And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
Hebrews 11:11-12 (NIV)
Read: Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15
Consider: Sarai (renamed Sarah), Abraham’s wife is the next person used in Hebrews 11as an example of faith in action. The story of Sarah takes place over many decades of childlessness and this stood in direct opposition to God’s promise to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations.
While this post isn’t about Abraham’s faith, it is important to understand the enormity of the problem facing Sarah in becoming a mother. In Genesis 17:17,19 we are told of Abraham’s reaction to the news that Sarah would bear him a son:
Abraham fell face down; 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?’
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.’
(Genesis 17:17, 19)
All the biological factors were against Sarah. She was considered unable to have children and was already well beyond the normal age for child-bearing. Yet despite this, God chose to bless Sarah with a son and they were to call him Isaac (meaning he laughs/will laugh). We’ll come across Isaac again in a future post.
Sarah’s reaction to the news that she would have a child is exactly the same as Abraham’s and is recorded as follows in Genesis 18:10-15
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’ Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’ Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’ But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’
Despite the negative reaction of both Abraham and Sarah, God was gracious to Sarah and she conceived and gave birth to Isaac, as recorded in Genesis 21:1-3, 6-7
Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.
Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’
From this we can see that although Abraham and Sarah’s laughter was originally doubt at the impossibility of God’s promise to them, God turned it into laughter of joy.
The key to this incident is what is said in Genesis 18:14 – Is anything too hard for the LORD?
This must have been a real test of Sarah’s faith, yet she is commended in Hebrews because she considered God faithful.
While we are unlikely to face the same issues as Sarah, we are likely to have to put our faith into practice by trusting in God’s ability to do so much more than we can imagine. Thankfully God is not limited by our doubts, or even our physical limitations.
Pray: Father, may we be prepared to have our faith challenged. Help us to focus on you and your faithfulness and not on our doubts or limitations. Amen