The story of Sarai (Sarah) has as many ups and downs as the roller coasters at the amusement park. Kinda reminds us of our own lives, right?
This is the account of Terah. Terah became the father of Abram, Nahor and Haran. And Haran became the father of Lot. While his father Terah was still alive, Haran died in Ur of the Chaldeans, in the land of his birth. Abram and Nahor both married. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife was Milcah; she was the daughter of Haran, the father of both Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.
(from Genesis 11)
The title of our week's study is "tis to laugh." We're going to look at three kinds of laughter that we see in Sarah's life. Three distinctly different times, and three distinctly different laughs. Just as in our own lives, there are chuckles, all-out belly laughs, bitter laughter, and the bubble of childish giggles, we will see a variety of situations and laughs in this story.
There is so much in Sarah's story that we can learn from. (So much, in fact, that we are going to linger here next week, too.)
No matter which way you spell it, Sarah's name means "princess." And she was the barren princess. It's obvious from the stories in Genesis that she was a very beautiful woman (in her later years she would have been striking, still) and very desirable. After all, when they were near the lands of the Pharaoh, he heard of her beauty and snatched her away from Abraham!
Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt
to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11 As he was
about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful
woman you are. 12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is
his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13 Say you are my
sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared
because of you.”
When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very
beautiful woman. 15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised
her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16 He treated Abram
well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female
donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household
because of Abram’s wife Sarai. 18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What
have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?
19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now
then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about
Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything
he had. (Genesis 12:10-20)
Honestly, this is one of those passages that we have trouble with today, right? Why DID he say she was his sister? Well, on the one hand, she really was his half-sister, which was permissible in tribal life at the time (they shared a common father, but had different mothers) but would be outlawed later on. And on the other hand, Abram is a human being, and we are all flawed. Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from the Bible is that God can work through (and in spite of) flawed, sinful humans to bring about His purposes!
Here is where the first laughter comes . . . back in the eleventh chapter, where we were introduced to our lady for this week: "Now Sarah was barren; she had no children."
When we studied Tamar, we discussed the importance of having children in that era. Sarah's loving marriage with Abraham had not been blessed with children. In a society that measured the worth of women by their fertility, she was barren. For any woman, this would be a hard thing to bear, but especially for the wife of a tribal leader, it was very difficult. As she walked around the encampment, she would see two or three women gathered together, perhaps talking of the latest accomplishments of their children -- what could she add to the conversation? Nothing. And as she walked away, she heard the whispers and the laughter behind her.
As she watched children at play, she would catch the eyes of the proud mothers who watched over them, and turn away . . . their mocking laughter would float on the wind to her ears.
Even in the Pharaoh's court, where the wives in the harem would vie for his attention and rejoice when they bore him a child, she was an outsider, an outcast. She had no children.
Bitter laughter, indeed.
Join us next time for more of Sarah's story.