Sarah and Her Serious Slip in Sagacity

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(This lesson is from our March lesson in “Save the Drama for Your Mama.”)

I like Sarah. I think we can all relate to her. She does things right (like following her husband even when he had NO idea where they were going), but she also makes mistakes (and some doozies at that!)

In Genesis 12, God promised Abram an heir. At this point Abram was 75 and Sarah 65. Can you imagine? Giving birth to your first child at 65? (I thought 39 was bad.) Well, Sarah didn’t have the child at 65. Even though the promise was made, God was not going to fulfill his promise right then.

Fast forward 11 years. Sarah got tired of waiting. Isn’t that like most of us? We live in a society of instant gratification: TV dinners, microwaves, video on demand, ebooks, shopping online. We don’t like to wait. And neither did Sarah. So she took matters into her own hands. As was the custom of the day (just because it was “popular” doesn’t make it right), a barren wife could offer her servant as a substitute. As a result, the child born of the union between the husband and servant became a legal heir. So Sarah decided to help God along. She sent her servant Hagar unto Abram. By the way, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. Spiritual ends are never achieved through carnal means.

Well, Hagar conceived and Sarah became despised in her eyes (Genesis 16:4). It’s another situation like Hannah and Peninnah  (I Samuel 1). Now Sarah is feeling the weight of such a decision. So she goes to Abram and apologizes and accepts full responsibility, right? Unfortunately, no. Here is Sarah’s dramatic response to Abram. Genesis 16:5 states, “And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee:” Really?!?!?!?! What did Sarah expect? Sarah came up with the idea and she’s blaming Abraham for the result?  And in my head I picture Sarah all angry, bawling, boohooing, getting all dramatic. Wow. But the verse doesn’t stop there. It goes on to say “I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes.” So now she’s whining. That’s how it plays out in my head. She’s angry she’s yelling, but now she’s resorting to self-pity. “She doesn’t like me anymore. I’m being mistreated. It’s not fair.” Oh my word. Drama at its finest. Abram told Sarah to “do to her as it pleaseth thee” and the Bible says “Sarai dealt hardly with her.” In other words, she was harsh. Maybe she made her work longer hours, maybe she gave her the harder jobs, maybe she was just down right mean.

Fast forward fourteen more years. Wow. 25 years from the time the heir was promised. Twenty five years is a long time to wait, but you’ll never go wrong waiting on the Lord. In Genesis 18, Abraham is promised a son. Sarah overheard this and laughed within herself. I can so relate to this. When I found out I was expecting, for the first time, after 15 years of infertility, and at the ripe old age of 39, all I could do was laugh. I couldn’t even get the words out to my husband because all I could do was laugh. So I can understand Sarah here. She was, as the Bible states, “old and well-stricken in age;” Okay, that’s an understatement. She was 89. 89!!! And she was going to give birth? For the first time? Yep. See, God sometimes uses things in our lives so we can’t claim the credit. He does things so we will point to Him and say, “Only God could do this.” And so Isaac, the promised seed, was born when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. (Genesis 21) End of story, right? Everyone got what they wanted and lived happily ever after. Not quite. No where in the Bible do I find Sarah dealt with her grievous error or made things right. And that’s going to be evident in the next series of events.

In Genesis 21:8, we see Abraham made a great feast the day Isaac was weaned. I don’t know how old Isaac was at this point, but I can’t imagine him being younger than 2. That would make Ishmael (the son of Abraham and Hagar) about 16. At this feast, Sarah sees Ishmael mocking. Now, I have three girls, 7, 2, and 4 months and I already see the wheels turning in their not-so-innocent little heads. The two older ones are already finding ways to torment each other. It’s what they do. I don’t know just what Ishmael did, but it could have been nothing more than sibling stuff. But Sarah’s reaction is to have Hagar and the boy banished. Does anyone see that Sarah has been holding on to some jealousy and bitterness? I think she overreacted here. But I think holding on to all that anger and bitterness clouded her judgment. She rushed into a decision to banish Hagar and not allow Ishmael to be heir with Isaac and the whole world has been paying for it since. God made nations out of both boys. Isaac the father of the Israelites and Ishmael the father of the Arab race. And the tensions are still very real today.

The consequences to our actions are often long-lasting and far-reaching. Look how Sarah’s decision to “help God out” has had an effect on our world today. Not only did she make some wrong decisions, she had the wrong attitude and held onto anger and bitterness. I’ve wondered many times how relations in the Middle East would be different had Sarah waited on God or had she not reacted out of anger.  Remember, getting ahead of God brings disastrous results. We need to remember to wait on God, and have the right attitude while waiting.

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