Abraham and Sarah (previously known as Abram and Sarai), is a couple close to my heart. I admire Abraham for his faith and obedience to God and Sarah for her faith and submission. Here is a couple who wanted children, were well past the age to bare children, and God tells Abraham that He will give him a son through Sarah. Abraham was ninety-nine when God spoke to him and said the following:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’ Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, ‘Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.’” (Genesis 17:1-8, ESV)
Later in the same chapter:
“And God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, ‘Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘Oh that Ishmael might live before you!’ God said, ‘No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.’” (Genesis 17:15-21, ESV)
In Genesis 15:5, God spoke to Abram and told him that his offspring would be as many as the stars of the sky. Considering he and his wife had already lived years without children, many of us wouldn’t have blamed him if he had doubted God’s promise; but, verse 6 goes on to say, “And he believed the Lord, and He (God) counted it to him as righteousness.” (ESV)
When I was younger, I had a really hard time understanding why Sarai (later to be called Sarah) suggested that her husband be physically intimate with one of her servants as a way of producing offspring (Genesis 16). Considering the laws of the day, her servant belonged to her, and therefore her servant’s child would also belong to her. It never made sense to me that she would actually want her husband to have a child with another woman. However, the older I get, and the more difficulties I witness and experience in my own life in this area, the more compassion I have for her decision. Yes, she tried to “help” God – and that’s never wise. Ultimately, she didn’t trust the Lord to give her a child as He promised He would. Sometimes desperation can tempt us to say, “Maybe God didn’t really promise this to me… maybe I should take action to make what I believe His promise is to me come to pass… it could be that I never really heard from Him.”
Abraham and Sarah made some mistakes along the way, but Abraham believed God and God honored him. Sarah did not have a perfect faith, but God still kept His word (as He is faithful) and she conceived a child in her ninetieth year.
Back then, children (and especially sons), were considered a great blessing. Women who did not have children were looked down on by others. I can only imagine Sarai’s grief during all those years she could not give Abram a son. Though the Bible doesn’t give us too many details about the ins and outs of their daily relationship, I believe this couple had a great deal of love for each other. They went through a lot together. After all, they moved when God told them to move, even though they were not sure where they were going! They faced a famine together (possibly more than one in their lifetimes). And perhaps the most trying experience for both of them: Sarai was barren for many, many years.
Even though it was a foolish decision, I believe Abram having a son with Sarai’s servant, Hagar, was done out of love for his wife. Sarai followed Abram through a number of faith testing circumstances such as moving, lying to Pharaoh and King Abimelech, and being told she would have a son in her old age. Even through it all, she called her husband ‘lord’ (I Peter 3:6).
By the time Abram and Sarai became Abraham and Sarah, they had lived a lifetime of great faith along with showing moments of poor faith. They were faithful to each other and, ultimately, faithful to the Lord. We can learn a lot from their example. We see that trusting God is the only way to live, we see the pain that comes from disobedience to God, and we see how important it is for a husband to follow God’s leading with all his heart and how important it is for a wife to submit to her own husband as an act of faith in God (i.e., believing that God will take care of her as she submits to her husband).
What stands out to you most about Abraham and Sarah’s relationship?