Sarah is the wife of the Bible’s first patriarch. She is beautiful, has a husband who loves her and wealth. She seems to have everything going for her except the one thing she wants the most. She wants to be a mother but is unable to conceive. She is getting older and older and the chance of becoming a mother slipping away.
Did being unable to conceive make her feel less of a woman? How she must long to hold an infant in her arms. How she must long to see that child grow. Why hasn’t God blessed her with a child?
Desperate, she comes up with a plan, which involves her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar. She says to her husband, Abraham, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her” – Genesis 16:2.
Abraham readily agrees and sleeps with Hagar. Perhaps, he agrees because the LORD said to him, “This man (Abraham’s servant) will not be your heir, but a son coming from your own body will be your heir” – Genesis 15:4. The LORD does not mention Sarah so, when Sarah suggests that Hagar may be the one to provide the heir, Abraham goes along with the plan.
However, the plan doesn’t go as well as Sarah hoped. When Hagar sees that she was able to get pregnant in a short space of time, she despises her mistress who has been trying to get pregnant for years with no results. Sarah, reminded of her failure to give her husband a child, blames him for Hagar’s behaviour.
She says to him, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my servant in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the LORD judge between you and me” – Genesis 16:5. Instead of the child being a blessing, he is causing strife between servant and mistress and husband and wife.
The relationship between Sarah and Hagar worsens and Hagar flees because her mistress is mistreating her. God convinces her to go back and she is there until her son becomes a teenager. In the meantime, God reveals His plan for Sarah who is an elderly woman now.
He says to Abraham, “Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call his name Isaac. I will establish My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him” – Genesis 17:19. God also reveals when this is going to happen. “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son” – Genesis 18:10.
The idea of having a child when they both are advanced in age seems preposterous to Sarah and her first reaction is to laugh. She muses, “After I am worn out and my master is old, will I now have this pleasure?” – Genesis 18:12. But, the LORD uses her to show that nothing is impossible for Him to achieve. He opens the womb of an old woman and gives her a son He promised Abraham. God uses Sarah to show that He fulfills His promises.
Sarah becomes pregnant and bears a son to Abraham in his old age at the very time God promised that it would happen. Sarah says of this wondrous event, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” She adds, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age” – Genesis 21:6,7.
Sarah receives a blessing she never imagined she would. “I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her” – Genesis 17:16. At first it seems as though Hagar received the blessing Sarah has been craving for years. She is able to conceive a child without years of trying and she is young and able to have more.
Yet, God uses Sarah to create nations and kings. God uses a free woman to establish His covenant not Hagar, a slave. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul writes, “So then brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” – Galatians 4:31.
There is freedom in salvation so it is only fitting that God uses a free woman to fulfill His promise.