Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son. Her husband Abraham was almost dead, but he became the ancestor of many people. In fact, there are as many of them as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the beach.
Hebrews 11 is called “the hall of faith” because it introduces many forefathers of faith. So far, we have learned about the faith life of Abel, Enoch, and Noah. Today, I want to talk about the faith of Abraham and Sarah. Especially I want to focus on the life of Sarah.
Sarah, the wife of Abraham
Let us take a look at Sarah’s life briefly. Sarah is the wife of Abraham and at the same time she is his cousin (Genesis 11:29). That is, she is married to her relatives. So Abraham used to call her ‘my sister.’ Her name, Sarah, indicates the mother of all nations. And her original name is Sarai, meaning “princess.” In fact, it is said that Sarah was beautiful like her name. Because of her beauty, she fell into danger several times. For example, Genesis 12 records the king of Egypt was attracted to her even when she was 65 years old. More surprisingly, Sarah was still beautiful at the age of 89. King Abimelech of Gerar tried to take her as his wife (Genesis 20:2). However, he received God’s warning and returned her to Abraham. At the age of 90, she had the son, Isaac, and died at the age of 127 (Genesis 23:1).
It says that people can live up to 100 years now. As we live longer, we have a wish to live healthy on this world, not to suffer too much, not to be a burden to others, and go to heaven. Besides, women have one more wish such that they want to be beautiful even in old age. In this sense, it is said that every wife wants to hear ‘you are pretty!’ from their husband. Is that true? Though I am not good at complementing my wife, I hope everyone here could say to your wife, “you are beautiful!’ And I also had a thought for a moment. If there is more detailed record about Sarah, scientists will study how she kept her beauty even at the age of 90. Unfortunately, the bible doesn’t reveal the secret.
Not only Sarah was beautiful but also she was the woman of submission. 1 Peter 3:6 says, Sarah was like that. She obeyed Abraham. She called him her master... Sarah was obedient to her husband. She left home to live with Abraham in a foreign land, Canaan. She didn’t complain when Abraham put her into danger twice to save his life. She didn’t object Abraham’s poor choice he made during the quarrel with the nephew Lot about the estate. She followed him even though he seemingly took a loss. Taken as together, we can say that Abraham could be called the forefather of faith because he had a wife like Sarah. Think of what would happen if she was not submissive! Abraham might not able to follow God’s order easily because he might have to argue with her every time.
Abraham is the man of great faith, so does Sarah. Her faith also was impressive because she obeyed his decision in doing God’s work by faith. In short, Sarah is a perfect woman. She is beautiful extrinsically and intrinsically enough to be the target of the jealousy of others.
Sarah’s suffering, infertility
Though she looked perfect, she had a worry. We don’t exactly know when she got married. But she couldn’t bear a child. However, there is no record Abraham hated Sarah for that. They still had a good marriage life except that they couldn’t have an heir even after tens of years passed.
According to the statistics, one of seven couples experiences infertility. A newspaper says that their psychological suffering is great and go through similar stages with that of cancer patients. At first, they start to reject the notion that they can’t have a child, “no way, me?” Then, they get anxious, “I didn’t do anything bad, why me?” In the final stage, they fall into depression when they try all possible methods and fail. Most of times, wives feel sorry to their husband, ‘If he met someone younger than me, he would have a baby already.”
Nowadays many people can have a child through artificial insemination thanks to advance science. However, it is still difficult to succeed and cost a lot of money. To those who are distressed with continuous fails in having a child, many people throws out the harsh words, such as “how about adoption? Don’t worry!” Although they mean to console their pain, such words hurt most to the couples without a child.
Sarah and Abraham also had pains that other normal couples didn’t understand. Though their marriage life was merry, they didn’t have a child. Sarah might have felt sorry to Abraham. It might be this reason why she was loyal to him.
Days and years passed. However, they still had no child. Although Sarah was still beautiful and healthy even in old age, she suffered from depression for the stress that she couldn’t bear an heir.
