Hebrews 11:11-12–Sarah

101_6475Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Sarah:  Hebrews 11:11-12

 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.  12 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.

Since today is Mother’s Day, I wanted to go right to Sarah, since she is the first woman mentioned in the Hall of Faith chapter, and God calls her a “Mother of Nations.” (Genesis 17:16)  What a title!  I am the mother of five Doiel children, but I definitely am not the mother of nations!  I think it is a title that shows right away that she required faith in God who gave her that title.  She did not see her son until she was 90, and she never saw a grandchild; yet God tells Abraham that she will be a “mother of nations!”

The subject of Sarah in the faith chapter is a controversial one. Her name is dropped right in the middle of the discussion surrounding her husband’s faith.  In fact, many preachers and commentators say that the faith that is mentioned in verse 11 is actually referring to  Abraham’s faith.  John MacArthur lays out the case that Sarah showed her unbelief so many times–i.e. when she gave Hagar to Abraham and when she laughed when God said she would have a son–that these pronouns “herself” and “she” could be translated ‘”himself” and “he’ as those words could be translated either masculine or feminine depending on the context of the verse.  He basically says that Abraham had the faith to do what God said to do so that Sarah could become pregnant, and Sarah obviously had to be part of the process if a child was to be born.  Here is one sentence from his sermon that might explain his and others viewpoint on this verse:  “ Through faith he in accompani­ment with Sarah received strength to lay down seed. . . . And the accompani­ment with Sarah is obviously necessary. It’s a part of the pro­genitive process. So we understand the verse. It is then through faith that Abraham in accompaniment with Sarah laid down seed because he believed God – God gave him the power to do what his body couldn’t do otherwise.”  Here is one other quote that might help explain this view:  “There is a textual variant that describes Sarah as “barren.” If it is original, the sense would be, “By faith, even though Sarah was barren, he [Abraham] received power to beget …” (A Textual Commentary of the Greek New Testament, Bruce Metzger [United Bible Societies], 4th ed., p. 602). The final phrase would read, “since he considered Him faithful who had promised.”

So I will not rule this viewpoint out, as I understand what these pastors and commentators are saying.  However, as I also am a woman, I want to give Sarah a little more credit than this!  Maybe, I am being soft on her; however, she had to leave her homeland, her comforts, her friends, her family–everything she ever knew or had ever experienced–to go with her husband to a desert land.  I think that took some faith!  Maybe not, maybe she was just obeying because that was woman were expected to do, but I would like to think that she was a strong woman of faith as we know she didn’t crumble or fall apart in the middle of extreme difficulties!  Twice her husband didn’t have total faith in God’s protection and told her to lie and say that he was only her brother, and she was able to get through that ordeal without cracking.  Yes, we know that Abraham was wealthy and that very likely Sarah had some servants; but we also know that she lived in a tent.  They were in the middle of nowhere with hostile people around them.  She had no sister or  mom or probably even a good friend with whom she could confide.  I am not excusing her lack of unbelief when she gave her maidservant, Hagar, to her husband.  But which one of us hasn’t doubted God’s promises at times?  And most of us have not endured the difficulties Sarah had to endure, and we have the whole Word of God plus the Spirit of God to encourage and fortify us!  So I will not throw stones at Sarah’s lapse of faith when she was 76 and again later 90 and had still not seen an answer to God’s promise.

Here is another viewpoint of Sarah’s faith in God, and one I would like to believe is true.  In Genesis 18, the Lord and two angels in human bodies come to visit Abraham and Sarah.  Sarah, along with her servants, make a fine meal for them.  At the end of the meal, the Lord says to Abraham, “ Sarah thy wife shall have a son.”  And Sarah laughs to hersef in unbelief, knowing that she was physically too old to have a baby.  The Lord immediately replies, “Why does Sarah laugh?   Is any thing too hard for the Lord?  You will have a baby!”  Some say that this rebuke with God along with His reminder that nothing was too hard from Him restored her faith in Him and caused her to hope in Him once again.  One reason they say this is after this passage, the next thing that Sarah herself says is found in Genesis 21:6, which reads:  “And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.”  She gives the glory to God for the birth of her son, and her name is mentioned in the faith chapter.

What are some principles we can learn from this verse and from Sarah?

  • Faith overcomes insurmountable problems by God’s power — I don’t know what you are going through, but God is greater than all your problems.  However, you will not have the victory over sin or have peace or contentment if you are in a state of unbelief.  You must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  This does not mean that all your problems will go away or that your situation will change, or even that you will have a baby and not be barren anymore.  But it does mean that God is with you and that He will carry you through the tough times, and that you can have peace and contentment.  There are so many promises given that can be claimed by God’s people when they are going through different trials of life!
  • Faith focuses on God’s power and faithfulness instead of focusing on human impotence.  Sarah and Abraham received the promise that they would have a son the next year at the appointed time, and they rested on that promise even though they both knew it was physically impossible for Sarah to conceive.  We cannot take this out of context–God will not have us fly like birds, and God does not miraculously heal every sick Christian just because they have faith.  (Some people will say, “If you had enough faith, God would heal you–this is not right or true.)  At the same time, however, God is God and can exceed any human capability we will ever have.  To go along with this point, here are two great verses to remember about our great God:
  1. For with God nothing shall be impossible.   Luke 1:37
  2. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,  Ephesians 3:20

A good quote to summarize up this verse about Sarah:

“Here is a most encouraging example. When Sarah first heard the promise, she doubted and laughed (Gen. 18:12-15). But first doubts were overcome.  Faith swept in to enable her dead womb to gain the vitality needed for childbearing. Often we’re overcome by first doubts. Parts of our personalities seem deadened and withered. But faith can be restored. Even such ‘second-hand’ faith can enable us to experience vitality in areas of our lives we saw as being dead.”  (The Teachers Commentary, p. 1012)

So let us ladies be like Sarah.  When we doubt (because at times we do), turn our eyes back to God.   Lean on His promises, and gain the victory!

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