave badly at critical times. Neither of them had any idea of the extraordinary life God had determined for them when they married. Nor did they realise the impact they would have on all of humanity for the future.

Bad girl, good girl – Sarai/SarahWhile Sarai was an excellent wife and life companion to Abram, she made a few shocking choices along the way. Genesis chapter 12 records Sarah’s first stumbling. Due to a famine, they moved to Egypt. Abram, realising Sarai’s beauty, and fearing that the men of Egypt would kill him to get Sarai, devised a plan. He instructed Sarai, “say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you” (Genesis 12:13), after all, they were half related. Abram was wrong in so many ways, his intent was to deceive. Equally wrong was that Sarai obeyed. Most likely out of fear, possibly from cultural pressure of a male dominant society, but she wrongly perpetuated the lie.

Well, it happened, Pharaoh conscripted Sarai into his harem (Gen 12:15-16). Eventually, in response to the Lord afflicting “Pharaoh and his house with great plagues” (Gen 12:17), Pharaoh confronted Abram. Sarai was returned, and the whole family was escorted out of Egypt (Gen 12:20). If only Sarai had stood up to her cowering husband and spoken the truth, things would have turned out quite different. However, unbeknown to either of them, God was also involved.

In Genesis 15 the Lord appeared to Abram and made a covenant with him. Included, was to give he and Sarai a son, even though Sarai was unable to bear children. Thinking she could help God, Sarai gave her maid to Abram, who foolishly slept with her. The maid conceived, then became bitter with contempt for Sarai, who then treated the maid harshly, and eventually kicked the pregnant girl out. Genesis 16 tells how the Lord miraculously fixed this terrible botch-up.

Later, when Abram was 99 years old, the Lord returned. Again, making another covenant with Abram which again included Sarai having a son. Foolishly “Abraham fell on his face and laughed” at God in disbelief (Gen 17:17). Here, God renamed them to Abraham and Sarah.

Shortly after, the Lord visited Abraham again repeating the promise of a son to Sarah.  Sarah, 90 years old, and listening from the tent door, “laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (Gen 18:12). Afterward Sarah denied having laughed, but she soon turned her laughing into faith. For right or for wrong, Sarah again followed the wrong example of her husband. “The Lord… did to Sarah as he had promised. 2 And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son… 3 Abraham called the name of his son… Isaac” (Genesis 21:1-3). And through Isaac, the nation of Israel has descended to this day.

Despite Sarah’s intermittent failings, God blessed her greatly. For those of us who have ever mocked, laughed at, doubted, or complained to God, Sarah shows us the blessings of having hope in her loving God. Sarah was not dependant upon her ability to please God, or the behaviour of her wayward husband. Sarah was relentless in her faltering but genuine faith in God. Sarah’s life places the beauty of God on display. For this, and other character traits of faith, Sarah appears in Hebrews 11:11, the hall of faith, as an example “since she considered him faithful who had promised.”

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