Friday, June 13, 2008

A Letter from Sarah

I was born Sarai in Ur of the Chaldeans. I lived to be 127 years old. My name appears 60 times in the Bible in 49 verses.

My husband, Abraham (born Abram, but God later renamed him) was called out by the Lord God Almighty to leave Ur, told to leave his family and go to a Promised Land. Terah, my father and father-in-law, got wind of it, and we all set out and got as far as Haran where Terah died. My husband became the head of the family, and we traveled on to Canaan.

I lived in tents practically my whole married life. Today, people call it “camping.” Tents gave us shelter from the sun, and we had plenty of servants to haul them around and set them up.

My husband worshipped God Almighty, the Lord Most High, and sacrificed lambs on an altar near our tent site in Canaan by the oak of Moreh near Shechem. Abraham told us about God’s promises. Abraham prayed aloud, calling on the Lord Most High at another altar he built east of Bethel.

My husband, Abraham was 75 years old when we left Haran, and since I am nine years younger, I was 66 years old at the time. I thought it curious that my husband was promised descendants because I was barren. Do you know how painful it is to live 66 years and never get to hold your own baby? To wonder why? To wonder who would care for you in your old age? To be tested and promised descendants and to watch your body approach menopause?

When we traveled toward the Negev, there was a famine in the land, so my husband decided to go to Egypt. God had blessed me with great beauty. Abraham took me aside, and pointed out that I was still very, very beautiful and he was afraid the Egyptians would kill him if they discovered I was his wife. So, he asked me to lie and say I was his sister. Technically, we shared the same father, but not the same mother, so sure enough, when we got to Egypt, Pharoah’s officials saw me and praised me to Pharoah and I was taken into Pharoah’s house. Pharoah treated Abraham well, giving him sheep, oxen, donkeys, servants, and camels. I think that is where we picked up my personal servant, Hagar.

The Lord struck Pharoah and his house with great plagues because of me. Pharoah somehow found out and confronted Abraham with: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘she is my sister’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife, take her and go!”

I heard Pharoah give the orders to his men, and they escorted us away and let us keep all that now belonged to us. Now, my husband, Abraham was a very rich man. We traveled back to the Negev and I could not believe all the livestock, silver and gold. We traveled back to where it all began between Bethel and Ai, to the place of the altar Abraham built, and Abraham called on the name of the Lord God Almighty.

We had so much livestock that the land could not sustain all the flocks and herds. Our herdsmen began fighting, and the Canaanite and Perizzite were still dwelling in the land, too. My husband, Abraham said to Lot, his nephew, “Please let there be no strife between you and me, nor between my herdsmen and your herdsmen, for we are brothers. Is not the whole land before you? Please separate from me: if you go to the left, then I will go to the right or if you choose right, then I will go left.

Lot lifted up his greedy eyes and chose for himself the valley of the Jordan, that well-watered land that was so beautiful, some compared it to the garden of the Lord, and like the land of Egypt on the way to Zoar.

Abraham settled in Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the valley close to the city of Sodom. The men of Sodom were wicked exceedingly and sinners against the Lord.

After Lot left us, the Lord told Abraham that all the land, north, south, east and west, God said, “I will give it to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth, so that if anyone can number the dust of the earth, then your descendants can also be numbered.” And God said, “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth, for I will give it to you.” Abraham moved our tents and we dwelt by the oaks of Mamre near Hebron and there he built another altar to the Lord.

A fugitive came and told Abraham that his nephew, Lot had been captured by the five kings that overran the four kings of the four cities in the Jordan valley. When Abraham heard that our relative had been captured, he led out his trained men, 318 total loyal to us, most of whom had been born in our tents. Abraham pursued as far as Dan and then divided his forces that night and defeated them. Abraham pursued them as far as north of Damascus. And he took back all the goods, and brought back Lot, an all his possessions, and also all the women and the people.

After Abraham returned from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and his kings, the king of Sodom came out to meet him. But, Melchizedek, King of Salem got to Abraham first and brought out bread and wine, and blessed Abraham. Melchizedek is not only the king of Salem, but a priest of God Most High, also. A king-priest. (just like Jesus will be someday) King-Priest Melchizedek reminded Abraham that God Most High delivered his enemies into his hand, so when the king of Sodom asked for all the slaves, Abraham said, “I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth, that I will not take a thread or a sandal thong or anything that is yours, lest you brag that you made me rich.” Abraham said, “I will take nothing except what the young men have eaten, and the share of the men who went with me, my allies, Eschcol, Aner and Mamre. Let them take their share.”

