Biblical Women Study #3 Sarah, Wife of Abraham

We have a bit more to learn from our Matriarch, Sarah, the wife of Abraham.

We read that “Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness.”  Four hundred years before the Torah was given, the first Hebrew was made right with God through FAITH.  Abraham’s faith is legendary and serves as a model for us to this day.  Yet was his faith perfect?  Or like us, did faith come under attack in his life? And in Sarah’s?  Yes it did.

After they entered Canaan, the presence of a famine there motivated Abraham to leave the Land which God had promised him and flee into Egypt (Gen. 12:10).  As they approached Egypt, Abraham said to his wife, “See now, I know that you are a beautiful woman; and it will come about when the Egyptians see you, that they will say, ‘This is his wife’; and they will kill me, but they will let you live. Please say that you are my sister so that it may go well with me because of you, and that I may live on account of you” (Gen. 12:11-13).

It was certainly a tribute to Sarah’s beauty that at sixty-five years of age she was still so irresistible that Abraham thought the Egyptians might try to kill him for her. And the Bible tells us his fear was not some personal paranoia.

And it came about when Abram came into Egypt, the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And Pharaoh’s officials saw her and praised her to Pharaoh; and the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house” (Gen. 12:14, 15). While Abraham thought the Egyptians might murder him to get his wife, he was confident that posing as her brother would afford him honorable treatment. And he was right. They gave him many animals and servants for her sake (Gen. 12:16).

To be fair, technically, Abraham didn’t exactly lie. Sarah was in fact his half-sister. (Gen. 20:12). Such marriages were not unusual in that culture. But what they told the Pharaoh was only a half-truth, and half-truths often backfire.

But, why did Sarah go along with his scheme?  Should her devotion to God have superseded her husband’s conniving?  Sarah could have refused and no one would fault her for that. But from her co-operation with Abraham in this situation we catch a glimpse of her deep faith. Despite years of disappointment at not conceiving a child, Sarah believed God’s promise that Abraham would become the father of a great nation. Since there were no children as yet, Abraham had to live and have children and she would do whatever it took to protect his life.

She may also have believed that God would intervene and deliver her from Pharaoh’s harem. She may likewise have believed that God would reunite her with her husband and rescue both of them from Pharaoh’s power. And because she believed, she acquiesed. God could have protected them apart from Abraham’s fearful scheme, but Sarah’s faith in God and respect towards her husband and his divine calling invite us to deepen our faith and trust in God’s promises.

Let’s give ourselves a ‘Sarah’ test.  Consider the following verse:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding;  In all your ways look to Him and He will make your paths smooth.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Read it again, slowly.  Now truthfully, how often do we lean on our own perceptions and attitudes instead of turning to Him with all our hearts in life’s various situations?  Do we really “look to Him” in everyday life and “have faith” that He will give us into smooth paths?

Our weary world needs to see Sarahs and Abrahams today; men and women who hold onto the Word and Promises of God with unwavering conviction; who are not moved by frightful news reports or unwelcome government policies, but whose trust is in the Lord God Almighty.

Our Matriarch, Sarah, calls to us across the generations: “Have faith in God; I did and I can testify that He is faithful to His own.”

Women & Rosh Hashana September 24-26, 2014

RoshHashana

 

It seems as though I’ve been in the kitchen for days on end.  Rosh Hashana is coming.  That means guests, two festive meals, celebratory gatherings, traditional foods.  That spells out hours of time in my lovely kitchen and I enjoy it.

But when the silver is polished and the table is set with gleaming china and polished silver, what in fact are we celebrating?  What was all this work about?

Jewish women expend a great deal of time and energy in preparing for the various festivals throughout the year.  It is too easy to get so caught up with the preparations, the shopping, the baking and the cooking that we forget what’s most important.

Rosh Hashana is the annual ‘Day of Judgment’ when God conducts, as it were, an “annual review” of our lives.  He has invested grace, blessings, challenges and faith in us during the past year and on Rosh Hashana He looks for the ‘return on investment’.  What have we done with what passed through our lives this past year?  Are we bitter or are we better?  Have we grown in maturity or have we settled into mediocrity?

We read in the Scriptures that God’s mercies are new every morning and His compassion never fails us. Given that during the past year, whether we took notice or not, He awakened us each morning to the opportunity of a new day in which to grow closer to Him and kinder towards others, what have we done with those 365 opportunities?  Are we, in fact, better women today than we were on Rosh Hashana last year?

