Last Mother’s Day, I heard a lesson on Biblical mothers of the faith. The teacher spoke about Jochebed, Sarah, Hannah, Mary, and Eunice. But then he questioned whether or not Sarah deserved a place in that group because she doubted, referring to the story in Genesis.
“And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind them. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age, and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son.” Genesis 18:10-14.
When I heard those words, I felt defensive on Sarah’s behalf and heartily disagreed. Sarah is one of my heroes. She’s been my example! Although I didn’t actually speak up verbally, I asked confidently to myself, “Which of those mothers made it to the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11? Only Sarah.” I rest my case.
Who wouldn’t have doubted or laughed by age 90? Haven’t we done so ourselves at age 27, 30, 35, or 42?
She probably approached each month with faith, but then when that menstrual cycle started, or when she no longer had a cycle, doubt crept in. Time and time again, month after month, year after year, nothing. Then there is a glimmer of hope – a delayed period, a twinge of nausea, some other “sign” and we want to believe again. Could it be?
No, your period starts right after you take your pregnancy test, and your nausea came from a stomach bug. If you don’t cry, you just laugh at yourself and say that’s what you get for believing, hoping. I’m not falling for that again. So who can blame her? I would have laughed, too, Sarah.
Thankfully, we have Sarah’s story to learn from – how she overcame her doubts and insecurity to become a hero of faith in the God of great faithfulness.
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen…Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.” Hebrews 11:1, 11-12
Matthew Henry gives us insight into her faith; faith we can relate to as well as learn from.
The difficulties of her faith: Sarah was only human, just like us. She didn’t believe; she laughed at the promise, as impossible to be made good. Sarah also went out of the way of her duty through unbelief by giving her handmaid to Abraham. Lastly, she focused on the great improbability – the fact that a child was promised when she was past age – 90!
The actings of her faith: Sarah’s unbelief was pardoned and forgotten. Her faith prevailed and is recorded for us to see – for our example and for our hope. She judged him faithful who had promised. She received the promise as the promise of God; and being convinced of that, she truly judged he both could and would perform it, how impossible it might seem to reason; for the faithfulness of God will not suffer him to deceive his people.
The fruit and reward of her faith: She received strength to conceive seed. The strength of nature, as well as grace, is from God: he can make the barren soul fruitful as well as the barren womb. Sarah was delivered of a child, a child of the promise, and comfort of his parents’ advanced years, and the hope of future ages. From them, by this son, sprang a great, powerful and renowned nation, above all the rest in the world; and a nation of saints, the peculiar church and people of God, and which was the highest honor and reward of all, of these, according to the flesh, the Messiah came, who is over all, God blessed forevermore.