Thursday, April 24, 2014

Considering Him Faithful: A Series on the Sarah of Genesis

Many mornings of late, God hears pretty simple prayers from me.

Oh help me be faithful.

Day after day, my heart's cry has been that simple. I have minimal prayers over vast dreams for the future, or great financial provisions, for now.

Help me obey, Father.  Help me to be faithful.

And I have heard Him whisper a bit of guidance:

It starts with my  faithfulness, Rebekah.

And yet, I found myself in Hebrews 11 today--surveying the superheroes of faith.  Among a cast of heroes and heroines flexing their faith muscles I ran into my girl from Adored--Sarah. A favorite of mine, the wife of Abraham. And sure enough, within her two lines of fame we see that it is, indeed, more about God's faithfulness than our own attempts.

"By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time, since she considered Him faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11).

I thought I might do a little mini-series on Sarah.  If you know me at all, you probably know that it is within the keys of this laptop that God speaks to me, as I blog.  He leads me to blog so that I hear myself recounting His goodness and promises.  So I hope to look deeper into her story, and discover once again the faithfulness of the promise-giver, how I hope you will be changed alongside me!

Sarah's story starts way back towards the beginning of the Bible, in Genesis. Let's see if we can jump into this story, let's picture her life some four thousand years ago.  Sarah is a city girl, born and raised in the big city of Ur.  Ur was a pagan city that worshiped multiple gods.  And Sarah is settled there.  She has a good husband, good home, plenty of money and status.  The gods have been good to her, or good enough at least.

She has one major ache in life.  She's barren.

And, as He often does, God begins building her story around her ache.

God, the promise-giver, shows up to Sarah’s husband, Abraham, and hands him a list of promises.  He sets up this beautiful covenant with Abraham, a package of promises and purpose.  In fact, the whole story of Abraham and Sarah is about covenants, an agreement between God and his people. God has his part of the deal, and we have our part.

He says to him, “Leave what you know, and I will bless you. Leave your home, leave your extended family, I have a different land for you, and it is there that I will give you many descendants, you will be a great nation."

So Abraham tells our girl Sarah to start packing. He informs her that this God, the one true God, has spoken to him.  The hundreds of gods of Ur didn’t speak to people, and they definitely didn’t hand out promises of purpose.  This is probably the first she has heard of this God.  And he didn’t even speak to her.  And now her husband wants her to pack her Coach bags and head out into the hot desert? 

Where there are no Starbucks? 

I wonder if God’s promises confused her.  She heard this talk about descendants and it’s like her barrenness slapped her in the face.

I wonder if her inadequacies felt like a rock in her empty abdomen.

I wonder if her fear of change or the unknown froze her legs in the hot sand.

Does the same promise-giver not come to us today, and present us with adventure? Does he not jump in, wether we know of Him or not? Does He not invite us to bring along our inadequacies, our failures, our shame, because He has a beautiful plan to pour his faithfulness over them?

Perhaps Sarah wasn't weak or scared. Maybe, just maybe, she had a little flicker of hope!  Just a little flame of expectation that this God had some good plans for her. Perhaps that little ounce of hoping for something better motivated her to saddle up with Abraham for an adventure. 

The adventure that she was indeed, created for.

Yet, soon after settling in this land from God, there is a famine.

Ever been there? Perhaps you have signed on with God, you gave Him your word that you would follow. Maybe you committed to belief, to courage, and you moved---moved across country, or greater yet--moved your heart's position before Him. And famine hits.

And you doubt that your fragile faith can withstand hunger and thirst.

I wonder if Sarah was there. Abraham moves them again, south to Egypt, to escape the famine.
And Sarah's road trip gets worse.

(Maybe a lesson that we shouldn't always flee from famines, but rather endure them...?)

As they approach Egypt, Abraham leans over to her and says “Sarah.  Sweetie.  The thing is, you are so beautiful.  So...I’m afraid that the Egyptian king, Pharoah, will want to take you as his own, so he will kill me. Would you mind, um...sweetie, saying that you are my sister, so that it will go well with me? Sweetie?”

Sarah knows what he is getting at.  A beautiful forgeigner won’t go unnoticed.  And her ‘loving’ husband seems to have lost his spine somewhere in the desert sand. 

Abraham knew exactly what was going to happen.  And happen it did!  Sarah was spotted by the king’s men, and they took her.  They didn’t care a thing about her except that she was hot, and should belong to the king.  Abraham abandoned her.  

This is Sarah’s adventure with God so far.  I’m guessing she’s not exactly loving church at this point.

I wonder if the little hope she did have was dwindling.

Hurt or abandonment from fellow weaklings has the ability to snuff out our hope, or mute out the promises from the Faithful One, huh?

So God jumps in.  The Bible says “But the Lord struck Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarah." 

Can you picture this?! God, this God that Sarah hardly knew, He storms in and says “Hey! She is mine! I have plans for her! I will protect her. Don’t touch her.”  When Sarah sees this plague of some sort infecting Pharaoh and his soldiers, did she get what was going on?  That God was protecting her?  As she was quickly led out of the palace and returned to the safety of her husband, I bet her mind was going crazy.  Did the promise-giver of her husband ALSO care about her?   Way more than she thought....maybe he had a list of promises for her too.  

Did this God love her?  

I picture her positioning herself atop the camels again, (and glaring at her husband), yet sitting a little taller. Were her cheeks flushed from this new love she was feeling? Why would this God save her, with such flare and such drama, if he didn’t want something from her?  Could that talk about blessing, and adventure, and children as numerous as the sand, could that be for her too? Could she believe that?

I wonder if she thought of anything else as they rode back to Canaan.

Is it not the same for us, friends? 

Please don't roll your eyes that I just called you friends. I just moved across country. I'm not working. I don't have a church yet. All day long I'm with three boys under five. They are cute, but crazy. Yesterday, my middle son jumped off the top bunk to get the 'ball' that hung off the ceiling fan. This is the second time he has done this in 2 weeks. I need you to be my friends. I also need a new ceiling fan for my parents.



This rescue and this pursuit of Sarah by this promise-giver, prompted Sarah to keep on keepin' on.

This new-found love helped her make the cut that God had asked of her. In fact, the word covenant is translated from the same word as 'to cut.' So when God came to Abraham and Sarah and lays out the covenant, He asked them to make some cuts.

Because He was doing something new.  

If they were going to carry out God’s purposes of becoming a people for Him then a change, or a cut,  had to happen.  They had to cut some strong ties to be free to experience what God had for them. And they had to make a break with the familiar, to prevent them from returning to old ways.  

Indeed, he asks the same of me and you.

As I continue along the adventure God has for me, there are times to cut ties, like recently. The God who has given me promises since I was young, is leading me along roads I do not yet know.

But I know of His love. I know that it rescues. That it pursues. I know that He sees me. And I know that He sees the bigger picture.

I have much more to learn about this faithful promise-giver.  I have no guesses at what his story for me entails.  But this I know:

I can consider Him faithful who has promised.

Stay tuned for more on Sarah's adventure....

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