The term, Day of Judgment, elicits a certain negativity or fear in some people but the truth is that the day of judgment known as Rosh Hashana is a day to celebrate.  This is the day we are reminded how much God cares about every thing we do and every word we say.  It’s the day that He wants to open your file in the heavenly archives and be able to say “Well done.”  It’s also the day that He welcomes your apology for wasting days and weeks and months in useless pursuits or activities.  In case you have, this is the day to repent, ask His forgiveness and turn towards Him for a better and more productive future.  The act of turning is in itself a decision to which He always responds “Well Done”.

It’s late afternoon here now. My table is set, the food is prepared and the fragrance of apple cake wafts through the house.  In about three hours, my guests will have arrived and we’ll be seated around the table, celebrating the God who knows us each by name and cares about us in a very personal way.

This Rosh Hashana, my prayer for you is that in the new year that begins at sundown tonight, you and I will deepen our relationship with Him, the God of Israel, the King of the Universe so that next year at this time, our celebration will be richer, our joy deeper for having invested another year in seeking Him with all our hearts and serving others with compassion & kindness.

Shana Tova u Metuka – May you have a good and sweet year!

Thank you for your friendship!

Sophia

Biblical Women Series #2

 SARAH, formerly SARAI – Part 2

In our first meditation, we pondered the faith of Sarah as well as her trust in her husband. (See below) Today we want to focus on her faith and her mission in life.

Clearly she was chosen to be the wife of a very special man, the first Ivri, Hebrew.  The word Ivri means ‘the one who has crossed over’.  It doesn’t require imagination to recognize that not only did Avram ‘cross over’ from his former life; so did his wife.  If he was the first Ivri, then she was the first Ivria.

Every man with a specialized calling from God needs a wife who will believe in him, stand with him and strengthen him as he seeks to fulfill that calling.

In Genesis 11:30 we read:  And Sarai was barren; she did not have a child.

The deeper meaning of this verse is that Sarai was detached from the things of this earth; she loved her family but was not bound to them.  ‘She had no child’ is interpreted symbolically to mean that she had nothing hindering her from following God and her husband with all her heart; no distraction, no other responsibility.  That does not take away from the obvious meaning of the verse but simply adds a depth of understanding beyond the literal.

She was the perfect candidate for the man who would depart from the society of the day, travel to an unknown destination and found a nation at God’s direction.  Other women may not have been up to the challenge.

Picture Sarai, a woman with spiritual insight, who knows she is to be a part of a unique mission with her husband, to spread monotheism throughout the world, and to eventually start a new nation which will be a light unto the others. And she is barren.

What did God have in mind making our matriarch, the quintessential mother, childless for most of her life?

Was it for the purpose of giving Avram and Sarai the freedom to devote themselves to their mission of teaching the world about the One True God?

The souls that they made in Charan – they brought them under the wings of the Shechinah (Divine Presence). Avraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women. (Rashi, Genesis 12:5)

One reason that God gives us ‘lackings’ is to drive us to seek Him with all our heart and soul. He longs for an intimate relationship with each of us and that requires our investment of time to be in His presence.

Sarah must have developed a very strong sense of inner belief and trust in God, in order to accept a situation whereby she was going to embark on a wandering, sterile lifestyle with Avraham – while believing that somehow, out there in the future, there would be children, a nation, prosperity and blessing.

Avraham himself had been directly promised these three blessings when God commanded him to go forth into the unknown:

And I will make you a great nation. (Genesis 12:2)

Rashi: Normally, travels lessen three things: fertility, reputation and economic status. I therefore promise you all these blessings.

Sarah had never actually received these promises. She had to believe Avraham and trust that it would be so.

What does this say to you?

The Place of ‘High Safety’

Simone Weil wrote, “Nothing among human beings has such power to keep our gaze fixed ever more intensely upon God than friendship.”

As we go through life, we make many acquaintances but few ‘best’ friends, souls who have been described as ‘the one who comes in when everyone else walks out.’  Blessed is the person who has such a friend.

When life feels like a desert. a close friend is the oasis.  When we suffer from the heat of anxiety or illness, a close friend is the tall, cool glass of refreshing water.

The German root of the word, ‘friendship’ means “a place of high safety.”  Don’t you just love that?

Close friends are honest and loving; loyal and caring.  They show us what our God is really like.  I don’t know who said this but I remember reading it: “My friends are the beings through whom God loves me.”

If you have such friends, thank God.  I surely do.

The bigger question is ‘Are you such a friend?’ If not, today is the day to begin.

I submit that is at once a simple, but also a great ambition to learn how to be an excellent friend.