Sarah’s barrenness

(Gen 11:30 NIV)  Now Sarai was barren; she had no children.

(Gen 21:1-2 NIV)  Now the LORD was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah what he had promised. {2} Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Sarah was barren and had to wait 39 years for God to fulfil His promise to give her a child. By the time God was ready to fulfil His promise, both Abraham and Sarah were already very old and humanly impossible to have a child. Perhaps God chose to act in this time so that it would be clear to everyone that what God did for Abraham and Sarah was a miracle and that it had nothing to do with the natural.

Why did God wait so long to fulfil His promise? One reason could be that God wanted to test Abraham and Sarah to see if they would continue to believe in His promises despite the delay. God’s promises also come with a test. We are not fit to receive God’s promises if we do not first pass His test.

10 years after the first promise, Sarah was still barren. She then decided to help God to fulfil His promises by asking her husband to sleep with the maidservant Hagar. Although this is unthinkable in today’s culture, it was the accepted practise in those days. Ancient tablets containing marriage contracts discovered by archaeologists specify that a barren woman was required to provide a woman for her husband for the purpose of procreation.

(Gen 16:1-4 NIV)  Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian maidservant named Hagar; {2} so she said to Abram, "The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said. {3} So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. {4} He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.

What Sarah did was therefore not sinful in itself. What was wrong is that she failed to inquire of the Lord. What she should have done is to ask God, “You promised us a child. Since we cannot have one of our old, is it alright to ask my husband to have a child through our maidservant.” If Sarah had asked that question, perhaps Abraham would not have begotten Ishmael, whose descendants would be enemies of Israel for many generations to come.

When we try to fulfil the promise in a way that is not what God intended, these activities may fall within the “Ishmael” category. They will not result in the blessings that God has promised.

How did Abraham and Sarah eventually break out of barrenness? It was by faith.

(Rom 4:18-21 NIV)  Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be." {19} Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead--since he was about a hundred years old--and that Sarah's womb was also dead. {20} Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, {21} being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

For many of us, we have no doubt that God will fulfil His promises. We just wished that He did not wait so long to fulfil them. The period of waiting is difficult. Perhaps God wants to develop patience in us. Patience does not develop when we get what we want immediately. It comes from a period of waiting. To us, getting what He promised now is more important. To God, that is secondary. Building patience in us is more important.

(Lam 3:26 NIV)  it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.

(Psa 37:7 NIV)  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.