Wednesday, October 26, 2011
I will keep my promise Sarah
Sarah was a beautiful woman. Such was her beauty that it caused Abraham, the Egyptians, the servants of the Pharaoh, and the Pharaoh himself to stop and consider the power of her beauty. (Genesis 12, 14-15) In a time and place when women were renown more for their bloom than for their courage, she stands alone as a woman of God. She is the first woman of the Bible to be spoken of as “a fair woman to look upon.” She is also the first to teach us about how the power of faith can deliver us.
11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. (Hebrews 11:11)
God made a covenant with her husband and brother Abraham. (Abraham 1, Gen 17) Together in the prosperous city of Ur, in the country of Chaldea, they lived under the auspices of their socially connected and well-known family. But the trade that had brought prosperity had also weakened their family’s spiritual roots. Abraham’s father became converted to the Egyptian God Elkenah and tried to offer Abraham up for sacrifice.(Abraham 1:6) Hence the Lord’s admonition and warning for Abraham to “get out of thy country and away from they kindred.” (Genesis 12:1)
Abraham recommits himself to God and God covenants with him. He is promised a progeny that would number the sands of the sea. In return the God will use Abraham and Sarah to build his Kingdom of God on earth. It is through this line that Jesus Christ will be born. It is through this family that the Lord’s covenant people learn what it means to make and keep sacred covenants with their God.
The question to consider is weather or not Sarah is the other part of the equation? Was this linage to come through Sarah or her maidservant Haggai? Was the covenant with Abraham and Sarah or just Abraham?
Sarah must have thought more than once: “Surely the Lord was mistaken when he said Abraham and I, (Sarah) would have a great nation?" Abraham could have had his children through any woman. Was Sarah alone the intended matriarch of Israel? She was after-all barren. How must she have felt? A promise made to her husband and she unable to fulfill it? What must she have thought about Abraham when he confided in her? And what of Abraham's feelings? Was Sarah, the woman he loved and made marital vows with to be the matriarch of this great nation?
Sarah and Abraham are bound to one another through familial and social customs. Sara was the daughter of Terah’s (Abraham’s father) son Haran. When Haran dies in the famine that strikes the land, Terah (per custom) marries her mother and ensures his son’s families survival. Sara then becomes Abrams step-sister (Gen 20:12) and wife. (Bible dictionary ..Terah) This makes her covenant with Abraham double binding, meaning she would have to answer to both family and society if she chooses to dishonor her vows or break her marital covenant.
It is interesting to understand that this is the first time that biblical record mentions a one to one covenant with God and man. Even more interesting is the understanding that this covenant initially is between Abraham and God, but because it is a marital covenant, one must consider that Sarah stands as an equal part of it. But she was barren?
Coming into Egypt the Lord and Abraham knew she was barren. The Egyptians however did not know. Had they known it would have changed the game. Her beauty was to be gathered and cultivated for the power of Egypt- for Egypt built its kingdom on their vanities of physical beauty. Also with being barren she would be able to maybe have relations with the Pharaoh and who would know? No child would come of it? Sarah knew that God would know. She would know.
Why is this important? She is about to be placed in a most precarious situation. When Abraham asks her to lie for him (so that the Egyptians do not kill him), it begins an act in her life that forces her to define the power of her faith. It helps her to determine how unconditional her love for God and Abraham must become.
Consider if you will that Sarah left a societal position of great stature to wander in the desert with Abraham. And that when she is taken before the Pharaoh he offers her the opportunity to have all that she had lost and more. While she is with the Pharaoh (and we are not told how long this drama acted out) she cannot tell the Egyptians that she is married to Abraham, for they will surely kill him, so that they can claim her and her beauty for themselves. She is literally between a rock and a hard place.
She must stand strong in her faith that God will deliver her. If she gives in to the Pharaoh’s attempts all will be lost – for she will forsake her family ties and her marital vows. If she tries to bargain with the Pharaoh he will see their deception as an attempt to defraud them and surely they will both die. What can she do?
She prays and she allows her belief to give her the power to be strong in the face of great temptation. Consider also that her father in law worshiped Elkanah and Abraham himself had converted back to his families traditional religion. Where did Sarah's faith lie? She was about to find out.
One account I read from historical records talked about how when the Pharaoh pressed himself upon Sarah to woo her, he was physically shocked and rebuffed by an angel of the Lord. (1 Cor 16:22) He understood that this was no ordinary woman. He understood that a God that he did not know had come to walk with her. So he asked and when the truth was told the whole truth, he was relieved to be rid of them. So great was his relief that he gave them great treasures. This could only have played out this way with the help of the Lord. Any other recourse by Sarah, by Lot, by Abraham or any other member of their family would have surely meant death and the destruction of the family.
Sarah alone had to stand strong against the temptations that the Pharaoh offered. Abraham was separated from her and could not come to her rescue. This was Sarah’s temptation. The covenant between God and Abraham was yet to occur. (Gen 17) She had to choose between the Pharaoh of Egypt and Abraham ( a desert nomad). She had to choose between political power and the power of faith. She had to choose between material wealth and the love of her God and her husband. She had to choose between wealth, power, vanity and her covenant with the Lord. The Lord told her “I will keep my promise.” It was her place to believe the power of his covenant.
Sarah stood strong. In her hour of temptation when the Lord tested the integrity of her faith , she championed the cause of faith and in so doing she set the path that would eventually give her what she wanted more than the Egyptians vanity, more than the position of power, more than the comforts of wealth - a family of her own. Soon the Lord will make covenants with a barren woman and a nomadic man. This covenant will bring to Sarah the one wish of her heart - a family to love.
But not just any family – Sarah’s family becomes the covenant people of God. A family where God's love is taught, practiced and revered. All because she chose to stand strong- for Abraham and before God.