(Genesis chapters 16-21)
Sarah was an unusually attractive woman. The stories in Genesis chapter 12 and Genesis chapter 20 record how Abraham told Sarah to tell Pharaoh and Abimelech, respectively, that she was his sister and not his wife. But that is not the reason why we want to look at Sarah’s life.
I imagine in her younger days she was a very obedient submissive wife. I don’t think that if Abraham had a choice in a wife he would have married her if she were not a godly virtuous woman. We know one thing for sure and that is that they were only ten years apart in age. (Genesis 17:17) Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?
This was a bit unusual in itself as most of the Old Testament men that we read of were far older than their wives. Rebekah, Leah, Rachel and Zipporah were probably in their late teens, or at the very most, in their early twenties when they married. Isaac was around forty years of age as was Moses when they married and Jacob was much older than both of his wives. Why? The women married young so they could raise large families. They also were valuable for the bride price that would be paid as a form of compensation when they moved to another family. Therefore their fathers wanted to marry them off as soon as possible.
There are many positive things that can be said about Sarah. But I want to deal with some of the negative character traits that she developed later in life and see what we can learn from them.
q Sarah was impatient.
In Old Testament times if a woman could not have children it was a reproach to her. It was seen as a curse from God because it meant the extinction of her husband’s family line. This was a burden to women and a cause of great shame. Sarah was barren and well past the time of life for having children.
It was a common practice in Old Testament times for a woman’s handmaidens to bare children for her. The children that the handmaidens bore were then considered to belong to their mistress. So when Sarah no longer saw herself as being able to have children she looked to her handmaid, Hagar, to have children by her. This is when all the trouble started.
(Genesis 16:1-2) Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
Oops! This was Abraham’s big mistake. He listened to his wife. The Bible clearly teaches that the man is to be the head and there is a reason for that. Here is a good example of a woman usurping the authority from the man and the disastrous results that followed.
(Genesis 15:2-6) And Abram said, Lord GOD, what wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless, and the steward of my house is this Eliezer of Damascus? And Abram said, Behold, to me thou hast given no seed: and, lo, one born in my house is mine heir. And, behold, the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, This shall not be thine heir; but he that shall come forth out of thine own bowels shall be thine heir. And he brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.
God promised Abraham that he would have an heir. So when Sarah suggested to him that he have a child by Hagar he consented. At the time he did not know that God would give him a son with Sarah.
q Sarah took on the role of God.
The Bible says in Genesis 16:3 “And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.”
There was no need for her to do this other than Sarah’s own selfish motives for having children. God had promised Abraham a child. Sarah did not know that it would be her own child so she intervened. Little did she realize at the time what a mess she was going to make. Anyone who knows anything about Biblical history and prophecy will understand how her one selfish act almost six thousand years ago is still creating problems today.
When will man, or woman, ever learn that
they just cannot “play” God or “be” God or “do” what God does as well as God
himself can and be and does? God
doesn’t need any help, least of all from humans. He created us, not the other way around. Remember Genesis 1:27? If you are confused about this issue I
suggest you read the creation account again.
You won’t see man show up until the end. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created …”
q Sarah became bitter and jealous.
As soon as Hagar conceived, she despised Sarah. (Genesis 16:4) And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes. As a result of Hagar’s feelings toward her, Sarah became bitter and jealous. As any woman would. Any woman that is walking in the flesh that is.
Yes, yes, yes and yes. It was Sarah who did all these things. Now she is having second thoughts about the whole “crazy idea.” Well, now, it is just a little bit too late for that. Now the damage is done. Now Hagar is also Abraham’s wife and she is going to have a child.
q Sarah places the blame on someone else.
(Genesis 16:5) And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
Do you understand what she is saying here? “Boo hoo. It’s all your fault, Abraham. Boo hoo. You love her more than you do me. Oh, boo hoo. I’m going home to mother.”
The Bible says in 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
This I believe was Abraham’s big mistake. He did not follow this Bible principle. He did what his wife said not thinking what the consequences might be. Now he was about to pay for it.
q Sarah became vindictive.
Abraham did not want to deal with two squabbling women so he left the matter in Sarah’s hands. (Genesis 16:6) But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face. Sarah, like most women when faced with a rival, and given the opportunity, took advantage of the situation and made Hagar’s life miserable. Abraham’s wife or not, Hagar was still Sarah’s handmaid and therefore still under her authority. Finally Abraham gave her permission to just “take care of it.“ The Bible says she dealt hardly with her. Whatever it was, it caused Hagar to run away. I’m sure this was exactly what Sarah wanted her to do.
q Sarah hurt innocent people.
Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was thirteen years old when Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born. Sarah was now a real mother herself and she was very protective of Isaac. When she saw Ishmael teasing Isaac she became very angry and demanded that Abraham send both Ishmael and his mother, Hagar, away. Here we go again. Thirteen years later. Hmm! Thirteen. The number that represents rebellion. I wonder if there is a connection here? Oh, well, just a thought.
(Genesis 21:10-11) Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. And the thing was very grievous in Abraham's sight because of his son.
Ishmael was not only Hagar’s son but also he was Abraham’s son and Sarah didn’t realize what she was asking her husband to do. Or maybe she did but just didn’t care. You see selfishness causes us not to see anything but our selves and our wants. The eyes of a selfish person only look inward.
Sarah’s life regarding the story of Hagar and Ishmael is a good example of what bitterness and jealousy can do to a family. There were four other people involved in this one situation (Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Isaac) but Sarah was only concerned about herself. The Bible says in Romans 14:7 “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.”
Bitterness and jealousy will always hinder not only our walk with God but also our ability to think clearly and rationally. There is no doubt about this. Nowhere in this story did we ever find Sarah seeking the Lord in any of her decisions. Nowhere did we see her seek her husband’s counsel and advice either. Every decision Sarah made had one and only one person in mind and that was herself.
Bitterness is usually born from jealousy and both are very grievous sins according to the Bible. Let’s look at a few Scripture verses to see what God thinks about them.
(Ephesians 4:31-32) Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
(Proverbs 14:30) A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
(Song of Songs 8:6) Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame.
The Bible talks about the root of bitterness. (Hebrews 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
As long as you feed it, the root is what gives life to a plant or a tree. Without roots it cannot live because the roots are what feed it. You don’t water flowers or leaves or branches, you water roots to make plants and trees grow. Once those roots take hold it is hard to stop the growth of that plant or tree as long as you continue to feed it. You may cut it down above ground and think that you have killed it but over time it will start to grow again. A plant or tree starts from a seed and can grow to enormous proportions.
It is the same thing with bitterness or jealousy or hatred. If you feed it (concentrate on it, think about it all the time, act upon it, etc.) it will grow. And the more you feed it the more it will grow. And not only grow, but spread like a cancer.
There may be a time when you put it aside for a while and don’t think about whatever it is that is making you bitter but like a tree that lies dormant in the winter it is still being kept alive by what is stored up in its root system. Eventually it will start to grow again.
It is the same way in a Christian’s life. Whatever you feed will grow. If you feed the flesh it will produce no, little or bad fruit. If you feed the Spirit it will produce good fruit. The Bible tells us that.
(Matthew 7:17-20) Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
If we harbour bitterness, jealousy or hatred in our hearts (which is our root system) then our fruit will be bitter and not sweet.
(Matthew 3:10) And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Bitterness and jealousy is a woman’s issue because women tend to be possessive. The only way to get rid of bitterness and jealousy in your life is to pray them out. (Mark 9:29) And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.
Bitterness and jealousy can kill. Not physically, although it can if acted upon, but spiritually. They can hurt others as well as you. They will destroy any good thing that you are trying to do. The Lord cannot bless your life if you have bitterness and jealousy in your heart.
(1 Timothy 1:5) Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:
(James 4:8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
God wants you to have a pure heart. If you are having a problem with bitterness and jealousy in your life, don’t hinder your walk with the Lord any longer. Humble yourself. Let the other person be right. Let go of it. Walk away from it. Confess those feelings as sin. Don’t let it destroy your relationship with the Lord. You may say, “But I’m not mad at God. He didn’t do anything to me. It was so-and-so.” Maybe so, but in the end you will be the one who is really hurt the most.
(Matthew 6:14-15) For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Do you want to know something that might help you? The person who you think hurt you so bad probably doesn’t even remember what they did to you, if anything, or what you think they did to you. They never do. You are left stewing about it and they go on their way “acting” like nothing ever happened. This is what really makes you mad, isn’t it?
Let me give you some advice. Forget it. Let go. Today. Right now. Ask God to help you. He wants to. Let Him.
Paul said in Ephesians 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” That’s good advice. Get it settled and get back in fellowship with God.