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Sarah, Abraham’s faithful wife, was attractive enough to prompt a pharaoh and a king to entertain the thought of taking her into their harems, causing Abraham to present her as his sister when, in fact, she was his half-sister and wife (Gen 12:11-20 and 20:1-7).
Sarah was a fitting partner to Abraham, and her life is an example to faithful, Christian women. The Apostle Peter suggested this when he wrote: "As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid..." (1 Peter 3:6).
Perhaps one of the most difficult events for Abraham and Sarah was when Sarah demanded Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael into the wilderness. It was a time of great crisis for Sarah, Abraham, and Hagar (not to mention young Ishmael). For Sarah, it was the time of decision, confirming her son Isaac as sole heir to Abraham’s future blessings. God had previously announced to Abraham He would continue His covenant through Isaac, not Ishmael (Genesis 17:19-21), so Sarah was stepping out in faith to keep with God's purpose.
Sarah had personally observed 16-year-old Ishmael mocking young Isaac: "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she [Hagar] had borne to Abraham, scoffing. Therefore she said to Abraham, 'Cast out this bondwoman and her son; for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, namely with Isaac.' And the matter was very displeasing in Abraham's sight because of his son [Ishmael]" (Genesis 21:9-11).
Ishmael was also Abraham’s son, and it hurt him deeply to part with him. Abraham loved him very much, but he also knew God had decreed; "For in Isaac your seed shall be called" (Genesis 21:12; Hebrews 11:18). God comforted Abraham with the assurance that he would continue to care for Ishmael: "...'Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Isaac your seed shall be called. Yet I will also make a nation of the son of the bondwoman, because he is your seed'" (Genesis 21:12-13). See also Genesis 16:10-12.
Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah 90 when Isaac was conceived. Abraham and Sarah had waited a long time for God to fulfill His promise and their faith had been tested. Since they were beyond the age when Sarah would be able to conceive without a miracle, they decided that perhaps God meant them to help Him perform His miracle for them.
Sarah may have thought God wanted Abraham to have a son with Hagar, as it was probably a common practice in the surrounding cultures, but it wasn't what God had in mind. Sarah attempted to work things out through human reasoning and effort, rather than waiting on God. The story provides us with an understanding of the difference between human effort and faith in God. Although we may know the will of God, we often try to improve on God's timing by working out His promises through our own efforts.
What God expects, however, is for us to know His will. Then with continued patience and faith, we should wait on Him to answer according to His promise. Certainly there are things we can do for ourselves, and God is not opposed to our caring for our needs, but He is opposed to our caring more for ourselves than for Him and His will. All of this and more Sarah learned, along with her husband Abraham.
Sarah's remarkable example of learning to wait on God is mentioned in the book of Hebrews where we are told she "judged Him faithful who had promised" (Hebrews 11:11). Though her story is only briefly explored there, she ranks with the Bible's faithful. The implication is clear: Sarah is a shining example of the practice of faith. In the process of time, God transformed Sarah’s doubt into faith, and she became a courageous, loyal, and faithful support for her husband, looking to God for answers and blessings.
The Good News Magazine (Mar-Apr, 1996)