By Jennifer Heeren, Crosswalk.com
The entire story of Abraham and Sarah is seen in Genesis 12 through Genesis 23. It shows that you can trust God with an unknown future, you can listen to and obey God even when you don’t see the fruit, and God’s promises are greater than our ability to obey. While our resolve can be a little shaky, God’s faithfulness is great.
They begin as Abram and Sarai, but God changes their names in the middle of their story. Sometimes people get caught up in their own discouragement, but God brings redemption. He placed a marker in their lives to show that things could be different from this point onward. God loves to redeem and renew.
Here are the highlights of Abraham and Sarah’s story.
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What Is the Story of Abraham and Sarah?
We first hear of Abram in Genesis 12, when he was about seventy-five years old. The Lord told Abram to leave the area that he knew, as well as his family and friends. The Lord said that He would bless Abram and make him and his descendants into a great nation if he went to a place that the Lord would show him. Abram didn’t know in advance where he was going. He just knew that God would bless him if he went.
Lesson 1: Abraham and Trusted Without Knowing the Future
Abram obeyed and went, knowing nothing in advance. I want to know all the details before I step my foot forward. However, it’s better to keep moving than to get stuck in disobedience.
When Abram and Sarai arrived in Canaan, the Lord appeared and told Abram that He would give this land to his descendants. Abram set up camp along with an altar to worship the Lord for His goodness.
Abram worshipped God along the journey. He didn’t know everything, but he thanked God as he went along. He knew that if God had been with him thus far, He would continue to be with him.
A famine in Canaan forced Abram and Sarai to go to Egypt to survive. Egyptian men took a liking to Sarai’s beauty. Out of self-preservation, Abram cooked up a plan to tell them that Sarai was his sister. He surmised that if the Egyptians knew the truth, they might kill him to get Sarai. At first, his plan seemed to work. The Pharaoh of Egypt offered livestock gifts to Abram, presumably to get Sarai in return. But the Lord didn’t like this self-made plan of deceit. He sent terrible plagues on Pharaoh and his household until Pharaoh realized Sarai was indeed Abram’s wife. In a rage, he sent Abram and Sarai out of his country.
Lesson 2: Abraham and Sarah Knew it Must Be God’s Plan, Not His Own
I have concocted plans in my life, too. They seemed to make sense, but they weren’t God’s plan. They were my thoughts and not God’s thoughts. It’s better to pray and wait until I sense a green light from God instead of planning my own schemes.
In Genesis 13, Abram made his way north again, back to the area where he had built an altar to the Lord. He worshipped God again. He thanked God for getting him back on track again.
Abram had been traveling with his nephew, Lot, the whole time, but now he realized that the land couldn’t support two tribes of people living so close together. They needed to separate. Graciously, Abram gave the first pick of the areas to Lot. If Lot wanted the land to the left, Abram would take the right side, and if Lot wanted the land to the right, Abram would take the left. Lot took the best-looking area and went on his way. Abram took the other. But the Lord confirmed to Abram that every direction he could see would be for him, and his descendants.
Lesson 3: God Kept His Promises to Abraham and Sarah
Abram trusted God, and God didn’t disappoint. Someone else may appear to get the better option. But God can make my leftover piece work out for my good. God’s will for me isn’t affected by what someone else gets.
In Genesis 15, we see more time flying by with no realization of what Abram was promised. Abram got older. He doubted he would have any descendants at all. The Lord affirmed Abram would have more descendants than stars in the sky. Abram couldn’t see the possibility, but he believed anyway. But even in his belief, he questioned how this could happen. God made a covenant with Abram and prophesied about his future descendants. Furthermore, this covenant showed that God alone was fully responsible for making the promise come true.
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Lesson 4: Abraham and Sarah Took God at His Word
Like Abram, I must take God at His Word, even when I don’t understand. I’m never going to understand everything that God knows. But He is good, and I can trust Him. What seems impossible to my mind is very possible to God.
Genesis 16 depicts Sarai’s discouragement too as she grew older. She hadn’t gotten pregnant yet. How could she and Abram have a child this late in life? She concocted her maidservant could have a baby for her, so she convinced Abram to sleep with the maidservant. Hagar became pregnant with Abram’s child, but this birthed jealousy in Sarai. She got what she wanted but didn’t like what she received.
However, Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was not the descendant that God had promised. God again reaffirmed His promise to Abram about many descendants and this time He changed his name from Abram to Abraham, which means the father of multitudes. And He changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, which means mother of nations, and confirmed that a son would come from her. After one more year, Sarah would have a son. Sarah laughed to herself. She couldn’t fathom a woman of her age having a child. God reconfirmed that in one year, Sarah would have a son.
Lesson 5: God Redeemed Abraham and Sarah Despite Their Downfalls
God redeems even when my lack of understanding creates my own problems. I look at situations from human reasoning. I often forget that nothing is too hard for God, whether I understand or not.
But then in Genesis 21, Abraham and Sarah’s son, Isaac, was born at the exact time that God prophesied. Sarah’s laughter of skepticism turned into laughter of joy.
Then God asked Abraham to do an unfathomable thing in Genesis 22. More time went by, and Abraham heard from the Lord that he was to take his precious long-awaited son up the mountain and sacrifice him. By faith, Abraham knew God wouldn’t ask him to do this unless He was going to resurrect Isaac. Abraham knew that he and Isaac would go up the mountain and he and Isaac would also come back down the mountain.
Abraham and Isaac both went up the mountain, and Abraham began sacrificing his own son. But an angel of the Lord stopped Abraham before he could go through with it. God knew that Abraham truly feared Him and provided a ram to sacrifice instead. God only wanted Abraham to be willing. Ultimately, He didn’t want him to sacrifice his son. (The sacrifice of an only Son would come later. God the Father is the only one strong enough to do that.
Lesson 6: Abraham and Sarah Had to Give it to God
God wants me to give up anything that I want more than Him. My own wants and ideals try to take over my mind. But God wants to have first place in my heart. And life flows much better when this is the case.
Lesson 7: God Looks for Our Faith
One of the most important characteristics of Abraham and Sarah’s lives was faith. They both received honorable mention in Hebrews 11, a passage that showcases people for their faithfulness to God.
By faith, Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him. He went forward without knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). Abraham confidently looked beyond what he saw in the natural and forward to heavenly rewards.
By faith, Sarah followed her husband into unknown places. She accepted her husband’s earthly authority and her heavenly Father’s ultimate authority. Sarah believed God would keep His promise to them (Hebrews 11:11) even though she didn’t know how.
They both believed in God and a multitude of people followed in their footsteps. Too many to count, like stars in the sky and sand on the seashore (Hebrews 11:12).
Did Abraham and Sarah make mistakes in their lives? Yes. But they learned from them and held tight to the hand of God through it all. They learned, and they grew in wisdom as they walked this earth, all the while knowing that they weren’t home yet. They looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises and their heavenly home.
Above all else, God looks for my faith. I can’t control the results, but I can control my belief and my attitude. I can be faithful while God works out the many details.
No matter how good life seems to you or how bad it seems in a moment, this isn’t the end. Keep pressing on. Keep learning and trusting. And one day you will receive abundantly more than this whole wide world offers.
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