Sarah was an unusually attractive woman. The stories in Genesis chapter 12 and 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.1
Imagine in her younger days she was a very obedient, submissive wife. I believe that if Abraham had a choice in a wife he wouldn’t have married her if she were not a godly, virtuous woman; they were only ten years apart in age. 1 “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?” (Gen 17:17)
It’s a bit unusual as most of the Old Testament men 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. 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. 1
God spoke with Abraham and gave him a promise that would move them away from everything they loved and were familiar with.2
Like, Naamah, Noah’s wife, Sarah would journey with her husband to a country unknown to them. They journeyed to the land of Canaan leaving their father’s house, relatives, and everything they had known all their lives. (Chap 12:1, 4-6)2
Although there are many positive things that can be said about Sarah, let’s discuss some of the negative character traits that she developed later in life and see what can be learned from them.1
Sarah was impatient1
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 during that time 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 Hagar, her handmaid, to have children on her behalf. This is when all the trouble started. “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.” (Gen 16:1-2)
This was Abraham’s big mistake. Instead of confirming the instructions of God, he didn’t question Sarah’s idea. She was a woman of God and perhaps he trusted that her decision was God given.”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.” (Gen 15:2-6)
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.
Sarah took on the role of God1
The Bible says in Gen 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 what a mess she was going to make. This selfish act almost six thousand years ago is still creating problems today.
We need to learn that we just cannot “play” God or “be” God or “do” what God does as well as God.
Sarah became bitter and jealous1
As soon as Hagar conceived, she despised Sarah. “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.” (Gen 16:4) As a result of Hagar’s feelings toward her, Sarah became bitter and jealous. As most women would who are walking in the flesh.
Sarah places the blame on someone else1
“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.” (Gen 16:5)
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.” Sarah and Abraham should have come together as husband and wife and pray together and wait for an answer from God. If God was allowed to work out the logistics, Sarah would not have an opportunity to blame someone else or herself.
Sarah became vindictive1
Abraham did not want to deal with two squabbling women so he left the matter in Sarah’s hands. “But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt harshly with her, she fled from her face.” (Gen 16:6)
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 harshly with her. Whatever it was, it caused Hagar to run away. I’m sure this was exactly what Sarah wanted her to do.
Sarah hurt innocent people1
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. “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.” (Gen 21:10-11)
Ishmael was not only Hagar’s son, but he was also 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 ourselves 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 Rom 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 find Sarah seeking the Lord in any of her decisions, nor did she seek her husband’s counsel and advice. Every decision Sarah made had one and only one person in mind; 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.
“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.” (Eph 4:31-32)
“A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.” (Prov 14:30)
“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.” (Song of Solomon 8:6)
The Bible talks about the ROOT of bitterness. “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.” (Heb 12:15)
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 feeds 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.
The same can be said about jealousy or hatred. If you feed it (concentrate on it, think about it all the time, act upon it, etc.) it will grow. 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 makes 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 roots. 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, “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.” (Matt 7:17-20)
If we harbour bitterness, jealousy or hatred in our hearts (which is our root system) then our fruit will be bitter and not sweet. “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.” (Matt 3:10)
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. “And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)
Bitterness and jealousy can kill you spiritually and inevitably affect you physically. 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.
“Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned.” (1 Tim 1:5)
“Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 4:8)
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 really hurt the most. “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.”
In many instances, the person who you thought hurt you so bad probably doesn’t even remember what they did to you or what you think they did to you. You are left stewing about it and they go on their way “acting” like nothing ever happened.
Forget and let it go. Don’t delay and do it instantly because God wants to help you. All you need to do is ask him.
Paul said in Eph 4:26, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:” Get it settled and get back in fellowship with God.
Examples of God’s Promises – Three Cycles God takes us through in response to receiving God’s promises made in faith.
Sarah was promised to bear a son (Gen 18:10)
Problem: She was in disbelief because she was beyond her age to conceive. Even though Sarah was a godly woman, she allowed sin to enter her life. In doing so, it caused so many problems for her and her whole family.
Provision: Even though she took matters into her own hands, God allowed her to suffer the consequence but gave her the son he promised earlier. God will allow situations to occur in your life to see how you will handle them. The more negative you are in the situation, the longer it takes to get the provision. If you enter into the problem with gladness, you are sure to get through it quicker.
Abraham would be the Father of many nations and receive the Promised Land
Problem: Abram (“exalted father”) received direction from the Lord to move from Haran (Gen 12:4) to a strange land (Gen 12:1-5).
After God’s promise to Abram that he would be the father of many nations, God changed his name to Abraham, father of a multitude (Gen 17:5).
Even though God had promised these things and Abraham believed God, he still knew that he was advanced in age, 99 years old, and Sarah was also too old for child-bearing. When Isaac was born to Sarah when Abraham was 100 years old, he still had only two sons, Isaac & Ishmael, and only Isaac as the son of his promise. God told Abraham to take Isaac and offer him up to God as a sacrifice (Gen 22:1-12). Abraham believed that, if he did, God is even able to raise the dead. Abraham obeyed and took Isaac to the region of Moriah on one of the mountains (Gen 22:2).
Provision: Abraham became the father of many nations and the Father of those who believe God (Gal 3:29). Abraham never saw all of his descendants and never owned the land God promised to him. However, his offspring, Israel did receive the land. Abraham was the patriarch of the family into which the seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, would be born.