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Saturday, July 19, 2014

A Closer Look at Sarah as Abraham's Wife -- Imperfect and Feisty, but also Submissive and Godly

The beautiful and feisty yet submissive and meek Sarah. (I thought she was putting up her fingers in the 'PEACE' sign! Ha!)

                                                                   1 Peter 3:5-6

For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

I begin this post with this Bible verse that shows Saint Peter praising Sarah, "who obeyed Abraham and called him lord", in her submission to him.

Lord here is not LORD, as in LORD GOD. Lord is the one with a small letter "l" that in present times roughly translated, just means "my dear husband". This title of respect also meant that she considered Abraham as her head or "master", to whom she must submit. 

Let me reiterate for those reading the Peaceful Wife Philippines blog for the first time, that I am a Catholic Christian, who only very recently was converted by our Lord after I let go and let God on September 1, 2013. By conversion I do not mean, I changed religions. The Lord called me and found me as a Catholic, and He made me "born again" ("The old has gone, the new is here!" - 2 Cor 5:17), while still remaining as one. The difference is that, I am now a real Christian. :) I am a true follower of Christ, not just a Cultural Catholic. Roman Catholicism aside, I have accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, and as such, I long to obey His Commandments and want to be more and more conformed to Him, day after day. Since then, the Lord has instilled in my heart and soul an urgent and deep desire to read His Word. I have been devouring the Bible with a hunger and thirst I have never experienced, before my conviction and conversion. I now spend hours studying and reading It every day. Not by my own 'goodness' and 'piety', though! Only by God's Grace. I have in my heart a yearning that is God-inspired. Just very recently, after months of studying the New Testament and after highlighting important and pertinent passages in it, the Lord led me into reading the Old Testament... 

The characters in the Old Testament were larger than life and awe-inspiring! Yahweh seemed to be always speaking to His People through prophets, dreams and angels, and on some wonderful occasions, even "appeared" personally to talk to them! How jealous I felt about the people of old! God was really speaking to them, in the Flesh! As in, through conversations and all that. Wow! But then, I remembered that Jesus was God Incarnate, and that He Himself said, "Blessed are they who believe, but do not see", (John 20:29), and immediately, I felt that there was no need to be jealous. I do believe even if I haven't seen God Himself, and so I am most blessed! :)

I am getting off-topic here. :)

The Lord inspired me to write today about Sarai or Sarah, the barren wife of Abraham, who was considered a model of submission, as per Saint Peter. Reading about her, I was expecting to read about all meekness and servitude and quietude. I was surprised that though she did exhibit those traits, she was not all that meek or quiet, at all! She was in fact, a bit feisty, when one got on her nerves! 

It just goes to show that SUBMISSIVENESS does NOT mean losing one's voice or one's character.

We know as early as Genesis 11:30 that "...Sarai was barren; she had no children." 

This barrenness brought out despair and impatience in Sarai, which is quite understandable. She was already 65 years old, and still childless! But Yahweh did promise Abraham that he would be the Father of many nations, which made her situation even more pathetic. They were not producing any offspring! How could her husband father many nations, if they cannot even produce one child?!?


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On two separate occasions, Sarah even seemed to have 'ordered' Abraham around!

'Bossy' Sarai Incident Number 1:

 Sarai got impatient waiting for the Lord to make her pregnant.
Sarah told Abraham to impregnate her maidservant, Hagar, since they were not
becoming pregnant. She resented her decision though.

Genesis 16:2


so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”


Abram agreed to what Sarai said.


* * *

'Bossy' Sarah Incident Number 2:

Sarah got irritated with her maidservant (Hagar) and 
(Abraham's son with her ) Ishmael.
Hagar, (Sarah's maidservant) with Ishmael, (Abraham's son with Hagar).
Sarah wanted them both out of her sight!

Genesis 21:8-13
8The child (Isaac) grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. 9But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking10and 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.” 11The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. 12But 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 offspringb will be reckoned. 13I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.”


In the first instance, it was Sarai herself who thought of the idea to give her slave, Hagar, to Abraham as his concubine, because she was already too impatient from being childless for too long. Abraham agreed. No contentions. No ifs, no buts. He did as Sarai told him to, and that union did bring him an offspring: Ishmael.

In the second instance, Sarah (God changed her name in Genesis 17:15 from Sarai to Sarah.) told Abraham to get rid of the slave woman and her son. The same woman, whom she 'gave' to Abraham to impregnate because she herself could not conceive a descendant at that time! She was acting a bit feisty and too touchy, don't you think? But not only did Abraham obey her order, God also told Abraham to "listen to whatever Sarah tells you."


Sarai/Sarah's actions (no matter how rough they may seem) were done with God's Will for them, still in her mind -- that of having a son from Abraham's seed and God's Promise in making Abraham the 'Father of Many Nations'. She wanted this to come to fulfillment. Her means of making it happen though was a bit faulty. For sure, God purified her intentions despite her frailties and errors in judgment, for she was truly seeking the Lord's Will in their lives. This "bossy" attitude was however the exception, rather than the rule. Remember, Abraham uprooted Sarai/Sarah from her family and brought her along to a wild goose chase, following God to wherever he was led. As his wife, Sarai/Sarah followed him wherever their journey and adventure went, without so much as a complaint!

