Monday, May 26, 2008

"Barren" Women of the Bible Part 2 - Sarai/Sarah

Part 2 of our Barren Women of the Bible series will focus on Sarai whose name was changed to Sarah after God established His covenant with her husband, Abraham, and their descendants. Sarai/Sarah's story is found in Genesis, although chapters 16-21 focus on her infertility. Mentions of Sarah are made throughout the Bible.

Sarai is a well-known woman in the Bible. She is often referred to as the mother of our faith because God's covenant was established with her and Abraham. Sarai was very beautiful. She was so alluring that when the couple travelled, Abraham would tell people she was his sister (technically, she was his half-sister) so that he wouldn't be killed over her. As a result, on separate occasions, two kings took her with the intent of adding her as one of their wives. Of course, those kingdoms were plagued and cursed until they let Miss Sarah head back to her hubby. Notably, all the women in one of those kingdoms could not conceive because Sarai had been taken by that king (Read about King Abimelech in Gen. 20).

Now it is important to note that the first prayer that went up regarding this couple's childlessness comes from Abraham (Gen. 15:2-6), not Sarah. Men - our husbands - have the power to get a prayer through that will bless us and future generations. We also know Abraham was a godly man willing to do the will of God, so that likely worked in his favor. Back to Sarah ...

The Bible says, the Lord closed Sarah's womb. We really do not know why God did this, but there was no reason to think it was a punishment. I imagine there were many years of suffering, grief, and frustration, which is why PERHAPS Sarah took matters into her own hands even after God promised Abraham a son.

Sarah asked Abraham to take her Egyptian handmaid, Hagar, as a wife, so that she could bear a son for the couple. He agreed. After Hagar had a son, angels of the Lord came to Abraham's tent. They appeared to be just strangers passing by, but Abraham (not knowing they were angels) showed great hospitality. He begged them to stay and rest before continuing their journey, he killed the fattest calf he could find and asked Sarai to bake her special bread.

Soon enough, the angels/strangers prophesied that Abraham and Sarah would have a son. Sarah did an internal laugh of disbelief (she was inside the tent listening to their conversation). She probably thought, "yeah right. I'm in my 90's and I can't imagine having relations with my husband let alone carrying a baby to term!" Sarah quickly believed the prophesy when the Lord revealed her secret doubts to Abraham.

Okay, so Abraham gets the biggest news of his life ... he will have an heir ... his fortune won't go to his top servant after all! As a matter of fact, he'll have more offspring than he could ever even count! I'm sure Abe was excited, but he wasn't so into himself that he didn't stop to intercede for those living in a neighboring city that the angels/strangers were sent to destroy!

Interesting things about Abe and Sarah:

God didn't require Sarah nor Abraham to be perfect before they received His blessing. They still doubted, lied, and did some pretty dastardly things. Sarah had even kicked Hagar and Ishmael out of the family home once she became a mom. Let's not judge, but rather learn from this couple's lives.

So, although they behaved like humans (don't we all?) they were hospitable, loved the Lord and were obedient to God (Read about Abraham's ultimate test in Gen. 22). Further, God knew Abraham would raise his family to love and obey the Lord as well! (see verse below)

They were hospitable. Abraham's prayers got results. Abraham interceded for others. He had selfless qualities.

Key verses:

The following scriptures stood out for me, I've included my reasons why below.

When I felt discouraged about what the doctors were saying about me carrying a child to term, I thought of what God said of himself ... if he did it for her, why not, me?

"Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. (Gen. 18:14)

I understand that being committed to raising godly children works in our favor!

The Lord spoke to Abraham saying, "For I know [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; and the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him." (Gen. 18:19)

This passage fills me with such hope ... I can almost hear myself bubbling over with such joy as I celebrate the blessings God will give.

After Sarah had her son, Isaac, she said, "God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me." (Gen. 21:6)

Think about this:

  • Do you see what Abraham and Sarah had in common with the Shunammite woman we discussed in Part One?
  • Based on your reading of Sarah/Abraham's story, list reasons why you believe perfect faith is a requirement to receive the desires of your heart?
  • What are some things Sarah did that one would be wise not to imitate?
  • Why is your situation not as fixable as Sarah's? Do you believe that some things are just too hard for God?
  • What does the phrase "let go and let God" mean to you? How can you apply that to your situation?
  • Despite what you may have heard others say, do you believe that God can close a person's womb? Can it sometimes be for a reason unknown to man? Do you believe that which He has closed, He can open?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

You are still a Mother

It is Mother's Day and maybe you don't feel like a mother. Maybe family and friends don't acknowledge your mother status, but I do. I know how it feels to have "angels" in Heaven, but no baby on earth. I remember the intense loneliness .... I remember the burden that Mother's Day brought. It seemed another reminder of what was missing in my life.

I used to avoid church on MD. If I did go I would sit with clenched teeth hoping and praying they wouldn't ask all the mothers to stand. I almost felt like an imposter if I stood up, but a betrayer if I remained seated. I usually ran to the bathroom instead of choosing between the impossible.

