In slowly reading through the Bible again, I’ve come across the story of Abraham and Sarah (or Abram and Sarai, as they started). Â I’ve always pictured Sarah as a graceful figure, since she’s both the wife of the great Abraham and the mother of a nation. Â But a different picture of her has emerged as I’ve been reading.
Almost every mention of Sarah’s name is coupled with an example of bad judgement. Â First, there’s the Egyptian deception in Genesis 12 (admittedly not her idea, but she was definitely involved). Â Next, in Genesis 16, she brings her servant, Hagar, to Abraham for use as a sex-slave. Â Hagar’s desires are never mentioned or considered. Â Then, when her plan works and Hagar’s expecting a baby, Sarah’s jealousy drives her to cruelty. Â This cruelty is so extreme that pregnant Hagar leaves the community and flees into the desert in an act of near-suicide.
Yet in Genesis 17:15-16, God give Abraham great promises for Sarah. Â He changes her name from Sarai, which means something like ‘my princess’ or possibly ‘quarrelsome’, to Sarah, which means ‘princess’. Â God promises to bless her and give her a son. She also receives the female version of Abraham’s blessing: that she’ll be the mother of many nations. Â God goes even further than he had with Abraham, and promises that kings will descend from her line. Â NoticeablyÂ absent from the text is the reason God is blessing her. Â In Abraham’s case, his faith has already been credited to him as righteousness. Â In Sarah’s case, her account was surely overdrawn. Â God is clearly not blessing her because she’s great, but because God is great. Â He’s showing her unmerited favor, blessings she clearly doesn’t deserve.
So Sarah emerges for me not as an illustration of gracefulness, but as an illustrationÂ of grace. Â If God looks at people like Sarah and decides to bless them, how can I not wish blessings for the undeserving? Â Am I to place myself above God and wish ill of anyone? In the end, God’s blessings, when they’re seen in the light of their undeserved-ness, serve to glorify Him, not Sarah. Â The blessings may have been for her, but they’re still God’s blessings.