When I read about Sarah in the old testament, I see a woman who had been through a LOT in her lifetime. Plucked from her home and family by a God she did not know who gave a word to her husband to leave her family and go to a land they did not know and to face many trials among people they did not know. It had to be lonely along the way.
The opening narrative in Genesis identifies Sarah as two things: Abram’s wife and that she was BARREN. (Gen. 11:30) Shortly after their 2nd move, we find another description of Sarah (then Sarai)- that she was very beautiful. (Gen. 12:14) In her life with Abram, she suffered the stigma of being barren and being treated with disdain for it. She moved from place to place- 5 times from what I can tell in scripture, never putting down those family roots that so many of us women long for. She was kidnapped- TWICE- because of her husband’s concern for their safety. And after so very long and so very much, finally, to her joy, she received, by faith, what had been promised to her. A son. A son who brought her joy and laughter, Isaac, the boy through whom God said her husband would be given many descendants.
But life was messy. And Sarah saw something no one else did that had the potential to threaten the very Word of God over their lives.
Let’s look at a few scriptures first:
Hebrews 11:8-16 New International Version (NIV)
“By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith, even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she[a] considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had the opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.”
Genesis Chapters 20-21, specifically, 21:1-13 New International Version (NIV)
The Birth of Isaac
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac[a] to the son Sarah bore him. When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the slave into a nation also because he is your offspring.”
But Sarah Saw
The Lord ALWAYS keeps His promises, and there will always be enemies or potential obstacles to those promises. Throughout the story of Abraham and Sarah, we see God making promises to them- promises for land and descendants.
Today, I want to draw your attention to Sarah and her unique role in birthing and standing guard over the promise of God.
***There is so much information about their lives that I will do my best to condense and stay on point, but if you are interested in all the intricate details, please take the time to read in Genesis about their journey.
As the above verses tell us: Hagar, the Egyptian maidservant of Sarah, had also born a son to Abram because Sarah and he decided to “help” God out with bringing about the promise He made to them. I could say a lot about Hagar in this lesson, but for today’s focus, we are going to zero in on a concept that I think every believer needs to be aware of in their own life and faith-walk, and for that, we need to look at Sarah.
The scripture says starting in verse 8 that “The child (Isaac) grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.” The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”
BUT SARAH SAW. Three words, but oh so important ones!
I personally know what it is like to have a promise from God and to have someone else mock it, try to discredit it and even threaten it. A lot of people read the story of Sarah and Hagar and come away with the opinion that Sarah was crazy, overbearing and unreasonable. They have compassion for Hagar and Ishmael, and empathy for their plight in this storyline.
But I’d like to stretch your thinking a bit today.
You see, when you have a promise from God, and someone else tries to lay claim to it, or mocks it, you have to understand that it is a direct threat to the Word of God.
Despite human error and bad decisions on Abram and Sarai’s part (their SIN), God’s promise remained. His promise of Isaac and what would come THROUGH Isaac never changed. Even though Sarai and Abram tried to make Hagar his wife and have a child with her- God’s perspective was- “Nope, Ishmael is NOT the one I promised.”
In Chapter 16 of Genesis, it says that Sarah gave Hagar to Abram to be his WIFE so that she could bear a child for them to be theirs. (vs 3-4). Of course, she did conceive and as soon as she knew she was carrying her, now, husband’s child, she thought her status was elevated and she began to despise Sarah and disrespect her. I want to draw your attention to something very important in that chapter and then we will come back to our focus today:
When Hagar disrespected Sarah, Sarah beat her and she fled from Sarah and ended up in the desert, near a spring, where God spoke something important to Hagarin verse 7- “Hagar, SERVANT OF SARAI, where have you come from and where are you going?”
I’ll let you read the rest on your own, but did you notice that God did NOT address Hagar as Abram’s wife??? He then goes on to tell her to GO BACK and SUBMIT to Sarai and He makes a promise to her to comfort her about her and her son’s future.
The point is, God had already established their positions in this story.
Abram: husband of Sarai.
Sarai: Wife to Abram.
Hagar: servant to Sarai.
Isaac: Promised one.
Even though ‘man’ tried to change their status and position in this strange, earthly relational-dynamic, God never viewed them any differently than what they were in HIS EYES.
Now let’s fast forward, approximately 14 years, to the weaning of Isaac.
There’s a huge feast in the works, people are celebrating, everyone’s happy, it’s time to party because Isaac is growing up!
BUT Sarah sees something that isn’t right.
