The following study is based on Hebrews 11:11-12, “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. 12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.”
Let us go back to the original story in the Old Testament to understand about Sarah’s faith.
- Genesis 15:1-5
1 After these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward. 2 And Abram said, Lord God, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? 3 And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. 4 And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. 5 And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be.
- Abraham asks God how can he become a great nation when he doesn’t even have a child. So he recommends his servant Eliezer that he is willing to adopt as his son.
- Obviously at this time Abraham and Sarah have probably been trying to have kids for a while and it seemed hopeless as Sarah has not been able to conceive.
- But God confirms that Eliezer will not be the inheritor of the promise but that he would have a son that would come out of his own bowels.
- He would have so many children that they would be like the stars of heaven – without number.
What is Abraham’s response to God’s promise?
- Genesis 15:6
And he believed in the Lord; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
- Abraham had faith! He believed God!
- And straight away, the Bible says that he is counted righteous.
- You know we don’t have to do anything to be righteous.
- Isaiah 64:6
But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
- Isaiah 64:6
- All we need to do is believe, to have faith.
- This is called righteousness by faith!
- This is why faith is so important.
- Luke 7:50
And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.
- Faith saves us!
- Ephesians 2:8
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God
- If we are saved by grace through faith, then without faith we cannot be saved even though grace is made available.
- Grace was a gift from God through Jesus and His sacrifice.
- Faith is the medium by which we lay hold of grace.
- God ratifies His covenant with Abraham again:
- Genesis 15:18-21
18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: 19 The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, 20 And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, 21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.
- He basically says that he is going to give Abraham the whole land, something that He had promised from Genesis 12:7, “And the Lord appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.”
- We can sense that Abraham is probably getting a bit anxious about the fulfillment of this promise.
But after God promises it to him again, what does he do? He runs home and tells his wife Sarah that God has promised that they were going to have a son! What happens?
- Genesis 16:1-2
1 Now Sarai Abram’s wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
- Sarah has no faith in what God told Abraham. Instead she asks Abraham to take her maid to be his wife.
- As a result, Abraham listens to Sarah over the voice of God.
- This is the biggest challenge to faith. This is the competition that faith has.
- It is man’s word vs God’s word.
- God says that Abraham is going to have a son, Sarah’s word was – we have been trying so long, IMPOSSIBLE!
- Man says the 10 commandments are not relevant today, God says you must keep it.
- God says thou shalt not lie, man says it’s ok to lie for a good cause.
- God says don’t commit adultery or fornication, man says you got to try before you buy.
- Faith vs doubt.
- God’s wisdom versus man’s wisdom.
- Remember Romans 10:17
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
- Faith is expecting and depending on the word of God to do what it says.
- We don’t know how long Abraham and Sarah had been trying for a kid, but it was long enough for both of them to lose hope.
- Abraham was willing to choose Eliezer his servant to be heir.
- And Sarah was asking Abraham to make her maid his wife and have a child together.
- That’s what happens when we let go of the word of God, we get desperate and take matters into our own hands. It even seems to make us unreasonable. How could a wife, whilst she is alive, let her husband marry another woman? And moreover, it was the wife’s idea!
- Some would say that God was being unreasonable. But when God speaks, He is never unreasonable because He provides the power for it to be accomplished.
3. So Sarah’s maid, Hagar, has a son (Ishmael). How old was Abraham when Ishmael came out?
- Genesis 16:15-16
15 And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son’s name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael. 16 And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
- Abraham was 86 years old.
When we move from Genesis 16:16 to Genesis 17:1, how many years have passed?
- Genesis 17:1
And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
- 13 years have passed from one verse to another.
- At this time Ishmael is now 13 years old.
Why is God coming to talk to Abraham?
- Genesis 17:2-8
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly. 3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, 4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. 5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee. 6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. 8 And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
- Nothing new that God has not told Abraham before other than changing his name a little bit.
- Abram – exalted father.
- Abraham – father/chief of a multitude.
- What is the significance of the change of his name?
- It is connected with the promise that God gives – that he would be the father of many nations.
- The promise of Genesis 12 and Genesis 15 is the same as mentioned here.
