Genesis 18:1 – 22:24
Peter 2:4 – 11
I was really sort of bitter when I gave extended thought to the fact that God gave Abraham a promise that didn’t come to pass until he was one hundred years old. I couldn’t help myself but to have compassion on Abraham making alternate plans (Ishmael) when time seemed to be passing him by. Then, suddenly, when I least expected it, I realized that something was wrong in my thinking. God is always ready, so the problem wasn’t with God, the problem was with Abram & Sarai. There was an issue in their marriage that hadn’t been brought to light.
And appeared the issue
The reality was that Abram and Sarai were related. It was a pre-arranged marriage, one that seemed to be brought about by convenience. Abram & Sarai grew up together. They were raised by the same man, in the same home town, with the same group of people. Abram and Sarai were family. Now, familiarity with your future wife is not a problem, it can be an advantage, except there are certain pitfalls that can get in the way of a meaningful relationship. For instance, Sarai always saw Abram the way that he was as a child, a youth, and a young man. Perhaps it was difficult for her to take him seriously as he aged. Perhaps she never really saw him as the man God called him to be.
At the same time, Abram knew the girl next door, but he had no revelation about the woman God was fashioning. He loved her because she was part of his past, but not because he appreciated her thoughts, her ideas, or even her virtues. Abram picked Sarai based on who he expected her to be because of how she was raised. They were comfortable because they “knew” each other, but their comfort came between them in the process of getting to “know” one another. And ultimately, it caused their divorce, though they didn’t even know it was happening.
Go out and recover all
This is a fascinating marriage to study because from the end of the story you might lazily think that Abraham and Sarah were a match made in heaven; While, in the beginning, you might hastily predict that their marriage will end in disaster. Both are true, and both couldn’t be further from the truth. That’s why it is so important to recognize that in the richness of life, it is imperative that we seek new understanding every time we walk away from the story.
When the couple first moved to Canaan the promise eluded them, and doubt set in. The interesting thing about doubt is that it reveals what was always there before but no one had the guts to say it out loud. Doubt causes the cards to be placed upon the table. There was no consulting with God when a famine hit Canaan. There was no consulting with God when the issue revealed itself in their marriage. Instead, they moved out of the “promise” land, and into a place of hiding. They were looking for protection from what became obvious to them– the marriage was in trouble.
Abram wanted to be accepted by the community, and if that meant separating from his wife, he was willing to allow the separation. Abram became wealthy by rejecting his wife and treating her like a sister. He concentrated on other things, and Sarai “married” someone else. That was their arrangement and each of them pretended like it was no big deal, so God pretended along with them, just to see how long they were going to allow this to continue. But God wasn’t going to bring Isaac into an environment like that, for either one of them. So the relationship just kept getting worse.
Noah, now is the time!
Abram picked up far more than wealth in Egypt. He picked up Hagar. The scripture doesn’t tell us the details surrounding the affair between Hagar and Abram, but it does tell us that she was Egyptian and she was the handmaid of Sarai. The truth is that Sarai made room for Abram to have another woman because she was consumed with guilt over her own experience in Egypt. As a result, she actually offered the other woman to Abram. It’s likely that she did this to even the score. But it backfired.
Once something gets good to you, it is hard to put it down! Abram finds himself content with the new arrangement, though the price is that his relationship with Sarai becomes more and more alienated. They have no marriage. There is only a frame, and the pre-arrangement as well as the promise becomes a mockery. Then God shows up.
God shows up when it’s over. The old marriage came crashing down and everything was exposed. They weren’t a match made in heaven. The truth is that Sarai didn’t respect Abram. She didn’t regard him as a prophet. Abram was her brother. Abram did not love Sarai. He did not protect her as his princess. She was his sister. Perhaps these elements would never make it to the surface if they had stayed where they were, in the old land, but in this new place, it was obvious. The relationship between Sarai & Abram was not anointed; and God exposed the issue publicly.
But, there is another story here. There is another couple. The other couple emerges from the changes that God makes in each of them. God altered their individual experiences and those experiences made them new again. Abram becomes Abraham, a person determined to end a thirteen year relationship in order to demonstrate his willingness to be an honorable man. Sarai becomes Sarah, a person who confidently speaks up for what is “right” having been wrong so many times before; in order to be an honorable woman.
The issue was always Isaac. Isaac was never going to exist between Abram and Sarai. It didn’t matter how much time passed. Without God’s appointment, it wasn’t going to happen…ever. The promise from heaven was only granted to Abraham and Sarah, and until that couple showed up, there really was nothing to talk about.
(Week Four) October 30, 2010 – Life of Sarah
Genesis 23:1 – 25:18;
I Kings 1:1 – 31;