On the commemoration of Sarah today, we read a text adapted from Great Women of the Bible, Vol. 1.
Sarah (Sarai) is well remembered from the Bible for yearning for a son and mothering him at age 90. She is also remembered for her impatience and lack of trust in God that manifested in her servant Hagar bearing Ishmael. Hearing her story now, we can see that she was just as human as we are. As God forgave Sarah’s sin and used her to do tremendous things, we know that He indeed forgives our sin through His Son’s blood and will use us according to His will.
Sarai was Abram’s half sister, sharing with him the same father, Terah. At this time in history (circa 2000 BC and later), marriage between such close relatives was still tolerated. In Abram’s case, this arrangement is unsurprising because the Chaldeans were steeped in idolatry. Hence, it would have been impossible for Abram to find a woman of the true faith outside his family circle. Ur was so infested with idol worship that Terah was compelled (perhaps because of disgust or persecution) to seek a new home for his family elsewhere. From Joshua 24:2, it appears that Terah and other members of his family had worshiped idols at least for a time. Whether Abram and Sarai always worshiped the one, true God, we do not know.
Many Christians know that Abram was a great man of faith, which he demonstrated many times in his life, including moving his family from Haran. But Sarai’s faith is not always so clearly stated in the biblical text. It certainly took great faith and courage on Sarai’s part to permanently leave her relatives and trek another four or five hundred miles from Haran across desert sands to a far and unknown country. Some may remark that as an Eastern woman of that time period she had no choice in the matter. However, we should note that Sarai often managed matters in her own way, had considerable influence over Abram, and was consulted by him when important decisions were to be made. Throughout her life, she appears as a loyal helper to her husband, and her conduct toward him seems always to have been above reproach.
On his journeys, Abram erected an altar to God and called upon the name of the Lord. This altar may have served primarily to gather his family and servants together for family worship. Here, we discover an important factor in the lives of Abraham and Sarah: they practiced and lived their faith. For her part, Sarah adorned herself with the beauty of contentment and peace due to her faith.
Sarai was included in the special promise God gave to Abraham. Abram’s offspring would come through her. Through Sarai, her servant Hagar, and Keturah, God would provide Abram with many physical descendants. All who trust in Christ as the promised Messiah and the world’s Savior are the spiritual children of Abraham.
In order to strengthen their faith and to signify a rise in their status after Hagar and Ishmael’s expulsion, God changed Sarai and Abram’s names. Sarai (probably meaning “contentious”) changed to Sarah (meaning “princess”). This latter name signified that Sarah would be the mother of mighty rulers. Abram (meaning “exalted father”) became Abraham (“father of many”). Their son’s name would be Isaac.
The whole triumphant host
Give thanks to God on high.
“Hail, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!“
They ever cry.
Hail, Abr’ham’s God and mine!
I join the heav’nly lays:
All might and majesty are Thine
And endless praise!
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Devotional reading is adapted from Great Women of the Bible, Vol. 1, pages 39–42 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Hymn text is from LSB 798:9.