Who was Sarah in the Bible and what lessons can we glean from her life?
I love studying the different biblical characters. Taking a glance into their lives helps us to see that they weren’t all that different from us. They faced similar struggles that we experience today. Plus, we get to see how the Lord worked on their behalf. Their stories strengthen us to press on in faithful obedience and devotion to the Lord.
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As we consider the life of this woman of God, there are some specific questions we want to answer:
- What are the main points of Abraham and Sarah’s story?
- What are the characteristics of Sarah in the Bible?
- Why did Sarah laugh in the Bible?
What Was Sarah in the Bible Known For?
Let’s start with a quick overview.
The story of Abraham and Sarah begins in Genesis chapter 12 when God called Abraham and Sarah (at that time their names were Abram and Sarai), to leave their home in Ur of the Chaldeans and go to the land of Canaan.
God Made a Covenant with Abraham
The next significant piece of information we learn about their story is that God made a covenant with Abraham. If we look at the original meaning of the word ‘covenant’ we find that it is a solemn, binding agreement. This covenant that God initiated with Abram, basically, stated that he would bear a son in his old age. This child would be born from his wife Sarah and he was to name this child Isaac.
God also promised that He would give him the land of Canaan, descendants as numerous as the stars and that all the nations would be blessed through his seed.
God Gives Abram and Sarai New Names
So when and why did God change Sarah and Abraham’s name? The answer is actually quite fascinating!
We read in Genesis 16 that Sarah was getting a bit impatient. God had promised her a son and she was pushing 90 years old. Instead of waiting on God’s timing, she decided to give her maidservant to her husband so he could bear a son through her.
So, after we read about all this family drama, we come to Genesis 17. In this chapter we see God re-establishing His covenant with Abraham and also changing their names.
God gave Abram (meaning ‘exalted father’) the name Abraham (meaning ‘father of many’). He also gave Sarai (meaning ‘my princess’) the name Sarah. The meaning of Sarah in the Bible is princess. This makes more sense with Abraham’s new name because it portrays the promise that God had given him to multiply their descendants.
However, an old Bible teacher friend of mine told me once that some scholars believe God actually placed part of His name within their new names.
If you look at the name of God, Yahweh, you see “ah” in the middle. This is what was added to each of their names.
Abram – Abraham
Sarai – Sarah
Isn’t that awesome! God gave His name to His covenant partners. Abraham and Sarah.
Do you see the significance in this? One custom in marriage in many cultures is for the wife to take the name of the husband. It’s a picture of the two joining together.
God Kept His Promise
In Genesis 21, we see that Sarah bore Abraham a son when he was 100 years old. Even though Abraham and Sarah had a lot of waiting to do, God kept His promise to them. Their faith faltered at times, and they had moments of failure. Yet, despite their unfaithfulness, God remained faithful.
Do Your Own Study of Sarah in the Bible
I’ve given you a quick snapshot of the lives of Abraham and Sarah. If you would like to do your own in-depth study of their story, make sure to grab these Bible study worksheets. You can use the Character Study Kit to discover more about who Sarah was in the Bible.
Characteristics of Sarah in the Bible
Now that we understand a little bit more about her story, let’s consider how her story reveals what kind of person Sarah was.
Sarah Trusted God
There are multiple verses in the Bible that reveal how Sarah trusted God. One of my favorites is in Hebrews 11. Sarah and Rahab were the only two women mentioned in the hall of faith – which says a lot about her character.
By faith even Sarah herself received ability to conceive, even beyond the proper time of life, since she considered Him faithful who had promised. – Hebrews 11:11
Sarah Doubted God
Even though she was a woman of great faith, she had her moments of doubting God’s ability to keep His promise.
First of all, in the story of Sarah and Hagar in the Bible, we see that she tried to speed up God’s plan by giving her maidservant to her husband in an attempt to have a child through her.
Why did Sarah laugh in the Bible?
Also, we see her laughing when she overheard the Lord tell Abraham that she would bear a son within the following year. We see this exchange in Genesis 18.
9 Then they said to him, “Where is your wife Sarah?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” 10 He said, “I will certainly return to you at this time next year; and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, am I to have pleasure, my lord being old also?” – Genesis 18:9-12
So, you may be thinking… ‘what’s wrong with laughing?’. The laughter itself wasn’t the problem. The issue was that Sarah’s laughter was an expression of doubt.
Have you ever laughed to yourself at the idea of something that seemed absolutely impossible?
Lessons from the Life of Sarah in the Bible
Here are just a few of the lessons we can glean from the life of Sarah.
God Keeps His Promises
The story of Sarah is a perfect example of how God keeps His promises. God promised to give Sarah a son. He may not have done it in the timing or way that Sarah would have liked, but God is faithful and kept His word to her and Abraham.
Wait On God’s Timing
God is omniscient (all-knowing). We are not. He knows exactly the right time for His plan to be perfectly executed. HIs ways are higher than ours. Yet, so often, just like Sarah, we try to make His purposes work out in our own way. His way is always the better way.
We need to learn to wait on God.
Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. – Isaiah 40:31
God Forgives Us When We Mess Up
Not only is God a promise-keeper, but He is also full of mercy. Throughout Abraham and Sarah’s story in the Bible, we see them make multiple mistakes.
They doubted God.
They disobeyed His Word.
However, during the moments that they were unfaithful, God’s faithfulness remained steadfast.
For the Lord your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them. – Deuteronomy 4:31
God’s mercy is unending. He is always ready to extend His forgiveness and grace.