Then, they heard God’s voice to leave the hometown. And God promised them the most exciting news. Genesis 12:2, I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you. I will make your name great. You will be a blessing to others. God said, I will make you into a great nation. He gave the joyful promise to the couple who were desperately trying to have a child. Moreover, God promised the nation, not just one child. How would Abraham reply? He must have shouted, “Amen!” However, there was another person who would call out to God with a bigger voice. That is Sarah. God gave her a hope to the sorrowful woman who couldn’t bear a child.
In midst of worries, Abraham and Sarah held onto God’s promise that Abraham would be the father of the nation. They overcame difficulties and danger together. However, God’s promise didn’t fulfill as quickly as they thought. Whenever they were distressed, God reminded him of the promise. Genesis 13:16, 15:5 “I will make your children like the dust of the earth. Can dust be counted? If it can, then your children can be counted.” Abram believed God’s promise and He called him righteousness. Nevertheless, he still didn’t have a child.
One, two, five, and ten years passed after they heard God’s promise. Abraham turned to 85 and Sarah was 75. I am sure that Abram must have felt the last 10 years of waiting is longer than Noah’s 120 years of building the ark, or Enoch’s 300 years with God. It is not to mention how anxious Sarah was during this waiting. After waiting so many years, Sarah became desperate and came up with her own plan. She convinced her husband to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar to produce an heir (Genesis 16:1-2). The child born from her was named Ishmael. Through this event, one thing is evident. It was that Sarah was barren, not Abraham. From this encounter with Hagar, Abraham had a son. However, Sarah’s heart was broken. Another 13 years passed. Abram became 99 and Sarah was 89. Abraham grew old now and most of all Sarah stopped having periods of the woman long time ago, indicating that she was way past of child bearing age.
Then, God appeared to Abram and told him that it is time to fulfill the promise that God made 25 years old. He did so twice (Genesis 17, 18). With God’s assurance, Abram laughed and Sarai laughed in heart. It is more like a laugh for embarrassment, not mockery. ‘God, I am too late. I am too old for having a child. Sarah shared the same thought. “God, it is embarrassing just to think of me having a baby at this age.” However, this time God was firm, I will establish my covenant with Isaac. By this time next year, Sarah will have a son by you.
The change in Sarah’s body.
There is one experience that is unique to women, not men. It is pregnancy. It is amazing and mysterious feeling to have a life inside. How mysterious it is to have a life that is similar to mom and dad! How happy it is to see the little feet stretching inside mom’s stomach! All the family are in high spirit with expectation, ‘Soon we can meet you.’
Like God promised, Sarah’s body started to change. Her stomach grew bigger and she had hard time to walk around. She often experienced shortness of breath. How did she feel during nine months of pregnancy? Did she feel shameful and avoid others’ eyes? Or did she feel thankful to God everyday as she watched her stomach grow? I am sure that she was happy with a thought of the new child and forget all the distressed times in the past because she waited for so long.
The bible says she received a miracle because of her faith, Hebrews 11:11, Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son. What does she believe? She had faith that God always fulfilled His promise. Though she laughed in heart when God said, she quickly changed her mind with God’s assurance and regained faith in God that He would do what He had promised. She didn’t look at her limitation as human but looked up the mighty God, ‘God is sincere. He never fails His promise.’
Sarah was old and no longer had the periods of women. She didn’t have a hope of child in human’s perspective. So she laughed. It is distressing and hopeless situation. At first, she wanted to give up. However, she didn’t stop there and changed her mind, “Though my body is old and barren, my God is sincere.” We should learn that when she confessed it, she received a miracle. What kind of miracle is it? Her hopeless turns to a hope. Her old sadness turns to joy. The lifeless life like ash without the beauty turns to the life of abundance that bears a full of life. Such miracle was brought upon her because of faith that God would do what He promised.
Today’s biblical passage gives us the message that God never gives up His promises and we shouldn’t give up His promise since He doesn’t give up.
