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Each month, I’ve been focusing on another woman of the Bible and what we can learn from her. Previous posts explored Rahab, Esther, Miriam, and Deborah. In this post, we’ll take a look at the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.
Most of us are familiar with the story of Sarah in the Bible. Since childhood Sunday school, we’ve read about Abraham’s Sarah, her struggles with infertility, and the sacrifice of her son. If you aren’t familiar with Sarah and Abraham or need a refresher, I’ll briefly share her story.
The Story of Sarah in the Bible
Sarah, also known as Sarai (but we’ll get back to this later), is the wife of Abraham.
Early on, God instructs Abraham to leave his home for a land that God had in mind for him. God also promises Abraham that he would make him a great nation and bless him:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
Genesis 12 2:3
Abraham, a faithful servant, obeys God and, along with his wife, Sarah, his nephew Lot, the rest of the family, and all of their possessions, headed off to Canaan.
They learn that there is a terrible famine in Canaan, so Abraham and Sarah go south to Egypt.
While on the journey, Abraham tells Sarah to tell everyone that she is his sister instead of his wife. He fears that the Egyptians would see Sarah, a beautiful woman and kill Abraham so that they could take her as their own.
“I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.” – Genesis 12:11-13
Sarah is summoned before Pharaoh and she tells Pharoah that Abraham is her brother, as Abraham instructed her to do.
Pharoah lavishes gifts on Abraham, thinking that he is Sarah’s brother.
Soon after, Pharoah and his family start to be affected by plagues and Pharoah realizes that he was duped by Sarah. He tells Sarah and Abraham to get out of Egypt.
Sarah and her husband make it back to Canaan and years pass. They are still unable to bear children. (Remember that God promised Abraham that He would make him a great nation).
Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands and offers her slave/maid Hagar to Abraham to take as a wife and have a child with her. I don’t know about you, but this part of the story always bothered me.
“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.” Genesis 16:2
Abraham agrees, but trouble started brewing between the two women soon after Hagar becomes pregnant. Hagar became bitter toward Sarah and Sarah accused Hagar of treating her without respect or authority after Hagar was made a second wife to Abraham.
Sarah, irritated by the whole situation, starts to mistreat Hagar.
Hagar had enough and leaves.
While she is away, she is visited by an angel of the Lord.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
The angel of the Lord also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the Lord has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”
Genesis 16:7-12 (ESV)
So Hagar returns to Abraham and gives birth to a son she names Ishmael. (Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born).
So life goes on for Sarah and Abraham in Canaan, then, when Abraham was 99 years old, God gives Abraham his name (Abraham had been knows an Abram, but Abraham is translated as “a father of many nations”). God also made a covenant with Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but that all males were to be circumcised as part of the covenant. God also instructs Abraham to refer to his wife as Sarah (previously known as Sarai) and tells Abraham that Sarah will have a son.
Abraham actually laughed at God. He said:
“Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”
Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.”
Can you imagine? Abraham at 99 and Sarah up in years, herself, are told, by God that they not only would have a son, but that he would be the instrument to make Abraham’s descendants into the great nation that God had promised.
But, Abraham, faithful as he was, was circumcised and had all males in his household (as well as servants) circumcised, as well to keep the covenant with the Lord.
Not long after, Sarah and Abraham received three visitors. One of them tells Abraham that when he returns to the area in a year’s time, Sarah would have a son.
Sarah overheard the man’s foretelling and laughed. She was an elderly woman!
But God….soon after the visit by the men, Sarah became pregnant and had a son, just as God had promised.
Abraham and Sarah named the child Isaac as God had told them to do.
In time, Issac would become the father of Jacob and God’s promise to father a nation would be realized.
Before we dive into some of the lessons we can learn from Sarah in the Bible, let’s look at some of the key verses about Sarah.
Key Bible Verses about Sarah in the Bible
Grab your free downloadable/printable PDFs with Bible verses about Sarah and a graphic with her key life events. Use them for further study, including verse mapping or Bible journaling, or just as a reminder of God’s promises).
as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. 1 Peter 3:6 (ESV)
The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised.
By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.