So, ladies on this Mother's Day 2008, I pay tribute to you ...

the mother with no living children,

the woman who has fought for motherhood, but has been unable to conceive,

the mom who has a baby on her hip, one in her belly and one forever in her heart,

and the mom who has several in Heaven, while wondering about the survival of the one in the womb ...

This day is for you. You ARE a mother.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

"Barren" Women of the Bible Part 1 - the Shunammite Woman

The Shunammite Woman
2 Kings 4:8-17

The Shunammite woman is described as a great woman who opened her home to the prophet Elisha. She did not know who he was, but saw him walking through town one day and invited him to eat at the family home. He would visit the area often and each time, she'd invite him to stay with her husband and she. One day she told her husband that she suspected this was a great and holy man of God and that they should take their hospitality a step further. She set up a room with a cot so that Elisha would be more comfortable during his visits.

So let's stop here and think about this great woman's character so far. She is hospitable and warm toward strangers, and she is wise enough to recognize someone who walks with God. She also shows reverence toward those who walk with God.

Because of her character Elisha decided to bless the Shunammite woman. He asked her what she wanted ... did she want him to put in a good word with the king or even the commander of the Army? What could he do to show his appreciation? She modestly answers,"thank you, but what I have is sufficient." Elisha then asks his servant what he could give this kindly woman. The servant says that the woman is married to an old man and the couple have no children.

Elisha then told the woman that at this same time next year, she'll be holding her son. She was shocked and said, "as a man of God PLEASE don't lie to me like that!" But the prophesy was true. Next year she was holding her little man.

So not only was the woman hospitable and wise, she was modest and content with what she had. She reverenced those deserving and she was not a self-seeking person. And when she did something for somebody, she went all out. But the story does not end here.

The child grew older, but one day he was out in the field with his father when he started screaming, "my head, my head!" Perhaps he had heat stroke or an aneurysm - we don't know. All we know is that the child was taken to his mother where he sat on her lap and died in her arms around noon. And what did the woman do?

She immediately laid him on Elisha's cot and hopped on a donkey trotting as fast as it would go to find the man of God. Elisha saw her coming and sent his servant to find out how she and her family were faring. Her response? "It is well." When she got to the prophet she fell at his feet with a bitter and vexed spirit. She pretty much said, "you came to me with this child ... I didn't ask you for him, so why did you give him, make me love him then let him die?" Needless to say Elisha was quick to work a miracle for this family.

Read verses 29 - 36 to find out exactly how Elisha brought the child back to life (it's quite interesting), but when he told the woman to get her son ... she fell at Elisha's feet, bowed to the ground in gratitude, grabbed her child and left with him.

Now think about the following:

  • I often hear people say that miracles were only to draw people to God, but this is a situation where a man of God awarded a miracle as a kind of thank you gift. Is it possible that there are holy people today who can authorize miracles? What biblical evidence supports your response? (Do some research, don't just rest on old assumptions!)

  • How would you react if someone prophesied that you would have a child despite your medical history? (If someone did prophesy and your baby did not survive, does that mean it's the end of the road for you? Find out what happens in these situations) What does your response say about your ability to believe in the unseen?

  • How did you react after your child died? How is it different from the Shunammite woman's example? The woman felt justified in asking the prophet "why" ... but she did not lose faith in his ability to do what was right in his sight. What has your approach been when talking to God? (i.e "My way or the highway" or "let Your will be done. I trust You.")

  • Do you think the Shunammite woman's character had anything to do with God opening her womb? How does your character match or contrast those of the Shunamite woman? What areas do you need to develop?

  • Thinking about the Shunammite woman's example is there something you can do today to invite a miracle into your life?

I firmly believe that the stories in the Bible provide an example for how we should and shouldn't behave as believers. This woman provides an excellent example of warmth, grace, wisdom, poise and faith. When tragedy hit, she hurt (evidenced by falling at the prophet's feet with a bitter and vexed soul ... previously she only spoke to Elisha through his servant and she maintained a reverent distance from the man of God) and even questioned the fairness of it all. But she did not become ugly and hateful. She did not lose faith. Neither should we.

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions and responses in the comments section.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sense of Urgency

I feel a growing sense of urgency to get busy writing this blog again. I need to share with you the examples God provided to women just like me and you. Women who want children so bad, but motherhood is stolen through infertility, miscarriage, prematurity or infant death.

There are many women today just barely clinging to their faith after experiencing the death of a baby or due to the inability to conceive. We're not alone. There is a long list of godly women who waited years for a baby and I will spend the next several months exploring the following:

1. Who are these "barren" women of the Bible?
2. How long did it take to conceive?
3. What steps did they take to make it happen?
4. Was their inability to conceive punishment for something they did wrong?
5. How did women bare children for their husbands if they were "barren"?

I'll add to these topics as the Lord leads. I pray you'll find truth, but most importantly you'll be inspired and strengthened by the Word of God.