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This totally puts biblical submission in a totally different light! 

Our ultimate peg/role model of biblical submission, whom Peter rightly singled out even saying that if we followed her example, we would be "her daughters",  was not a mindless doormat! She had a voice and she used it when she felt the need to be heard!


Sarah was also not a sinless and perfect woman. She too had her "crazy" moments. There were times when from being jealous/envious or offended, she was also prone to being overly dramatic. When she got too envious, she even became abusive towards Hagar! Yikes!

Genesis 16:3-6

So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.                      He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.
When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”


“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

* * *

My eyes got bigger and I had to read these passages several times, to see if I was understanding it correctly... 

Sarah, our role model of biblical submission seemed a bit of a shrew! Haha!


After pondering over it though, I realized that this woman, whom Peter highly thought of, enough to warrant being name-dropped in his epistle, was wholly human too -- just like you and me. She had her many moments of weakness too -- just like you and me! With Sarai/Sarah, her sore spot was really her infertility. Then, when she had finally conceived a son at the super ripe old age of 90 (!), what pushed her buttons, was having Ishmael (the son of her slave, Hagar), possibly getting a share of Father Abraham's inheritance! She was very protective of Isaac's personal interests! There was no messing with Mama Sarah!

After reading about her turn-off qualities that depicted her in a negative light, let me now share with you just how much of a great helpmeet Sarah was to her husband, Abraham. From having lived 127 years on this earth (Her death was recorded in Genesis 23.), an emotional outburst (or two or three or more!), was just normal and expected of a mere human being, like she obviously was. For most of her life though, she lived it with godly, wifely submission to Abraham, otherwise God would not have appointed her as the FIRST MATRIARCH (Genesis 17:15-16). God also dispensed certain unfortunate incidents in the households where Sarai/Sarah was housed, in order to protect her from harm.  See the TWO Bible passages with red asterisks * below. God clearly watched over His Servant's wife.

Here are some instances recorded in the Bible that showed how much of a supportive help meet Sarah was to Abraham:

On two separate occasions, one when she was 65, another when she was nearing 90, Abraham had to pass her off as his sister, just so that Pharaoh (1st instance) and later on, Abimelech (2nd instance), would not kill him off to possess her. She was very attractive in their eyes and both wanted her even in her old age! In Filipino, "Ang haba ng hair ni lola!!!" :) (She was really beautiful!)

In both occasions, Sarah did not object to being passed off as her husband's sister even if she risked being violated by these powerful men!!! (Note: The two Bible passages with red asterisks I mentioned above, could be found below. These showed how Yahweh protected Sarai/Sarah.)

* * * 

"She is my sister" Incident Number 1:
Genesis 12:10-20 

Abraham asked Sarai to tell Pharaoh that she was his sister, so they would notkill him in order to get her.

10 
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.”

14 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.

* 17 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!” 2Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.


   


"She is my sister" Incident Number 2:

Genesis 20:1-18
Sarah with Abimelech (She was supposed to be 90 here!!!
I wish I will look like that at 90! :)
Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar, and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister. Then Abimelech king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.


But God came to Abimelech in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”


Now Abimelech had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation? Did he not say to me, ‘She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ‘He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.


Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her. Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”


Early the next morning Abimelech summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid. Then Abimelech called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done. 10 And Abimelech asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”


11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ‘There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife. 13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ‘This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”


14 Then Abimelech brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him. 15 And Abimelech said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels[a] of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”


* 17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again, 18 for the Lord had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.
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If that was not submission, I don't know what is!!!

Sarah cooperated with her husband to carry out his wise and sensible plan  to protect their lives and their inheritance (even if it appears odd or foolish to us!), so that God could fulfill His purposes in them. She was, in fact, being a godly wife—doing good and acting with pure conduct. As Abraham’s partner and helper, she was showing her love and respect for him. 

Abraham in so few words asked that she's gotta "trust him on this", and that he's "got her covered", in this passage.


Genesis 20:13
And when God had me wander from my father's household, I said to her,
'This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, "He is my brother."'"


Another notable incident where Sarah shows her submission and respect for Abraham was when the three unexpected visitors suddenly appeared in their home (unknown to them, it was the Lord God and two angels), and Abraham quickly went to Sarah's tent to tell her to fix them some nourishment pronto!

Genesis 18:6

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs[b] of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

It was not written that she complained, got irritated by the unexpected guests, or pouted away, because they arrived right "in the heat of the day" when she could have very well been resting. (v.1) She chose to be hospitable instead, and did just what Abraham asked her to do immediately. That takes selflessness and obedience to her beloved!

The whole Abraham-Sarah love affair had only one verse wherein she called him her 'lord' and it was during that time when she overheard the divine visitors telling Abraham that she was to conceive a child and the child would be born at the same time, next year. She laughed at the fearless forecast, both in joy (kilig) and in incredulity (ows?) !