Teenager Ishmael is mocking. He’s mocking the promise Sarah waited so long for–the promise her God gave. If his attitude is allowed to continue, the promised inheritance could be threatened. Listen, the enemy comes in many forms! Even through teen-aged boys and unassuming servants! No one else perceives the threat but Sarah. And she springs into action. She tells Abraham “Enough!” “Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.”
Does that seem harsh to you? It would to me if I didn’t know what was at stake:
Through Isaac, Jacob would be born. Through Jacob, the 12 tribes of Israel would be born. Through the 12 tribes of Israel, our Messiah would come. Through our Messiah, Jesus Christ, Abraham’s descendants would be born- children of faith…you and I!
The Lord had already had compassion on Hagar and made her a promise that her son would also be a great nation. There was no need for mocking, there was no need for Hagar or Ishmael to set their eyes on a position that was not theirs to have.
But Sarah… she SAW the intent of their hearts. She saw that their hearts were not really with her son, the promised one. And that it could have grave consequences on the future if allowed to grow and fester.
Have you ever seen something that isn’t quite right?
Maybe it is so blatant to you, but others seem completely oblivious to the trouble you see brewing? I used to despise this micro-discernment that I had because I always felt like it brought so much conflict and trouble into my own life. I would see someone mocking a ministry of God, or an insincere attitude or motive trying to infiltrate a family or ministry. I would sense when someone’s heart wasn’t with me or a cause of God and I struggled with how to respond to it. I always called it ‘picking up on the undercurrents’- and there was a time when I would actually ask God to BLIND me to it because I didn’t want to see it!
But then God took me to this scripture- “But Sarah Saw.” Three simple words. And my whole perspective changed.
God needs people who are willing to ‘see’ because He needs people who are willing to fight in the faith to preserve His Promise!
I have come to value as precious the times when God shows me things, even when it is hurtful because it has been His Way to commission me to fight in faith for His Word and His promise concerning whatever He is showing me.
Sarah knew that an inheritance was promised to come through Isaac. She knew what God had said. And she knew it needed to be protected. And since she was the only one seeing it, the call was on her to do something about it.
What has God promised YOU?
What are you “seeing” that is threatening it? Some of you are believing for your marriages, for your children, for your livelihood, for a spiritual inheritance to leave to your loved ones long after you are gone- tell me- what do you SEE surrounding that promise? Are there influences in your life that are contrary to God’s promises concerning it? Is anyone competing with you for the position you KNOW God promised YOU? Is the enemy mocking and trying to tear down the value of what you know in your heart of hearts God intends for you to have? Friend, if you are seeing it, then it’s time to accept the mission to do something about it.
Sometimes I think that if more of us would take to our knees in prayer to fight for what God says should be ours and if we would rise up and speak in faith believing, saying “NO.” to the devil and his tactics- maybe, just maybe, we would lay ahold of SO MUCH MORE than what we are now.
If we would stop tolerating what threatens our homes, our marriages, our children, our ministries, our livelihoods and we would proclaim the word of God over them instead, accepting nothing less than what His Word says- maybe we would SEE those promises come to pass!
And I so very much want to see His Promises come to pass- in my life and in the lives of others. When we lay hold of the promises by faith in this life- HE gets the glory!
Sarah knew what she had been given by God and she was not about to hand it over to anyone else. She knew that her promise had eternal impact. She knew that what was coming through Isaac was of eternal value for generations upon generations. And she had FAITH in God to courageously rise up against anything, and anyone, who threatened that.
When God promises you something- He promises it to YOU and you alone. No human decision, “Hagar” or “Ishmael” can take away His Perspective on that- He is simply waiting for you to agree with Him and STAND on what He has told you.
Before we pray, I just want to give you a few pointers on HOW you can handle when you ‘see’ something or when you discern an issue arising that is contrary to what God told you or showed you in His Word or that isn’t right concerning a promise you are standing for:
- Make sure that what you are discerning is correct. Ask God to confirm your discernment. If it is Him showing it to you, He will.
- Spend time in prayer and seek God for your “strategy”. Don’t go tearing off to save the day without hearing from God on HOW to deal with the problem. God has wisdom and scriptures available to counsel you so that you proceed wisely and ensure victory over the problem.
- Gather the scriptures about your situation that proclaim the promises of God and begin to declare them over the situation. There is no firm footing like standing on the Word of God. Your feelings won’t stay steady, the circumstances won’t stay steady, but God’s Word is ALWAYS steady. Stand on the Word and you will stand firm.
- Finally, stay patient. The scripture says: “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.”And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.” Commit to the long haul- God WILL give what is promised!