Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Points to Ponder ~ Sarah

I’m starting this new series, Points to Ponder, to share with you some of the things I have pondered while I’ve studied women in the Bible. Perhaps my ponderings will be interesting to you... or perhaps it will stir some ponderings of your own. Either way, I thank you for visiting my blog, and I welcome your comments.
 
Sarah... was first known as Sarai before God changed her name. This name change for Sarah and Abraham (Abram) commemorated the covenant God had made with them, and initiated the beginning of the Jewish Nation; the Nation of Israel. Sarah and Abraham were the first Jews. (Genesis 17:1-11, 15, 16)


Another point to ponder... Not only were Sarah and Abraham husband and wife, but they were also half brother and sister, having the same father. In today’s society this is a repulsive idea but ancient times recorded this as a normal occurrence. My husband and I were married in 1978 in a state that required both a blood test and a 3-day waiting period. When I asked the reason for the blood test, the answer we were given was... to provided evidence that we were not blood relatives. So it seems that even the recent history of our state still indicated a need for that sort of clarification, before a couple would be granted a marriage license.

Sarah and Abraham’s relationship stands out as a remarkable testimony. There are no other Bible characters more in love, and trusting of each other, than Sarah and Abraham. Though there were reasons for them to play the "blame game", Sarah and Abraham never did. Their commitment to each other was the foundation of their successful spiritual growth. Their spiritual journey presented challenges for them as much as their wilderness wanderings did.

Hebrews 11:8-11 "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 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."


A point to ponder... When they journeyed into strange lands, some take issue with Abraham and consider him a coward for having Sarah say she was his sister. However, it was typical for beautiful women to be "collected" and kept as potential wives by their captors. Esther, for example, was "collected" and went through a purification process that lasted 12 months. (Esther 2:2-9, 12)

Genesis 12:10-13 "And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter Egypt, that he said unto Sarai is wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee."
Genesis 20:12, 13 "And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And it came to pass, when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, that I said unto her, This is thy kindness which thou shalt shew unto me; at every place whither we shall come, say of me, He is my brother."

For her beauty, kings would kill a husband... but they would give gifts to her brother. When Abraham and Sarah agreed together to say, "she is my sister" this half-truth was a strategic plan of wisdom more then it was a cowardly evasion.

This plan allowed the process of time for these "captors of beautiful women" to understand the might of Abraham’s God. Abraham sojourned by God’s command, and it was therefore God’s protection that went before them. The Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues, and again, twenty years later, Abimelech was also witness to the mighty strength of Abraham’s God. (Genesis 12:17; 20:1-7) Never, at any time, did God reprimand Abraham for this.

Genesis 12:3 "And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."

Sarah’s Barrenness, A Spiritual Challenge. ~ Even in today’s society, couples struggling with infertility problems face many private heartaches and heartbreaks that many of us, unless infertile ourselves, cannot even fathom. Then, there are the painful remarks made by well-meaning onlookers who neglect to consider that their greatest kindness would be to remain silent on this private topic. Many couples struggling with infertility choose to "weather this storm of life" and face their barrenness together. But, in Sarah’s time, getting a baby was as easy as telling your husband to take another wife, which Sarah did... and which lead to their greatest spiritual challenge.

It was Sarah who made the suggestion for Abraham to take Hagar, her handmaid, and it was Abraham who agreed. Forgoing God and making this impetuous wrong decision together meant they would also face the consequences together.


Their Remarkable Relationship. ~ This couple was supportive of each other and they didn’t waste their time with accusations against one another, even when they made wrong decisions. They chose to "weather the storms of life" and they were "together" in every aspect of the word. You don’t see a domineering overbearing husband, and you don’t see a subdued cowering wife. You see a husband and wife balanced in their relationship with equal submission to one another, very like-minded in their thoughts and actions, not condemning, not blaming... "together".

I Peter 3: 5-7 "For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered."


When they had disagreements, they talked with each other. And, when it seemed they could not come to terms, they took it to the Lord. 
Genesis 16:5 "And Sarai said unto Abram,... ...the Lord judge between me and thee."
Genesis 21:9-14 (vs. 12) "And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called."
 
The Balance. ~ Sarah and Abraham exemplified the balance of male leadership with female submission. This was never to be a grievous thing. God’s plan for leadership is that it is to be male. Leadership is responsible for those they lead, and leadership is always accountable to God for the outcome... good, bad, or ugly, male leadership answers for it all. He is not "the boss" as much as he is "the responsible party" and all accountability rests on his shoulders. This is what Sarah was acknowledging when she says, "My wrong be upon thee..." in Genesis 16:5.

Numbers 30:14-16 "But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them. But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity. These are the statues, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house."

The imbalance of this teaching has made it a grievous topic for women because they see themselves as having to submit to the wants and wishes of male domination without consideration; it’s his way or it’s not submission, is the lesson women get. The balance of God’s plan is not grievous.

The balance of female submission is male leadership. The truth of Ephesians 5:21-33 is that if more husbands were the right kind of leader, as the example of Christ with the church, wives would be more inclined to submit. Husbands having trouble with their wives might want to examine how they are leading, instead of focusing on how she’s not submitting.
Ephesians 5:25-27 "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish."


When God’s plan of submission and leadership, for a husband and wife, becomes grievous... it is because there are secrets between the couple. Secrets cause mistrust, and mistrust is the key element that erodes the balance in God’s plan. Submission is easy, when you can trust the one you are submitting to.

When leadership becomes manipulative, it is no longer leadership, it has become a dictatorship. Leadership, to be successful, must lead with loving trust. This is the relationship Sarah and Abraham exemplified. They always lovingly trusted each other and weathered the storms of life together.


(Additional Bible References for Sarah: Genesis 11:27 through to 13:4; chapters 15:1 through to 17:22; chapter 18:1-15; chapters 20:1 through to 21:1-13; chapters 23; 24:36-38, 64-67; 25:7-12; and 49:31; Isaiah 51:2; Romans 4:18-22; and 9:6-9; Hebrews 11:8-19; I Peter 3:1-6)