“By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the One who had promised was faithful.” Hebrews 11:11 (HCSB)
In the roll call of giants who through faith achieved the impossible, one woman stands out: Sarah. Yet, if we see Sarah’s response to God’s specific promise to Abraham that “I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her”, and if we -not God- were given the job of assessing her faith, we might be tempted to give her a very low score indeed.
Did Sarah truly believe God’s promise that she would bear a child? She had clearly been impatient with His timing and had decided to take things into her own hands, giving Hagar to Abraham, in order to ‘raise a family through her servant’. She laughed when the messenger from God spoke to Abraham confirming the promise; her incredulity comparable to Zechariah’s when informed by the angel that his wife Elizabeth would conceive.
Zechariah was struck dumb for 9 months, yet God gave Sarah the top spot in His honours list. When there were women who seemed more deserving such as Hannah, Ruth, Esther, Deborah, Rahab and Moses’ mother, why was Sarah ‘picked’ for this honour?
A few thoughts come to mind. Perhaps God looked at the whole course of her life: her willingness to go with her husband into the unknown, years of loneliness and isolation in alien lands, the fear and humiliation in the courts of strange rulers, not to mention, the terrible shame of barrenness, all endured with fortitude. She had stayed the course and though childless at ninety, we find no trace of bitterness in her soul, as she willingly served the strangers Abraham brought to their home.
Her lifestyle of faithfulness, not just her ‘faith in a specific matter’ counted with God.
What kept her going? “… she considered Him faithful…” (Heb. 11:11, ESV). She may or may not have believed that Abraham heard God correctly on the matter of children; she may have been sceptical at the stranger’s words, but she never stopped believing that God was faithful and she never stopped serving.
At times we may grow weary, even sceptical, when God’s promises are delayed. But in this we may find hope: God sees the whole picture, He knows everything that we have been through in this pilgrimage. When we hold on to Him, despite the delays and seeming denials, he graciously overlooks our many missteps and failures. And finally, He will work in our hearts and our circumstances, so that we also find the faith to triumph just as Sarah did.