Summary: I didn't want to preach this sermon about Sarah's faith... but read the sermon to find out what I learned.
Children’s story: Do you love your mommy? She loves you too. In fact, I don’t think she could imagine a life without you. Without you, she’d be very sad. Back in the Old Testament there’s the story of a woman who couldn’t have a little boy or girl. She didn’t think she’d EVER become a mommy. And she got really OLD and began to cry because she didn’t have a little boy or girl like you to hold and take care of. Her name was Sarah.
But then, one day God spoke to SARAH and said that, even though she was old, He was going to make sure that she WOULD have a baby. A baby boy. And she laughed, and laughed, and laughed. In fact, she named her little boy Isaac which means “laughter.”
I have to admit to you, I almost decided not to preach on Sarah. In fact, nobody seems to really like this story. The Children’s Book I was holding as I “read” to the kids doesn’t have that story (It has 101 stories, but not that one). Another preacher who would ordinarily preach the same text with me decided he didn’t want to preach this story. And, I almost didn’t either. At first glance, there didn't seem to be that much to say about her... particularly when it came to her "faith."
But then I reread the text. Hebrews 11:11 “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised.”
God commended Sarah for her faith! She was important to God, and He wanted women everywhere to admire her… just like He did. In fact, Sarah is the most mentioned woman in the Bible (her name shows up 57 times). But, the problem for most people is that Sarah’s doesn’t seem impressive. And most folks don’t think about Sarah’s faith. They might remember that she was 90 years old when she gave birth. They might remember that she laughed when God said she’d have a child. They might even remember that she was a beautiful woman and Abraham had her tell men that she was his sister so they wouldn’t kill him to get her. But that’s about it!
However, here God tells us “By Faith Sarah…” did something very impressive. So what exactly did she do? Well it says “By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised”
Really? That’s not the way I remember the story! I remember Sarah hearing she’s about to have a child… and she laughs, and God seems to rebuke her for laughing!!! That doesn’t sound like a woman who considered God faithful. That doesn’t sound like a woman who believed God’s gonna give her a child.
Well, let’s backtrack a little bit. About 25 years before Sarah gave birth to Isaac, God sat down with Abram (later Abraham) and said to him “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation…” Genesis 12:1-2
God’s going to make of Abram a great nation! That’s a GREAT promise… but there was only one problem.
Abram and Sarai didn’t have any kids. You can’t become a great nation, if you don’t have any kids. But here God was saying you GO where I tell you to go and I’ll take care of making you into a great nation. Implied in that statement was this idea: I’ll make sure you have child! Now, at that time Abram was 75 and Sarai was 65…
Now, fast-forward a few years. Abram is about 85 and Sarai is about 75. And Abram said, “O Lord GOD, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?… you have given me no offspring...”
And behold, the word of the LORD came to him: “This man (Eliezer) shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them…. So shall your offspring be.” And (Abram) believed the LORD, and (God) counted it to him as righteousness. Genesis 15:2-6
But then a couple MORE years drag by, and there’s still no child. So Sarai gets impatient, and she comes up with a brilliant idea. “Behold now, the LORD has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. Genesis 16:2
I read another preacher’s comment on this, and it’s well worth repeating: “Abraham is referred to in the Bible as a man of great faith, but in accepting Sarah’s advice to sleep with Hagar he must have been a few cheeseburgers shy of a happy meal in all this” (Aaron Burgess)