Saturday, April 26, 2008

Genesis 17:15-16

Genesis 17:15-16: Then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall come from her.”

When God makes a promise to the head of the household, He does not forget about that man’s family. Sarai, Abraham’s wife, was included in the covenant and indeed a very integral part of it. But first, as Abraham had to leave his old name of Abram behind, Sarai too would get a new name. And Abraham was charged to call her Sarah, the name given to Him for her by God.

We do not know much about these names, especially the former. The dictionaries that have attempted to define them seem to agree that Sarai can be translated as “princess” while Sarah means “noblewoman”. Perhaps those are fitting translations for Abraham’s wife, as they may be for any female. In my family, my fiancée was indeed my princess – I did all I could for her (and she for her prince). As my new bride, she continued to enjoy that extra or focused attention and special care that all brides deserve throughout their entire married life. But in reality, with the purchase of a home, the arrival of children, the aging of our parents, and any extra responsibilities that one’s career may through our way, rare is the spouse that can maintain such constant and more importantly, readily evident, adoration for their partner. My ‘princess’ indeed became a ‘noblewoman’ making way for two new ‘princesses’ in our family as God blessed us with two beautiful daughters first and then later our ‘prince’. What the writers of songs in the sixties called “young love” turned into deep devotion, true affection, and a strong appreciation of one partner’s unrelenting commitment to the other and to the family as a whole.

The latter part of this passage may however have more to say about the meaning of Sarah then the dictionaries may suggest. God goes on to say He will bless Sarah and give to Abraham a son by her. Those words ‘by her’ are interesting and possibly a reference to Abraham agreeing to Sarai’s efforts to procure him a son by way of Hagar. It seems as if God is saying to Abraham, “don’t make a mistake again, your son will come by her, not any other woman.” God forgives our mistakes, but keeps reminding us that the right way to pursue things in our lives is by His methods, not ours.

Then God says again, “Then I will bless her.” It is not clear to the layman whether this is intended to imply the beginning of Sarah’s blessing, or just a continuance of it as in the very prior sentence God has already indicated He will bless her with a son. Perhaps the first reference is to the blessing that results in a pregnancy – the honor of a woman to take a child. In the latter sentence, the blessing may be one for Sarah herself. With this blessing God says, “ . . . she shall be a mother of nations.” And furthermore, that “kings of people” – that is, those that rule these nations, will come from her. What an honor. What a blessing indeed.

It is this blessing that I believe is somehow connected to the real meaning of Sarah, just as Abraham meant father of many nations, so to Sarah was intended to imply mother of many nations. Father Abraham would ultimately have the joy of seeing God’s promise to him come about through his very own and beloved wife, Mother Sarah. What a privilege it is for those that are in the Lord’s service and are married, to be able to share somehow in that ministry together. That is what God gave Abraham and Sarah. That is what He had intended for Adam and Eve from the start. That is what He intends for you and me that are married today.

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