HEBREWS 11: HEROES OF THE FAITH
PART 5: SARAH
FAITH TO BELIEVE THE IMPOSSIBLE
“FROM FRIVOLITY TO FAITH”
Sarah is the next character in the heroes of the faith series as mentioned in Hebrews 11. We’ve looked so far at Abel and Enoch, Noah and Abraham. Abel taught us about the first step – how to be accepted by God. Enoch taught us about the next step and that is walking with God. Noah taught us that we are called by faith to obey – even when it makes no sense – and to stand firm when all others are living a different life. Through Abraham we see that faith is being willing to leave behind all we once held dear when God calls us to trust in Him to do so – and that our motivation is in our looking forward to Heaven. We now come to Abraham’s wife, Sarah, who is going to teach us that faith is about believing the impossible.
by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise (Hebrews 11: 11)
SAME AS LAST SESSION…WHO WAS SARAH?
Known as Sarai, till she was 89, she was the wife of Abraham – marrying him before they left Ur of the Chaldees (Genesis 11: 29). We are immediately told that she was “barren” – she could not bear children. Her name was changed at the same time as God changed Abram to Abraham. Her new name – Sarah – is a far more powerful version of the name “princess”. It seems probable that she was related to Abraham before marriage.
She comes across as a very human character. She obeys her husband well – even agreeing to pose as his sister when they entered Egypt (Genesis 12: 13). Yet, she also makes mistakes and encourages her husband to beget a son by her handmaiden, Hagar. And she also shows jealousy when she insists that Abraham gets rid of Hagar and her child Ishmael (Genesis 16).
PUTTING SOME “MEAT ON THE BONES” – THE STORY OF SARAH FROM GENESIS
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.’
3 Abram fell face down, and God said to him, 4 ‘As for me, this is my covenant with you: you will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. (Genesis 17: 1-6)
15 God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’
17 Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’…
19 Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him… 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ (Genesis 17: 15-21)
Then, in Genesis 18, three “men” appeared to Abraham:
10 Then one of them said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.’
Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?’
13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Will I really have a child, now that I am old?” 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.’
15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, ‘I did not laugh.’
But he said, ‘Yes, you did laugh.’ (Genesis 18: 10-15)
Alongside “giants” of the faith like Enoch and Noah it is refreshing to witness the humanity of this heroine of the faith, Sarah…who, just like we would do, laughed at the ridiculous notion that she could have a baby – at her age! Yet, she is commended for her faith – because she went beyond the frivolity to the faith – she trusted in God to do what He had promised – to bring about the impossible. But we see in her example that faith grows. She indeed went from “frivolity to faith”. At first she saw the impossible – and laughed – but as time went on, her trust in God led her faith to grow – till she truly believed in God to do this impossible thing…this is why we cry out, with the disciples of Jesus “Lord ‘increase our faith’” (Luke 17: 5).
By the time the promise of God was realised, both Sarah and Abraham were, as scripture states, ‘as good as dead’ in regard to having children. There was no chance that it could happen. God had specifically delayed the whole event till it was completely and utterly out of the question that this couple could have a child. At the birth of Isaac, Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. It was a God given miracle. It wasn’t just that they were old. Sarah had been barren her whole life. Even in her prime she did not have the ability to conceive. And yet the light of her faith didn’t go out. Oh it flickered pretty badly at times! The winds of confusion and doubt blew hard against this flame that was Sarah’s faith at times. Yet despite the confusion and some wrong steps, her faith not only remained, but it prevailed.
Sarah was BEAUTIFUL (so much so that Abraham had to pretend she was his sister – for fear of being killed for her!). But Sarah was BARREN – a huge stigma back then – a woman who could not bear children was often considered worse than useless and at best a failure. But Sarah was also BLESSED by God who gave her a name-change when He gave her the promise of a son: According to Hitchcock’s Bible Names, Sarai means ‘My princess’ and Sarah means ‘Princess of the multitude’. If that is right, then God is saying that Sarai is not just going to be Abraham’s princess but the Mother of the nation – the princess of the multitude – she would have descendants!
You can’t “pull the wool” over the Lord’s eyes! He knew that Sarah had laughed at the thought of being a mother at 90…He did not condemn her for it…He just wanted her (and us) to be honest about finding the promises of God hard to believe at times. How many times do you laugh at the fact that God says He loves you? Thankfully, her laugh of disbelief was replaced by the laugh of joy:
Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.
6 Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.’ 7 And she added, ‘Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.’ (Genesis 21: 1-6)
She had to believe the impossible could be possible. She had to believe God when all of nature and those around her said that she couldn’t conceive… And by faith she did!
Sarah shows us that faith involves the “evidence of things not seen” – it is looking beyond the natural, beyond what man can do; to the supernatural – to what only God can do. It involves BELIEVING that He can do the impossible and TRUSTING that He will always do what is right and what is best.
And we must believe this to…
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM 3 OTHER EXAMPLES OF “FAITH IS BELIEVING THE IMPOSSIBLE”:
- Believing in the God of the impossible sometimes means getting on with it…
Jesus took 5 loaves and 2 fishes and fed the 5000 (Matthew 14: 13-21). Impossible in the natural but by faith He knew it was possible…but the faith of Jesus meant that HE had to get on and “do” it – this might be the case for us.
- It’s OK to challenge…
Mary was told by the angel that she would have a baby (Luke 1: 26-38). She challenged this with ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ (verse 34) …and was then given the “substance of things hoped for” – Gabriel told her that the Holy Spirit would come on her (verse 35). It was not wrong to challenge a promise – Mary showed her faith in accepting the promise – accepting the impossible.
- Believing in the God of the impossible is NOT “blind faith”…
The 3 men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3): they show that faith is not blind faith. They knew that they might die and their faith was KNOWING that God could do the impossible but TRUSTING that He would do what was right and best. They declared with the faith of those who know that God CAN but might not CHOOSE to do the impossible: “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (verses 17-18).
DOES SARAH’S FAITH TEACH US THAT GOD WILL GIVE US WHATEVER WE ASK FOR?
No! Let’s be careful we don’t take this truth of “God can do the impossible” too far!
Oh, I’m sure that Sarah, knowing she was barren, longed for God to do the impossible and give her a baby.
But, I don’t think God did the impossible BECAUSE Sarah asked with faith…I think God did the impossible because it was His plan, His will, His purpose…and that He did it through Sarah because she had faith to believe that God can do the impossible.
Now you might quote the verse that says –
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. (John 14: 13-14)
…but before you go asking God to win the lottery for you, make you a world-class footballer, or marry you to Brad Pitt (all pretty impossible things – especially if you don’t play the National Lottery!) just remember that He will do “whatever you ask in my name”…that means we need to be in sync with Him – in such a close relationship with Him that we know what He wants to do through us, and only want to do His Will. This was the case with Sarah. She heard from God what He wanted – and, although she laughed at the human impossibility of it all, she had faith that He can do whatever He chooses to do – and she believed He would do it…and it was counted to her as faith.
THIS is faith to believe that God can do the impossible that God is calling us to have.
APPENDIX: SOME VERSES THAT DECLARE THAT NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD:
1. Luke 1:37
For nothing will be impossible with God.”
2. Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
3. Luke 18:27
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”
4. Jeremiah 32:17
Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.
5. Mark 10:27
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
6. Jeremiah 32:27
I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?
7. Philippians 4:13
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
8. Genesis 18:14
Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.
9. Job 42:2
I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.
10. Matthew 17:20
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
11. Romans 8:31
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
12. Mark 9:23
“If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”