Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sinful Sarah Receives Redemption

Sarah (as in Abraham and Sarah, noted power couple of Scripture) gets a bad rap.

This past week, I've been thinking a lot about Sarah and how many Christian (women) need to revisit her story and learn what her life...messiness, mistakes and all...can teach us.

Up until now, I never thought very highly of Sarah. When I recall her story, I general only remember the following (unflattering) tidbits...

1. She and her hubby wanted a baby and couldn't have one. God made Abraham a promise that they WOULD have children, yet, even after that, years passed with no baby in sight. So, in stereotypical female fashion, Sarah "took matters into her own hands" and told Abraham to sleep with her servant so they could have children. (The original baby mama drama right here...).

2. That one decision ended up stirring up some major jealously in Sarah (um, duh! You told your husband to sleep with another woman, who then had the child you couldn't have!) and eventually led her to sending away her servant and her husband's son into the desert to die. No bueno...

3. Eventually, Sarah DID have a the ripe ole' age of 90!! And it was brought about only by God's miraculous intervention...not her own schemes.

Immortalized in women's Bible studies on the topics of jealousy and control, Sarah tends to live in infamy as the bad guy in the Abraham/Sarah union. Abraham doesn't typically get his dirty laundry put on display in sermons. But most of what we hear of Sarah was that she was the one who lacked faith, took control, walked in jealousy and had some pretty messed up ideas about sexual boundaries in marriage.

The Old Testament is pretty harsh when it comes to Sarah's biography, yet we see some shocking redemption when we flip further in the Book. Try Hebrews 11...the great hall of fame of faith. Lots of men in there--notable heroes who did epic things for God. Noah, Moses, David, just to name a few. Yet tucked away in that chapter is our good friend Sarah...the one we so often hold up as our "what NOT to do" a prime example of faith in the promises of God. What???

It's true. Check out verse 11 (emphasis mine)...

"And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise."

No, it wasn't ONLY the great faith of Father Abraham that brought a miraculous bundle of joy to this elderly, infertile couple. Clearly God saw some praiseworthy faith in Sarah to make sure she was noted forever in Scripture for her belief.

Cool side note: Mary (mother of Jesus) is praised for having this same kind of faith when the Lord tells her that SHE will miraculously have a baby: "Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” (Luke 1:45). I like that parallel and am forever encouraged by that verse. But I digress. Back to Sarah...

Humanity always shines through in Scripture. Flaws and failings are on parade for all to see...right alongside all the victories and heroic faith. This is, of course, to show us that people are people and that the real hero of our stories is always God. Sarah too is a wonderful example of this...God's grace at work DESPITE our epic fails.

Sarah, like many of us, felt like she heard a promise from God...she would not live without a legacy! Even when it was way, WAY too late and didn't make any earthly sense, God promised that He would indeed provide her with the desire of her heart. And yes, He would do this even after she screwed up...big time. She did things her way and made lots of unwise, worldly decisions. But somewhere along the way, Sarah had a change of heart. I can speculate that the untold part of her story involved repentance...and a supernatural growth of trust in the Lord. Because although the Bible clearly recounts her sin, it very highly commends her faith.

And thus we are left in the New Testament with a legacy of Sarah that holds her up as a woman of faith. Someone, who despite screw ups and seasons of seriously lacking faith, somewhere along the way decided to truly trust. She believed that God would bless her and give her her heart's desire...even after each passing decade gave her more and more reasons to doubt.

This simple thought about Sarah's faith encourages me. Because I am a modern-day Sarah. A woman who struggles with jealously when she sees other women having babies and receiving blessings at such a young age  and without the struggle. A woman who takes matters into her own hands to do all the "logical" things to make God's dreams for her life come true (without Him). A woman who has failed to believe, yet has gotten back on track (by His grace) to sincerely hold fast to His promises. Despite MY sin and screw ups, I really do believe God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

I, like Sarah, certainly don't deserve for Him to bless me. Sarah's story reminds me of the powerful reality of grace. Not only does our God never give up on us, He chooses to honor the little faith we put in Him.

I pray He finds me faithful...