Genesis 18:10-15
The three unexpected visitors of Abraham. It is believed
that one of them is the Lord God Himself.
10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”
Sarah laughed inside.


13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’

 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? 

I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”
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Baby Isaac with Mama Sarah. In Hebrew, Isaac
 means "laughter".
Sarah and Abraham did have a child (Isaac), as promised by the Lord, when Sarah was 90 and Abraham was 100! Lola at lolo na! (Grandparents already by their ages!) because as the Lord Himself had said, "Is anything impossible with the Lord?"


Of course the answer to that would be a resounding "NO"!!!!

"So what happened? Abraham believed the promise, but Sarah was dubious. She could not wrap her head around the idea that at this stage of her life she could “have pleasure.” She knew she would never experience the joy of having her own baby, and she probably doubted she could even have pleasure with her husband. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hadn’t had sex in years—her periods had stopped, she was well beyond the age of childbearing, they were both old and worn out, so why bother?

impdfilipinas.blogspot.com
But Abraham laid hold of the promise by faith. I picture him coming to Sarah and saying, “Honey, the Lord Himself promised us a baby. Let’s get it on tonight!” She may have been skeptical, but the fact was she did it—and the rest is history. She honored her husband and expressed her faith in God, however shaky, by doing what it took to conceive the promised child. The idea that Peter may have had Genesis 18 in mind is also supported by the fact that Hebrews commends Sarah’s faith to receive power to conceive:
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered Him faithful who had promised” (Heb. 11:11).
If it is true that Peter has in mind the events of Genesis 18, then Sarah is being commended not for going along with her husband in some 'shady' scheme, as a common interpretation of the Peter passage would have us believe, but for submitting to Abraham and doing her part in God’s plan for their lives out of respect for her husband and faith in God.
 This is a model that we can whole-heartedly emulate.
                                                                                 (Source: Christian Post, Diane Castro)
* * *  * * * * * * 

Let us all be daughters of Sarah. Let us do what is right and let us not give way to fear.

May we all be richly blessed! :)


2 comments:

  1. Hi Nikka,
    For the past few days I've been thinking about Sarah too, and last night I read about her in 1Peter because I was struggling with submission, and was mulling over what made her so great that we should follow her, and voila, today I saw your blog!! God inspired you in his perfect timing to help me! Thank you!
    Some other women in the bible that might be interesting to analyze in this light would be Abigail, wife of Nabor, and Michah, wife of David.
    By the way, I'm so impressed that you can devote hours a day to reading scripture, write this blog, attend classes at seminary, bake tasty treats, AND take care of 4 children and a house. How do you do it? I have 3 kids, ages 4, 2, and 10 months, and I can barely spend 10 min reading the bible, and spend time with the kids, and pull together decent meals. I've been praying for God to help me with time management. Do you have any time management tips?
    WC

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    1. Hi WC! :)

      Wow! You would not believe this, but I was napping the other day and in my dream, a very vivid "GENESIS 21" 'sign' or spelled-out letters of it, kept on flashing again and again.

      I woke up and got my Bible and went straight to the passage, and lo and behold... It was about Sarah!

      So, I prayed to God to be led to what to write next, and the Spirit encouraged me to read the whole of Genesis. Not just the story of Abraham, but also of Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. I was floored. It was so beautiful! :)

      Guess what too? :) I have already put in my drafts a post on Abigail. We are on the same wavelength on this one. :) The Lord has spoken to me, through you, that I am on the right track! Thanks, sister. :)

      As for juggling my time, let me see... It helps that we are blessed to have one live-in helper who helps me with chores and the children, particularly our one-year-old, Isabelle. But, the main bulk of housework is still with me. I clean, cook, tutor the kids, do groceries, attend to my husband, etc. I wake up at 4 am to pray first and foremost, then proceed with the chores. I blog when I feel led by the Spirit to do so, after chores or before sleeping, whenever the Inspiration hits me. :)

      So, you have three kids, two years apart, then! :) So much like us, but we have four kids, three years apart. :) My husband is good with the kids too, so he helps me with them. He is also the disciplinarian, so he handles them when they are antsy or behaving badly.

      I don't know if I have good tips on time management. I go at it simply.

      I pray first thing in the morning and lift up everything to Him. I start with the 'Our Father' daily.
      Then, I ask Him what I should do next! That basically sets my schedule for the day. :) I ask, then do it. Ask again, then do it. Before I know it, my day has ended and was productive, thank God!

      Praying for you to balance out your time, too. It's the little ones who really eat up much of our time, but they grow up too fast, so let's just enjoy them while they still need us this much. :)

      I hope I helped somehow? I don't really have time management tips. I just really go with the flow. The Lord's Plan for me in this new stage of my life is to KEEP STILL, so I don't really over-manage anything, including my time. :) I just keep still and know that HE IS GOD. :)

      God bless you, WC!

      Nikka

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Feel free to comment. I would love to discuss things with you. :)