Of course, Sarah almost gave up because she knew she couldn’t be a mother. Her husband, Abraham knew that well. In human’s perspective, they didn’t have a hope, nor expectation. Though they waited for tens of years, nothing happened. And they became tired. So Sarah almost gave up the hope. Then what did she see? She realized that God never gives up the promise that He made. So she believed sincere God. She believed that everything is possible with God’s strength though her body is impossible to conceive.
We are distressed because of problems in family, in school, or in work. We also feel depressed when we cannot do anything as parents. We feel sad when we fail to lead a good life. We feel discouraged when we don’t have any money or wisdom. So we feel like to give up everything. At that time, there is one thing we need to do. We need to endure such a moment because God works for us when we don’t have any strength left, when we lost all of our self-confidence. So todays’ passage tells us that like Sarah we should hold onto God that completes His promise.
If God gave you this family, this work, and this church, then please do not easily give up even though you are frustrated. We have a hope because God never gives up, because God is sincere, because God always keeps His promise, and because God always rewards those who hold onto His promise. So don’t give up your dream, work, or church and look up to God’s sincerity. As God brings a miracle to Sarah, we will meet a miraculous moment.
Sarah had Isaac.
Sarah had Isaac at 90 and said, Genesis 21:6-7, Sarah said, “God has given laughter to me. Everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” She continued, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? But I’ve had a son by him when he is old.” Sarah shouted around, “I’ve had a son!” It is easy to imagine her running around the town out of joy, “I did! Though I am old, I don’t care. Do you know how I felt for all this time? I am happy and happy!” I feel like I can hear her shouts. Sarah could enjoy such a joy because she had faith. She didn’t look to her limitation as a human but held onto to God. She received God’s blessing of joy because she looked up to God the almighty and His sincerity. I hope you and I could have such God’s blessing.
Let me introduce a Christian musician in Korea, Yong-duk Choi. He made the Christian magazine called, ‘Day Sun Night Moon’ and composed popular songs. I am sure that many of you heard his songs, ‘Can I live like sun in the day and moon at night? Or ‘God never fails me.” His other song, ‘God never’, is his testimony also. The song goes like this.
Title: God never
Verse 1: God never disappoints me, He always keeps me with fairness and grace.
Verse 2: looking back all the past years, nothing escaped God’s hands.
Chorus: oh! Sincere God. Oh! Sincere lord. I will not leave you. I will not abandon you. The lord promised. He kept his promise. Ever since, I am certain that He will guard me.
In the poem, ‘all his past years’ indicates 6 years from 2001 through 2007. It was his most painful time of life because his beloved daughter Roa fought against brain tumor and went to heaven at 16 years old. However, he didn’t blame God because he believed that God controls everything happening in this world. So this song is the praise to God when he sent the daughter to Him first. And he confessed, “God never disappoints me. Looking back all the past years, nothing escaped God’s hands.”
With the death of the daughter, he could be distraught and disappointed. He could blame God. However, he didn’t. Instead, he held faith that God is sincere. He believed sincere God whether he is in joy or in sadness or in distress. God doesn’t abandon me. God keeps his promise. Though he had to send his daughter to heaven, God is sincere. Such confession of faith makes him live and overcome his despairing moment of life. It made him keep his hope for heaven.
“God who protects me will protect my daughter. I am not lonely whether I live on this earth or not because God whom I worship is with me.” God, whom we worship, is sincere. God gives complete peace to those who believe in Him. It is perfect peace that other people don’t understand. I hope you and I could have such peace.
God never gives us up. So look forward to His miraculous works. Then there will be time we will sing in joy like Sarah rejoiced at the birth of Isaac. There will be time we will enjoy complete peace like the poet. Don’t give up even though you feel discouraged. But hold onto God. God, whom we worship, is sincere. May God bless you to have abundant grace and peace, who hold onto God, in the name of the Lord.
October 20, 2013
Written by Ho-Jin Lee
Translated by Hyunsoon Min