Useful to God
Lesson 5

Lesson Five

Sarah: The Fixer

Texts: Genesis 16; 17:1-21; 21:1-14

People are impatient. What we want, we want now. When we want a change that we regard to be an improvement, that change cannot happen fast enough.

God had promised Abraham great promises (Genesis 12:3). (1) God would make him a great nation, a blessed man with a great name. (2) God would protect him. (3) God would make him a nation, and that nation would be the source of a world blessing.

There was a problem! Abraham was 75, his wife (Sarah) was 10 years younger, and they had no children. If Abraham had no child (son), there could be no nation! For there to be a nation of descendants who were a source of world blessing, the couple must have a child.

God continued to promise (Genesis 13:14-18). Abraham's descendants would own and live in the land through which he wandered. His descendants would be too many to count. Yet, Abraham still had no children.

God specifically promised a concerned Abraham a son (Genesis 15:1-5). Abraham believed God's promise, and his faith in God's promise of a son was reckoned to Abraham as righteousness (Genesis 15:6) years before Sarah was pregnant.

Too much time had passed! Neither Abraham nor Sarah were getting any younger! Sarah had no children, and there was neither prospect of nor anticipation of a child in her future. Sarah had grown accustomed to being barren--so accustomed to that condition she expected to be childless the rest of her life. To her it was obvious that God needed some help to keep His promise to make her husband the beginning of a nation. Before there could be many, there had to be one.

She was more than willing to provide God the help He obviously needed! Her solution was a known and practiced solution in her day. She was caring for the problem as many of her day cared for it. [Remember Rachel (Genesis 30:1-8) and Leah (Genesis 30:9-13).] A female servant could be the wife's surrogate. The child produced by the servant and the husband of the marriage would be considered the heir of the married couple, the legally recognized child of the married couple. Do not forget three things. (1) Human population was sparse then in comparison to now. (2) Heirs were extremely important for the continuation of the family. (3) The most common form of inheritance was in the form of land and livestock. Heirs were critical to every family's future!

Sarah had an Egyptian servant who was young enough to have a child. Sarah was 75 at this time--it had been 10 years since Abraham, Sarah, and Lot left Haran at God's directive, and Abraham and Sarah still had no child. Sarah asked Abraham to have a child by her Egyptian servant, Hagar. Abraham honored Sarah's request (perhaps thought it a good idea). As soon as Hagar conceived by Abraham, Hagar lost respect for Sarah. She had Abraham's child, not Sarah! Tension between the two developed and increased. Hagar had no respect for Sarah, Sarah held Abraham responsible for the situation, and Abraham is caught in the middle.

Abraham finally gave Sarah permission to treat the mother of his child as Sarah wished. The tension must have been severe! Sarah was so harsh with Hagar that Hagar fled. The Lord's angel (1) instructed Hagar to return and submit to Sarah [indicating Hagar was rebellious?], (2) named the child to be born declaring the baby would be a son, and (3) and promised this son, too, would have too many descendants to count. Abraham was 86 when Ishmael was born.

Over a decade later (Ishmael was in his early teens) [Genesis 17], God promised Abraham he would have a son from Sarah within a year. God gave Abraham circumcision as a symbol of the agreement between them. Abraham indicated his confidence in God's covenant by circumcising himself, Ishmael, and all his male servants immediately.

In a year, Isaac was born to Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 21:1-5). Abraham was 100 and Sarah we 90. Isaac was weaned, Abraham had a feast to honor Isaac's growth event, and Sarah saw Ishmael acting inappropriately. Sarah insisted that Abraham not allow Ishmael to continue in the family. [Remember, Ishmael is Abraham's son and the first born--but not the promised child.] Reluctantly, with God's encouragement, Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away. Sarah's earlier "solution" resulted in heartbreak for Abraham. Though Sarah resented Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham loved Ishmael. Sending him away caused Abraham great grief (Genesis 21:11)!

How often our "solutions" given in God's behalf result in tragedy! How often our "solutions" for God express our lack of confidence in God rather than our confidence in God! How often our "solutions" result in the needless hurt of others!

For Thought and Discussion

  1. Discuss the impatience of people.

  2. Discuss the greatness of God's promises to Abraham.

  3. What was the problem?

  4. What did God specifically promise as concerned Abraham?

  5. When was Abraham considered by God to be a righteous man?

  6. What did Sarah feel she needed to do for God? Why?

  7. State Sarah's solution.

  8. What developed and increased?

  9. What did Abraham finally do?

  10. What did Sarah do?

  11. What did Hagar do?

  12. What did the angel say to Hagar?

  13. What happened when Isaac was born?

  14. Often our solutions given to help God in ways He has not requested our involvement result in what?

Link to Teacher's Guide Lesson 5

Copyright © 2008
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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