In our college group at church we are currently studying through the book of Genesis and tonight we came upon Genesis 16, where Sarah tells Abraham to sleep with Hagar & then proceeds to treat her “harshly” and throws an absolute tantrum to Abraham for doing what she told him to do!
What struck me tonight was that this is the same woman who is spoken of in 1 Peter,
Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. – 1 Peter 3:4-6
Sarah is used as an example of this beautiful gentle & quiet spirit that we are called to display, that God finds so precious, that displays holy hope in God. But apparently she wasn’t perfect. She found a way to take a shortcut through her pain and, like we all do when we are trying to escape God’s providence, chose to sin instead of entrusting herself to the Lord and waiting on Him. She gave Abraham her servant to be his wife. Then she mistreated her as a result. Then she picked a fight with her husband. And in the following chapter, she laughs in God’s face when He promises her a son and then denies it, as if God isn’t all-knowing?!
This is our example of a gentle and quiet spirit.
It made me so thankful tonight that the Bible is real and honest, and that this story is proof that God is mighty both to save us and to sanctify us by His grace. He will not leave us alone. He loves us too much to let us stay as we are. He wants more of us and He will put us in the pressure cooker of life until our hearts have been refined to glimmer as gold. It’s a hopeful thing, seeing Sarah go ballistic in this situation. It means there is hope for a sinner like me, that God will finish the work that He’s started and I might not always be the independent, controlling, prideful, rude, harsh, competitive, boastful woman that I am. There’s a chance that by God’s grace you may meet me one day when I am old and gray and barely recognize the person I’ve become because it’s so far from what I currently am. If He did it in the train wreck that was Sarah as displayed in Genesis 16, He can certainly do it in me.
But Sarah isn’t the only train wreck in this story.
Abraham has his own set of issues.
I noticed that the last thing we heard of Abraham was this:
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. – Genesis 15:1-6
The man was told that he was going to have a son who would be his heir. He was going to have more offspring than the stars in the sky. And he believed the Lord. He really did. It wasn’t fake or conjured up. It was so real that it was the proof of God’s work of grace in his heart and was counted to him as righteousness. This was legitimate faith.
But the next thing you know, he is listening to his fearful wife and sleeping with her servant. You could argue that Abraham didn’t know how his son would come into existence, and that maybe he thought this was the way God would give him a child, but I think Abraham was smarter than that. If He believed that God could give him the land he was promised, and give him his own Son, he must have trusted that God doesn’t have to cheat to do what he wants. He doesn’t have to use underhanded or subversive means to achieve His goals. And he certainly doesn’t go back on what he says. He had said in the garden,
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. – Genesis 2:24
I don’t know about you, but that seems pretty exclusive to me. One man, one woman that he is holding fast to, one flesh. There’s not a lot of room for another girl in this equation.
So instead of leading his wife in faith and telling her, “I know you are afraid you won’t have any offspring, but we need to trust God in this. He will come through in the clutch. It might not be today, or tomorrow, or even a year from now, but He will make good on His promise. I know He will give us a child. I believe Him,” he just gives into her. He does what she wants.
Now we all know I like getting what I want, but I know myself well enough to know that any man who will give me whatever I want would not be good for me. Sometimes I need a good standing up to, a strong leader to care about what’s best for me more than he cares about making me happy. That’s what Sarah needed. Instead her husband caved, either to her, or to his own desire, or maybe even to his own doubt.
But God had counted it his faith as righteousness. Those are precious words. Abraham had been justified in God’s sight, he had been declared righteous. Even though He still failed, He still gave in to temptation, He forgot God’s faithfulness in moments, even then what could not be taken away was his justification. He was righteous in the eyes of God because, as the Bible would explain much later,
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
God became a man so that He could become sin for us, and we could become the righteousness of God. If there was ever an unfair deal made, this has got to be the worst. Jesus Christ got all our sin. Abraham – and all of us who now are in Christ- get all His righteousness. Even this great father of the faith needed a Savior, just like me. And you. Or whoever is reading this little blog.
We all need saving.