Monday, September 6, 2010

Mental Vitamins: Twelve Extraordinary Women Series - Sarah

For those who may have just stumbled upon my blog, in the last week or so, I have been reading and reviewing a book called Twelve Extraordinary Women by John MacArthur. The book highlights the lives of 12 women from the bible and I have gotten so much out of it already that I felt I should share how the book has influenced me personally. I encourage others to read this book along with me and share thoughts and comments below or via email.

Last week the focus was on Eve, this week I'll be going into chapter 2 of the book which shares about the life of Sarah.

photo credit: Elspeth Young

Sarah was the wife of Abraham whose name means "father of many nations". He was given this name by God Himself and was promised that his lineage would be like the stars of the sky in number. Being Abraham's wife, Sarah was to be a large role in this prophecy. Sarah was past the age of childbearing years, in fact, she was well past eighty before she would ever conceive. So the more time that passed and she did not become pregnant the more impatience and doubt began to consume her. Instead of waiting on the Lord to fulfill His promise, she devised a man-made solution to her dilemma. She took it upon herself to produce a scheme that was so ill-advised and incorrigible that she would not only regret it for the rest of her days, but the consequences of her choice had far-reaching implications.

In her haste, she concluded that a kind of surrogate parenting was the only possible solution to her predicament and convinced her husband to have a child with their maid servant, Hagar. In other words, she engineered her own  plan to fulfill the divine promise to Abraham. She unwittingly stepped in the role of God. We as humans, (myself included) can let ourselves get anxious about the future and question God's faithfulness to His word and sometimes we even try to "take over". When we do this, we in essence try to "play God". That is a dangerous thing to do, my friends. Scripture shows us time and time again how doing things our own way instead of God's way only leads to destruction and heartache. God's plan is PERFECT. We are the one's who botch things up! God in the driver seat is always the best way to travel through life!

MacArthur points out that this was the first case of recorded polygamy in Scripture involving a righteous man. God's design for marriage was monogamy from the beginning. (Matt.19:4-5) Disobedience to that standard has always resulted in negative consequences. There are several examples in the Bible of how polygamy divided hearts and nations. No good  has ever come from dishonoring God's will for the sanctity of marriage. Abraham's union with Hagar is certainly no exception.

Take note that  up to this point, God had never explicitly said that Sarah would be the mother of the nation in question. That was merely her hope. But the incident with Hagar shows that Sarah's hope was weakening. Hagar gave birth to a son named Ishmael and 13 years after that Sarah still was unable to have children. Despite the despair she must have felt, her faith shines through. Scripture says she "judged Him faithful who had promised". (Heb. 11:11) The Lord came to Abraham, to renew His promise for Sarah's sake so that she could hear it with her own ears. By this time Sarah was in her nineties and when she heard this she "laughed within herself". (Gen. 18:12) Sarah would indeed have a son and she named him Isaac which means: "laughter".

You see, God's timing was perfectly planned. There was no denying that He had a part in this conception. It's an impossibility that a woman in her nineties could give birth.....without God. Imagine your ninety-year-old grandmother giving birth. Sounds impossible right? And that was His plan all along, He would set the plan in motion at such a time that it would force others to see God's involvement - a sort of fact check if you will.  Nothing is impossible to God.

God still presently works in this way. Sometimes making us wait and hope in the Lord is so that others will find their faith through our experiences and also so that our own faith might be strengthened. Sarah's faith was tested. She initially failed because she did not put all of her hope and trust in God, but in the end, her faith was restored and her life became a lesson to all that through Christ ALL things are possible according to His plan.

A few things that I personally took away from this look into Sarah's life is:
1. Don't try to play God. - No matter how bad we want things to go a certain way or how much we think we need things to happen within our projected time frame, we shouldn't try to override God. Would you try to go somewhere you have never been without a map or directions? No! So why would we try to go through life without God as our guide? For me, my sense of direction is so bad, I need a GPS to get me where I'm going. God doesn't need GPS...He IS the GPS. He knows exactly where we need to go and wants to take us on the BEST route to get there! And the good news is, that when we get off-route (which we inevitably will)...He will be right there to get us back on track!
2. I AM IMPATIENT! Patience is not a virtue for's something I lack and therefor is a weakness. Waiting on our Visas to arrive has really gotten me worked up lately. I'm a planner and we have had a projected date to leave for Switzerland, so the more days that pass without those visas, the less likely we are going to be "on [my] schedule". Reading about how Sarah allowed her anxiousness to control her enough that she made a really poor decision and ultimately caused the plan to go off course, has made me step back and realize I haven't been applying my faith lately. I've been very hopeless and doubtful....anything but trusting in His promise to "perfect that which concerns [me]." He has the perfect date set (for everything in life), I just need to trust in that.
3.God knows best. Our greatest plans and our grandest dreams cannot compare to what God has organized for our life. He is a God of order and purpose. We can get caught up in the unknown and uttering "I wish" all the time - as in "I wish God would hurry up and give me what I wish for!" when what we wish for may not always be what is best for us. So much of our relationship with Christ is faith and although faith is hard to hold onto, it is also something that is honored. God wants us to be successful, but we must rely on Him to help us succeed.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)

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