- Abraham is probably thinking that God is coming to confirm His promise now to Ishmael.
What happens next? Let’s continue.
- Genesis 17:15-18
15 And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be. 16 And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her. 17 Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? 18 And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
- Sarah’s name is changed as well.
- Sarai – princess.
- Sarah – noble-woman.
- Abraham wants Ishmael to be the one, almost as if God has forgotten about his son. He is getting distressed thinking about this son that he has cherished for 13 years, thinking that he was the promised one. And now God comes and basically says – Ishmael is not that one!
- Interesting to note that Abraham and Sarah are 10 years apart and that if they have another son they will be 100 and 90 years old respectively.
- Why would this have been a problem?
- Romans 4:19-20
19 And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: 20 — He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
- Both Abraham and Sarah’s bodies were both dead at this point in their life.
- Maybe 13 years earlier it didn’t take any faith for Abraham to go and sleep with Hagar. Probably his body was not dead yet back then.
- But now, both Sarah and Abraham were beyond human, physical help.
- Romans 4:19-20
- Genesis 17:19-21
19 And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. 21 But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.
- God makes it so clear that Sarah will be the one who will fulfill the promise by even giving the name to their son – Isaac.
- But God does not forget Ishmael. He would also be blessed. But he was not the promised son.
- God’s methods always have to be done according to his way.
- It was never in the plan of God for Abraham to commit fornication in order to fulfill God’s promise.
- Maybe it was the customs of that time to have more than one wife. But God made Adam and Eve – 1 man to 1 wife.
- It was the people that left God who started having more than 1 wife.
- Genesis 4:17-19
17 And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch. 18 And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech. 19 And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah.
- It was the descendants of Cain (the one who killed his brother) that men started marrying more than one wife.
What is Sarah’s reaction to God’s promise that she would give birth to a son?
- Genesis 18:9-12
9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. 12 Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?
- God returns and tells Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child.
- Did Sarah believe? From her laugh we can see that she is still doubting God’s word.
What does God do?
- Genesis 18:13-15
13 And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? 14 Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. 15 Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.
- God puts Sarah in her place and talks to her directly this time.
- One of the greatest promises is given here.
- Is anything too hard for the Lord? A rhetorical question. What do you think? Of course not!
- If God can create the world with his word, surely forming a human being in the womb of another person past the time they can bear children is not too hard!
- We must always remember when it comes to the word of God, nothing is too hard. When God speaks, in His word is the power of God. We don’t need to be afraid of what man thinks or says.
- God is so gracious. He is giving chances for Sarah even to grow in faith.
- Genesis 21:1-3
1 And the Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did unto Sarah as he had spoken. 2 For Sarah conceived, and bare Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him. 3 And Abraham called the name of his son that was born unto him, whom Sarah bare to him, Isaac.
- The promise of God is finally fulfilled.
- Sarah gives birth to Isaac the promised son.
In the verses that we read, it doesn’t seem like Sarah had much faith. She was the one that got Abraham to sleep with Hagar her maid. She was the one that laughed when God came in the flesh and visited Abraham. Yet we are reminded of the first verse that we read:
- Hebrews 11:11
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.
- Sarah must have had a part to play in believing otherwise Isaac would not have been born.
- She had to look beyond the physical.
- Both Abraham and Sarah’s bodies were dead – they were not able to bear children.
- It seems like it is talking about Abraham only. But it can’t be. Because if Sarah didn’t believe, she would have never slept with her husband to even give him a chance to conceive. It must have been a mutual belief of both the husband and the wife.
- She judged Him faithful who had promised.
- She finally learnt the lesson of faith and clung to God’s word and His word alone for the promise to be fulfilled.
What is the challenge to our faith today?
- Who is the most important voice in our lives today?
- Is it our parents? Our friends? Our boss or lecturer? Our spouse maybe? Or maybe even our kids?
- May we learn this lesson of faith, learning to put God’s word first above anything this world says.
- Let us remember that nothing is too hard for the Lord. If the word is clear, let us learn to trust it, to have faith in it. Because His word is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes (Romans 1:16).
- If we are to grow in faith today, we must spend more time with God, spend more time in His word.