Sarah: Model of Respect and Modesty

ModestyThis week we will conclude our study of Sarah, the wife of Abraham.

Genesis 17:15-21; 18:6-15; 20:1-18; 21:1-12; 23:1-2,19; Hebrews 11:11; 1 Peter 3:1-6

Sarai receives a new name (Genesis 17:15-21).

As we saw last week, the name Sarai means “my lady,” or “princess.” But this time when God visits Abraham to renew the promise made to him of a son, the Lord says from now on Sarai will be called Sarah, meaning “princess of the multitude,” for this barren woman is going to be a mother of nations. Although men and women had a longer life span then than we do now, it was still unheard of for a 90-year-old woman to conceive a child, and Abraham was 99 years old by now. But our God is a God of miracles. He does what others cannot do.

Sarah laughs at the promise of God (Genesis 18:6-15).

The angel of the Lord returned to Abraham to announce that it was time for the child of promise. Sarah overheard the conversation from her tent. She was already well into menopause, so she wondered how in the world this miracle could possibly take place. She didn’t even laugh out loud, but only within herself, as the Bible says. But the Lord knew her thoughts, and He replied, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” When Sarah knew that the Lord had read her mind, she was afraid and tried to deny that she had laughed, but she could not fool God. He knew.

God also knows when you or I doubt His promises. He tells us, “Be not faithless, but believing” (John 20:27). Over and over again, the Lord tells us to trust Him in faith. Perhaps you are waiting for a miracle. Remember, “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Don’t worry about what your eyes can see; if you believe God has a plan for you, then listen to Him tell you, as He told Sarah, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Sarah lies once again in obedience to Abraham (Genesis 20:1-18).

I am not sure how much time has passed since the angel of the Lord announced that Sarah would have a son, but she surely must already be pregnant, because when the angel came, He said that she would bear a child “according to the time of life.” Obviously, she wasn’t showing yet. It is also obvious that although Sarah was 90 years old, she was still very beautiful, for Abraham still wanted her to lie about being his wife. This time, however, we learn that she is his half-sister, so they were telling a half-truth. But a half-truth is still a lie.

Once again the Lord protected her and delivered her back to her husband, but this time they both were rebuked for the lie. After all, they both should have known better by now. Had God not promised that she and Abraham would have a child? How could He make good on His promise if Abraham were killed and Sarah was taken into the harem of a foreign king? Verse 16 is somewhat humorous, as King Abimelech, in addressing Sarah, refers to Abraham as her brother. There is some question as to the correct interpretation of this verse. Some say that the money given to Abraham was for the purchase of a veil, which was supposed to be worn by all married women, and which Sarah was obviously lacking. It may be that she was vain in her appearance, and most likely Abraham also liked to see her face, and perhaps show her off to the other men. But this vanity got her into trouble at least twice.

Sarah becomes a mother (Genesis 21:1-8).

God’s word came to pass, just as He had said it would. Why? Because God always keeps His promises. Sarah had a son, and they called his name Isaac, according to the word of the Lord.

Sarah casts out Hagar and Ishmael (Genesis 21:1-12).

When Isaac was weaned (about 3 years old), Abraham threw a big party. Sarah saw Ishmael mocking Isaac. Most likely he was taunting him, making fun of him. He surely was jealous because Isaac, though the younger son of Abraham, was the heir. Sarah saw trouble brewing and told Abraham to cast out both Hagar and Ishmael. He was sad to have to do this because Ishmael, after all, was his son. But God said to go ahead and do it, and He promised to take care of them.

Sarah dies at age 127 (Genesis 23:1-2,19).

Sarah died and Abraham bought a plot of land that had a cave on it, and that cave became the family burial ground.

Sarah is presented as a model of faith (Hebrews 11:11).

“Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.”

In the Old Testament, we see the details of the lives of Sarah and Abraham, both their strengths and their weaknesses. But the New Testament makes it quite clear that in spite of her weaknesses, Sarah “judged Him faithful who had promised.” In other words, she believed that God would do just as He said.

Sarah is presented as a model of respect, obedience, and modesty (1 Peter 3:1-6).

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement” (1 Peter 3:1-6).

Sarah respected her husband.

Peter says that Sarah called her husband “lord.” Think about it. Her name means “my lady.” Perhaps that was Abraham’s pet name for her, and she in turn gave him the pet name “my lord.” It is sign of respect, but I think it was also a token of affection. I know they didn’t speak English, but this is the equivalent of what they said in their language, and I don’t believe my theory is too far-fetched.

Sarah obeyed her husband, but did not necessarily agree with him.

We are told to be obedient to our husbands, even if they do not obey the Word of God. And we are not to preach to them, for our obedience will speak for itself. But what about other women in the Bible who obeyed their husbands and suffered the consequences? I’m thinking in particular about Sapphira from the New Testament, who conspired with her husband Ananias to lie about the offering they were giving to the church. God killed both of them, but why? After all, was she not acting in obedience her husband? She was, but the difference is that they were not only trying to deceive the people, they were also trying to deceive the Holy Spirit. You cannot deceive God. Sapphira did not obey in fear, asking the Lord to honor her obedience even though her husband expected her to do wrong. To the contrary, she went along with the deception whole-heartedly.

Perhaps this indirectly reveals a little something about Sarah. The Bible doesn’t tell us what her motive was, but perhaps she knew that the lies were wrong and only obeyed Abraham out of reverence, trusting God to make it right in the end. I certainly don’t think she wanted to leave her husband and spend the rest of her days in a harem.

Sarah learned the importance of modesty.

I think it is also interesting that this passage addresses the wife’s appearance, which helps to make sense of Genesis 20:18, particularly if Abimilech gave Abraham the money to buy a proper covering for his wife. And how interesting that Peter gives Sarah as an example not only of obedience and respect, but also of modesty. Perhaps she finally learned her lesson and covered herself properly from that point on. So, even though she did wrong initially, she was honored for what she did right, for she finished well.

It seems the only conclusion we can draw from this study is that God rewards wives when they honor their husbands with respect, obedience, and modesty, even if the husbands are not worthy of such honor. He knows when we as wives do wrong out of obedience though we desire to do right, for God sees the heart. And we can trust God to work miracles in our lives, and in the lives of our husbands.

Next week: Hagar

Original artwork drawn in color pencil, 2016
Please Note: I am not advocating the wearing of such coverings as shown in the picture, but I do advocate dressing in such a way as to avoid drawing undo attention to oneself by any man who is not your husband.

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