10 Facts about Sarah from the Book of Genesis That Will Encourage Your Faith

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Sarah had to wait until she was in her nineties to give birth to her son, Isaac. We can learn much from Sarah (formerly called Sarai) in the book of Genesis regarding what walking in faith in the promises of God looks like in real life.

1. In Genesis 11 we learn that Sarai is barren.

Because Sarai is barren, she is unable to participate in the promise of Genesis 3:15 that God would provide the seed that would crush the head of the serpent. In that culture Abram possibly could have divorced her on grounds of barrenness.

And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor's wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. Now Sarai was barren; she had no child. (Gen. 11:29-30)

2. Sarah is not mentioned in Genesis 12-15 as the mother of the promised child of Abraham. 

In God’s promise to Abram in Genesis 12 and 15, there is no mention of Sarai:

Now the Lord saidto Abram, “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, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen. 12:1-3)

And Abram said, “Behold, you have given me no offspring, and a member of my household will be my heir.” And behold, the word of the Lord came to him: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own sonshall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:3-6)

3. In Genesis 16 Sarai tries to participate in the promise of Genesis 3:15 through her servant Hagar.

Because she is advanced in years (in her 90s) and hasn’t provided Abram with an heir yet, Sarai gives Hagar to Abram as a wife in Genesis 16. Since nothing was mentioned in God’s promise about the heir coming through Sarai in Genesis 12 and 15, Abraham maybe thought taking Hagar as a wife was a reasonable “plan B.”

Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain childrenby her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai.So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. (Gen. 16:1-3)

4. Sarai is acting out of faith, but she does the wrong thing.

In Galatians 4, Paul makes the point that Abraham and Sarai were trying to assist God in bringing his promise to fulfillment, adding a human ingredient in redemption, but God doesn’t need our help.

Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, while the son of the free woman was born through promise. (Gal. 4:21-23)

5. It is not until Genesis 17:5-21 that God tells Abraham about Sarai’s future role.

In Genesis 17, God changes Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means “princess” in Hebrew. He changes her name because he is going to bless Sarah, making her part of the foundation of the covenant of grace (see Gal. 3:13-18). Regarding Sarah’s name change, the Anchor Yale Dictionary notes,

In Gen. 17:15, the Priestly version of God’s covenant with Abraham, Sarai’s name is changed to Sarah, just as Abram’s name becomes Abraham. Name changes signify a new reality. Thus, the barren Sarah is brought into God’s covenantal promise as the mother of many nations and kings (17:16). Over and against Hagar and Ishmael, she is the lawful wife who will bear the son through whom God’s promises to Abraham will be realized. [1]

This was God’s promise to Eve and then to Abraham—she is royalty in the eyes of the Lord. Abraham learns that Sarah would indeed be the mother of the promised child:

And God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarahshall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Gen. 17:15-16)

6. God’s promise that Sarah would bear a son is delayed.

Even though God promises Abraham (this promise is not declared to Sarah directly) that Sarah would bear the heir to the promise—namely, Isaac— the fulfillment of this promise is delayed for another year: 

The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. (Gen. 18:10)

7. Sarah laughs with joy that her faith has borne fruit.

Sarah has left her family for a man who lived in tents. This is like leaving Beverly Hills for a guy living in a broken-down camper. Twice her husband tells her to lie; she puts up with it because she is committed to Abraham and to his God. Persevering in the faith is what defines believers:

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.” (Gen. 18:11-15)

8. By divine promise Sarah eventually conceives. 

God delighted to bring forth a child in Sarah’s old age so everyone would know it was the Lord’s doing. He did it to glorify his name:

The Lord visited Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as he had promised. And Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age at the time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore him, Isaac. And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh over me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.” (Gen. 21:1-7)

9. Scripture’s judgment of Sarah is one of charity, and we should do the same.

Even though she made a mistake, God had a judgment of charity for Sarah. Hebrews 11 commends her faith:

By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. (Heb. 11:11-12)

Hebrews 11 helps us know how to read the Old Testament. God’s promise is not earthly in its total fulfillment. If the Old Testament saints heard the promises of God as an earthly inheritance, they could have gone back to their old land. We know their faith by what they said and what they did, and that part is the same for us today. The Old Testament saints were looking for the same eternal homeland we are (Heb. 11:13-16). By faith, they waited for it.

10. The Lord has that same judgment of charity toward us all.

We too can say, “Lord, please bless this mess I made.” Sarah had her bad moments—don’t we all? Perhaps you have been hurt by the church or individual Christians in some way. It is good to have a judgment of charity in the church as much as possible, just as God had for Sarah. The Lord has a city that he has prepared for every believer, and one day all of God’s saints shall arrive there safely in glory:

And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,  since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb. 11:39-40)

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[1] Anchor Bible Dictionary, “Sarah” by Gale A. Yee, vol. 5, p. 981. 

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