God appeared to my husband, Abraham, in a vision after that saying, “Do not fear, I am a shield to you. Your reward shall be very great.”

My husband argued with God about maybe making Elizer of Damascus his heir? But, God said, “No, this man will not be your heir. But, one who shall come forth from your own body, he shall be your heir.” And God took Abraham outside at night and said, “Now look toward the heavens and count the stars, if you are able to count them. So shall your descendants be.” Abraham believed in the Lord and the Lord reckoned it to him as righteousness. God reminded Abraham that “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.”

I thought it so strange when God asked my husband to bring him a three year old heifer, a three year old female goat, and a three year old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon. Abraham had asked, “how may I know that I shall possess this land?” And Abraham brought all these animals to God and cut them in two and laid each half opposite the other, all except the birds. My husband said he drove away the birds of prey, and a deep sleep fell on him. Terror and a great darkness fell upon him. God warned my husband that “your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed for 400 years.” But God promised to come and judge the nation whom they served, and afterward they will come out with many possessions. Abraham was told, “as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace. You shall be buried at a good old age. Then the fourth generation, they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete.” Abraham said he then saw a smoking oven and a flaming torch pass between the pieces of the animals cut in half. On that day, the Lord made a covenant with Abraham saying, “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the Euphrates.”

I was still called Sarai at the time. I had this Egyptian maid, Hagar, and I started nagging Abraham: “now behold, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Please go into my maid, perhaps I shall obtain children through her.” Sadly, Abraham should have asked God if that was such a good idea. Abraham listened to my voice. We had lived ten years in Canaan when I gave her my husband as his wife. Abraham went in to Hagar and she conceived, and when she saw that she had conceived, she despised me. She had the nerve to look down on me. I could not take Hagar’s gloating. I told Abraham, my husband, “may the Lord judge between you and me.” But Abraham told me that Hagar was my maid, and in my power to do with her what is good in my sight. So, I, Sarai, treated Hagar harshly. And Hagar ran away. She fled from my sight.

God found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness on the way to Shur. God asked her where she’d been and where she was going. God told Hagar to return to me, Sarai, and submit to my authority. God promised to greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants so that they shall bee too many to count. God said to Hagar: you are with child, you shall bear a son, and you shall call his name, Ishmael because the Lord has given heed to your affliction.” God warned Hagar that Ishmael would be a “wild donkey of a man.” Hagar called God, “Thou art a God who Sees.” Hagar marveled that she remained alive even after seeing God!

Hagar came back and bore Abraham that son. My husband was 86 when Ishmael was born. Thirteen years later, when Abraham was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to Abraham and said: “I am God Almighty. Walk before Me, and be blameless. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply your exceedingly.” And my husband fell on his face, and God talked to him saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham for I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. And I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish My Covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout all their generations for an everlasting covenant to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”

God said further to Abraham, “Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations. This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised. And you shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And every male among you who is eight days old shall be circumcised throughout your generations, even your male servants.” “Thus shall My covenant be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” God told Abraham that uncircumcised males were to be cut off from his people as they had broken My covenant.

Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. The I will bless her and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall come from her.”

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, “Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before Thee!”

But God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac; (which means laughter in Hebrew) and I will establish My covenant with him for an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.” “And as for Ishmael, I have heard you, behold, I will bless him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. Ishmael shall become the father of twelve princes, and I will make him a great nation.”

“But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear you at this season next year.” And when He finished talking with my husband, God went up from Abraham. Then Abraham took Ishmeal, and all the male servants, and circumcised the flesh of the foreskin in the very same day, as God had said to him. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin.

Now the Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when Abraham saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My lord, if now I have found favor in your sight, please do not pass your servant by. Please let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.” And they agreed.

So Abraham hurried into the tent and said to me, Sarah, “Quickly, prepare three measure of fine flour, knead it, and make bread cakes.” Then Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and the servant hurried to prepare it. Abraham took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before the three men, and he was standing by them under the tree as they ate.

Then they said to Abraham, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And Abraham answered, “Behold, in the tent.”

And he said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And I was listening at the tent door, which was behind my husband. I thought about how we were old, advanced in age, way past childbearing. And I laughed to myself, “after I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.”

I denied laughing, because I was afraid. And the Lord said, “no, but you did laugh.”

Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The Lord considered hiding from Abraham what He was about to do, but since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed, God said, “For I have chosen him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice; in order that the Lord my bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

God told Abraham about the outcry of Sodom and Gomorrah, how their sin was exceedingly grave.