All of these verses point to the fact that Sarah was faithful and that God delivers on His promises. (More on this in the next section).
Lessons We Can Learn From Sarah
At first glance, we may not be able to relate to Sarah’s story unless we have experienced infertility, but the stories of Sarah in the Bible are actually rich with lessons for all of us.
Here are nine lessons from Sarah in the Bible.
Nothing is Impossible with God
Bearing at child in our elderly years? For most of us, even with medical intervention this would be impossible, (I’ve always wondered if Sarah had already been through menopause?), but nothing is impossible for God.
He even placed a baby in Mary’s womb as a virgin!
God can more than we can ever imagine!
He isn’t limited to the laws of biology and physics as humans are. He has kingdom over all.
When you face a seemingly impossible situation on earth, give it to God. He is able to more than anything we can ask or imagine. Nothing is impossible for him.
Keep in mind, however, that while God answers prayer, He doesn’t always answer it in the way we think He should. He has plans we can’t even fathom.
2. God always delivers on His promises
God promised Abraham that he would father a nation. When Abraham and Sarah were at a time when they should have been way past childbearing years, they must have thought that God changed His mind or forgot about them. Oh, but God!
Many years after God made the promise to Abraham, He delivered!
He never forgets a promise.
He promised that He would fight for us:
The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”
Exodus 14:14 (ESV)
He promised to give us strength:
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
He promised to be with us and to protect us:
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)
The Bible is full of promises that God made to us and while sometimes you may not feel Him, He is there, keeping all of His promises to you.
3. God’s Timing is Always Perfect
Sarah prayed for a baby and God made a covenant with Abraham to bless them with a child, but years went on and still Sarah was barren. In their golden years, God gave Sarah a baby.
The lesson here is that God’s timing is always perfect.
If you’ve read my story, you know that I prayed for years after my husband passed away for a godly man. Seven years later, God blessed me with Mike. I thought God just didn’t mean for me to be remarried or, if He did, didn’t mean for me to be married to a believer.
God knew what He was doing. It was all in His perfect timing. I had to go through the twists and turns in life to be at a place in my life to meet Mike.
Had I not, I wouldn’t have ended up in Missouri or might not have appreciated such an amazing man.
All in God’s timing.
Often, we pray for something and if God doesn’t seem to answer in what we consider a reasonable time, we think that He’s not going to answer.
God always answers, but in His perfect timing and not ours.
As He says in Isaiah 55:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV)
We cannot begin to fathom how and why God does things or when He does things, but we can rest in knowing that His timing is always perfect.
4. Patience is a Virtue
I don’t mean to belabor the point that Sarah and Abraham waited and prayed for years, but God asks us to be patient. Sarah is a beautiful example of practicing patience in what must have been an extremely difficult and painful time in her life.
Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;
Psalm 37:7(a) (ESV)
I’ll be the first to admit that I struggle with this. I’m a Type A person. When I want something, I knuckle down and work hard to get it. Some things, however, are out of my control. As I’ve mentioned, there have been times that I have prayed for something for years and nothing happened (at least not immediately).
I’m not always the most patient person, but when I am faced with having to wait on the Lord, I spend time reading Galatians where I am reminded that patience is a fruit of the Spirit and God has equipped me in times like these.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
5. Infertility is Not a Punishment
Early in my first marriage, I was told that I had a number of gynecological issues and that the longer I waited to conceive, the harder it would be for me to get pregnant.
My husband and I tried for a couple of years to conceive, but it just wasn’t happening. I was convinced that God was punishing me for all the bad I had done in my life. (At the time, although I was a member of the Catholic church, I was not saved).
My doctor prescribed a fertility drug and told me to start taking it on the Sunday following my next period. I never did get my period. I was already pregnant.
Although my infertility did not last as long as some women have endured, I understand the desperation. I understand the deep longing for a child and how it hurts when you are trying for a baby and hear of others announcing their pregnancies.
I understand thinking that God is punishing you.
Sister. Listen to me. God is not punishing you if you aren’t able to conceive. Remember, that His plans are not for us to question.
