Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Naming of Sarah

Her name wasn't always used to be Sarai. Her story is one that has intrigued me this week as if I'm reading it with new eyes.

It begins with her marriage to Abram. I wonder if she knew how much that one event would change her life. God instructs Abram to gather his family and move to a new land. So Sarai obediently leaves behind everything and everyone she has ever known. After traveling a great distance to this promised land there is a famine, requiring them to go to Egypt temporarily. Here is where her knight in shining armor lets her down. Because Abram feared for his own life, he partially lied about his relationship with Sarai, resulting in her being taken into the king's harem. I wonder how special she felt surrounded by the other women, knowing that her husband had decided not to fight for her. Thankfully God came to her rescue by making the truth known to the pharaoh so that she was returned to her rightful place.

So they left Egypt and made a life for themselves in Canaan. God had promised Abram descendants as numerous as the stars, yet after 10 years Sarai was still barren. I can hear her asking herself "What is wrong with me? Am I not worthy?" In a moment of weakness she suggested to Abram that he bear children with her servant Hagar instead. I wonder if she was hoping he would say "No Sarai, you are my wife and the only one I want. We will wait on God who will fulfill His promise". But instead Abram agreed. Hagar became pregnant, Sarai became bitter, and the drama began.

Thirteen years later, God once again declares his promise to make Abram the father of many nations. This time He changes Abram's name to Abraham and they form a covenant. God says his covenant will be fulfilled through a son born to Sarai. And He gives Sarai a new name as well. Maybe because He could see her heart, her hurts, her questions. He knew she needed affirmation of her worth... so He says "From now on you shall call her Sarah", which means princess.

Sarah's story doesn't end there. Even with a new name and a fresh promise, Abraham once again decides not to claim Sarah as his wife and allows her to be taken into another king's palace. This man may be a great patriarch, but he sure is a slow learner! Once again, God comes to her rescue. He then fulfills His promise by blessing her with a son and bringing her laughter.

Abraham was a good man, and therefore I assume a good husband, but he had some stumbles at his wife's expense. I see the Lord as the real hero in Sarah's story. He is the one who rescues her (twice) and affirms her with a new name. And we too can look to that same hero to rescue us and name us "princess". After all, we are daughters of the King!

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