Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Sarah - jumping ahead of God
Back to our story of Sarah, and how she had been waiting for ten years now for a promise from God to be fulfilled . . .
Let's dive in!
She (Sarah) had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; so
she said to Abraham, ‘The Lord has kept me from having
children. Go sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a
family through her.” Abraham agreed to what Sarah said. So
after Abraham had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarah his
wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her
husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar and she conceived.
You know how in the old movies, there is always some very dramatic music that plays when our main character has made a mistake? Some bombastic, tell-tale music that says, "Watch out!" Yep, I think that music is playing right now for Sarah.
She couldn't wait any longer on God, so she tried to help matters along. She was tired of being patient and she came up with a horrible solution! Sarah gives her husband permission to sleep with her servant; Abraham agrees (I wish he hadn't, don't you?) and Hagar becomes pregnant. Now, the customs of the times allowed for this to happen -- a woman could do exactly what Sarah did. A barren wife would often offer her servant as a substitute, and the resulting child would become a legal heir of the family.
Oy vey. Didn't Sarah do the same thing that most of us would do?
I don't mean that we would offer a servant girl to our husband! (Who has servant girls, anyway?)
Seriously, what I mean is that often we are tempted to (and do) take action when it seems that God is silent. Why not? The Bible tells us "God helps those who help themselves," right?
Instead it says, "Wait patiently for the Lord."
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.
Oh, I believe I can identify with Sarah. I've been there. Have you? Haven't we all been in situations where we were waiting for God to help us? When we knew that as the best Father ever, He would want things a certain way -- but they weren't that way yet? Times when we looked in His word and saw a promise, but we knew that it hadn't yet been fulfilled in our lives?
Sarah did what most human beings (because we are human, and we are sinful) would do. She took action because God appeared silent. She couldn't stand the "mark" of being barren any longer, and so she thought up a plan to make that disgrace go away.
But she soon finds out the folly of her own way. Desperation makes us do stupid things sometimes. Plus, we can't see the future, and the results of our decisions. Little does Sarah know that her efforts will only fuel bitterness and heartache. Sarah begins to resent Hagar and her husband.
Then Sarah said to Abraham, "you are responsible for the wrong
I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows
she is pregnant she despises me." (Genesis 16:5)
Who is responsible?
Who offered her servant to him? I think Sarah has it a little wrong here, but I can get her drift. Can you see why she was upset with him? I think she would have preferred that her hubby say, "No, dear, if you and I can't have a child together, we just won't have one. After all, we're waiting for that special child that God promised us. Let's wait a little longer."
Well, he didn't say that. He didn't take charge. He agreed to Sarah's terrible plan. And he even ends up telling Sarah, well, if you aren't satisfied with how things are, do whatever you want to, with your servant.
Sarah (according to verse 6) mistreated Hagar, and so the servant girl ran away. Does that sound like what we do sometimes? When we make a mistake, do we sometimes take out our frustrations on others? Do we get irritated and take it out on whomever is standing nearby? Hagar eventually returned from the desert and gave birth to a son, named Ishmael. He became the father of the Arab nations, and the children of Israel are still fighting them today. So Sarah's plan ended up having some very long-reaching consequences; in fact, the world is still feeling those results today.
What can we learn from Sarah this week?
I think the first thing is that when God seems silent, we need to expect it to be difficult. We noted that the ten years Sarah waited for a child probably seemed like ten times ten, or even more. It was so hard to wait, after hearing His promise. She knew what He had said -- she would give birth to a son -- but it was driving her crazy to wait. Yes, it is difficult sometimes to wait on God.
Some people will paint a rosy picture of life as a child of God. They will use lovely colors and lovely words, and make it seem that it will always be sunshine and lollipops. But it isn't always easy to follow God. Sometimes He is testing our faith. God often uses trials and difficulties to mature our faith. Sometimes He is silent because it actually helps us to mature.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you
face trials of many kinds . . . (James 1:2)
We can count it joy because those trials are for a purpose. They help us develop and mature. If we are in the midst of a trial, Charles Stanley writes that we should "ask ourselves and then ask God, what is He trying to accomplish in my life?" And as James says a few verses down, if we ask God for help, for wisdom, He gives freely to those who ask.
God's silence may be that He is "growing" us so that we can encourage and instruct others. Aren't the best people to help us with a situation, the people who have already gone through it, and come out on the other side? We will have insights that can bless others, if we will wait and work through it with Him.
God's silence may have been His way of finding out if Sarah and Abraham were going to be faithful to Him, and trust in His promises. After all, how do we really know if we trust God, unless that trust is tested from time to time?
We'll conclude our study of Sarah tomorrow.