He may be waiting for a time that He determines. He may have plans for you to adopt a child in need. He may be protecting you from something.
He may be drawing you toward deeper dependence on Him.
God doesn’t use infertility to punish us for our sins. We are all sinners and we deserve way worse that what we are or have experienced.
Just give it to God and everything will unfold the way it is supposed to according to His will.
6. We All Mess Up and God Doesn’t Hold it Against Us
Not only did both Abraham and Sarah laugh at God when He told them they would conceive as an old couple, Sarah took matters into her own hands and offered her maid Hagar to her husband.
She messed up and it caused quite a bit of strife for all when she did.
We mess up all of the time. At least, I know I do.
God is not going to withhold His love or His blessings because we mess up. He loves us too much to do that.
Are you holding on to a past sin that God has already forgiven? Let it go, sister!
7. Wives Are to Submit to Their Husbands
Imagine for a moment that you husband comes home one day and tells you that you are going to move to Botswana because God told him to. He is asking you to leave your home, your community, your family and your church. How do you think you would feel?
Would you submit to your husband or would you go kicking and screaming?
This is what Sarah faced when Abraham told her that they were to leave Ur and travel to Canaan.
Of course, they faced difficulties along the way, but Sarah submitted to her husband and they started off in the wilderness and eventually to a new land. This land was instrumental in Abraham fathering a nation and, eventually, the lineage of Christ.
(Click the image below for a printable version of the lineage of Abraham and Sarah)
The Bible tells us that we are to submit to our husbands. How do you do with this?
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Ephesians 5:22-24 (ESV)
I did not do a very good job of this in my first marriage. Thankfully, God has been working on me and I am normally, very submissive to my husband now.
To dive deeper into Ephesians on a level you haven’t before with Kneel Before the Throne, Exploring Ephesians.
This is not to say that I am a doormat. I’m a strong, often vocal woman. If I don’t agree with my husband, I will pray about it, then gently share my opinion, but leave it up to him to have the final say. It’s not always been easy, but it has helped to bless our marriage in so many ways.
8. Following God Isn’t Always Easy but it is Always Worth It
Choosing to be faithful to God isn’t always the smoothest road. Occasionally, we’ll miss out on events or opportunities to avoid sin or for church activities.
We may be bullied for our faith or persecuted as a missionary.
God never promised us that once we placed our faith in Jesus, that life would be all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, the Bible says quite the opposite:
Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
2 Timothy 3:12 (ESV)
Each of us will face different types of persecution. Our journeys are not the same, but God has promised us eternal life and that, my friends, is more than worth it.
Interesting Facts About Sarah
- Sarah is mentioned four times in the New Testament: Romans 4:19, Hebrews 11:11, 1 Peter 3:6 and Galatians 4:21-31).
- Where Sarah was buried, which today is known as the Cave of the Patriarchs (or the Ibrahimi Mosque), is located the Palestinian city of Hebron and is known for being the oldest prayer structure in the world that is continually used.
- Sarah is not mentioned when Abraham is prepared to sacfrifice Isaac. Sarah, in fact, dies in the next chapter. Some Jewish scholars have concluded that when Sarah learns what her husband is about to do, she dies of a broken heart, not knowing or believing that God will save her son.
- Sarah was not only the wife of Abraham, but also his half-sister or niece. Both Abraham and Sarah have Terah as their father or grandfather.
- Sarah’s birth name was Sarai, meaning “my princess”, but God instructs Abraham to change her name to Sarah which means “princess”. This happened during the covenant Abraham made with God.
- Sarah was 127 years old when she died and is found on the Bible timeline during 1986 BC to 1859 BC.
- Sarah is part of the lineage of Christ
Additional Resources to Learn About Sarah in the Bible
You may enjoy this video (it’s about an hour long) about the story of Sarah and Abraham in the Bible.
I’m an avid reader and have enjoyed the following books about Sarah in the Bible. There’s both fiction and non-fiction. If you enjoy reading, you may wish to check them out.
Or listen to them on Audible Plus with a free trial!
What is one lesson that you took away from the story of Sarah in the Bible?
Because of Him,
ESV – “Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”