Abraham was concerned that God would sweep away the righteous with the wicked, so he proposed that if there were fifty righteous, he asked God if He would indeed sweep it away? How about if there were only forty or twenty or ten? Surely, Abraham thought, there are ten righteous. God promised not to destroy Sodom if there were ten.

Abraham and I traveled with all our servants toward the Negev and sojourned in Gerar. Abraham told Abimelech, king of Gerar that I, Sarah, “is my sister.” Abimelech sent and took me. But God came to Abimelech in a dream of the night, and said to him: “Behold, you are a DEAD man because of the woman whom you have taken for she is married.”

Now Abimelech had not come near me, and he said, “Lord, wilt Thou slay a nation, even though blameless? Did he not himself say to me, ‘she is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘he is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that in the integrity of your heart you have done this, and I also kept you from sinning against ME, therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you will live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.”

So Abimelech arose early in the morning and he called his servants and told them all these things in their hearing, and the men were greatly frightened. Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” “What have you encountered that you have done this thing?”

And Abraham answered, “Because I thought, surely there is no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides, she actually is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife; and it came about, when God caused me to woander form my father’s house, that I said to her, ‘this is the kindness which you will show to me: everywhere we go, say of me, ‘He is my brother.’”

Abimelech then took sheep and oxen and servants and gave them to Abraham and restored me, Sarah, to him.

And Abimelech said, “Behold, my land is before you, settle wherever you please.” And to me, Sarah, he said, “Behold I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver, behold, it is your vindication before all who are with you, and before all men you are cleared.”

And Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech and his wife and his maids, so that they born children. For the Lord had closed fast all the wombs of the household of Abimelech because of me, Sarah, Abraham’s wife.

Then the Lord took note of me, Sarah, as He said, and the Lord did for me as He promised. I conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. And Abraham called the name of our son, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised our son, Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. (Remember, how I said that Isaac is the Hebrew word for “laughter?”) And I, Sarah, said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And I also said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Our story does not end there. Isaac grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day Isaac was weaned. When I, Sarah, saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, mocking, I told Abraham, “drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”

This matter distressed Abraham greatly, but God said to Abraham, “Do not be distressed because of the lad and your maid, whatever Sarah tells you, listen to her, for through Isaac your descendants shall be named. And of the son of the maid I will make a nation also, because he is your descendant.” Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave them to Hagar, and sent her and the boy away.

I enjoyed my son Isaac for thirty-six years before it was my time to die. I saw him become a man. I know now from Scripture that my dear husband, Abraham, mourned when I died, and went to a lot of trouble to purchase a piece of land with a cave to bury me. Our neighbors were willing to give the land to Abraham, but it was important to my husband to pay a fair price for it. Abraham told the sons of Heth that “I am a stranger and a sojourner among you; give me a burial site among you that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” Ephron said that the land was worth four hundred shekels of silver, so Abraham weighted out the silver and the land was deeded over to my husband. When Abraham died at the age of 175 years old, he would be buried there, too. As well as Isaac, and my future grandson, Jacob. And you can read their stories in Genesis and Exodus. All that God promised came to pass.

As for my son, Isaac, four years after I died, God directed my husband’s servant to find the perfect wife for him back in Nahor among our relatives. Isaac brought Rebekah into my old tent, and she became his wife, and Isaac loved her, and thus Isaac was comforted after my death. For twenty years, Rebekah was barren, but Isaac kept praying, and she gave birth to twins! But, you can read her story in Genesis.

I like that verse in Hebrews that mentions me in the list: “By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered HIM faithful who had promised, therefore, also, there was born of one man, and him as good as dead that, as many descendants as the stars of heaven in number and innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

I am thankful that Abraham did not tell me about that camping trip until afterwards when God tested my husband and told him to offer up his uniquely born son, Isaac. Abraham was willing, and confident that God would raise Isaac back from the dead, but God provided a ram caught in the thicket. Some say that the place my husband bound Isaac to the altar was the very same place Jesus would be put on a cross. As Hebrews 11:19 says, Isaac was “a type”, a picture or foreshadowing of what was to come. God would not spare His own uniquely born Son, and thanks to what He did, we wait in heaven for the future day when God will finish fulfilling all the promises He made to us.

Thank you for reading my story. See you in heaven, my children.

Love, Sarah, wife of Abraham,

(for as Scripture says in I Peter 3:6,) “Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.”

1 comment:

Bob said...

Sarah, that's an interesting story, but I just want you to know: You and Abraham just aren't the sort of folks we want attending our church (polygamy, genital mutilation, etc). Just let us know when you get your act straight and we'll reconsider.