As Abram Becomes Abraham:
Hope for Sarah's Daughters

Christian women are not exempt from marital difficulties. We need restored faith in a God that can work in the most stubborn of hearts and difficult situations!

So once again, I'm featuring articles from my series, "Six Women in the Bible with Challenging Marriages". Over the next few weeks, we'll draw insight and encouragement from the lives of Leah, Sarah, Abigail, Hannah, the Shunammite and Hagar--
extraordinary women who trusted God in marriages from taxing to troublesome to terrible!

Sarai married Abram before He met God and discovered his destiny as a Father to many nations. She obviously led a comfortable, secure life in Ur, surrounded by family and friends.

Abram's father Terah, an idol maker, uprooted the family to Haran--a major center for moon worship. It's interesting that God didn't issue the call to Abram until AFTER the father died. Sometimes a family's control over their son's future is so strong that God's voice can't be heard nor can His will be discerned. More than likely, Terah wanted Abram to follow his in footsteps as an artisan. (Gen. 11:31, 32)

Abram's call was genuine, but he had issues as he grew in faith and ministry. Your husband may be a seasoned believer or one who is called to Christian service. If he still deals with problems that seem to delay or detour him, read on.

God instructed Abram to take Sarai and strike out on a divine journey. Gone for good was a permanent home; Sarai was to become a tent dweller. Nevertheless, she graciously followed her husband's new-found God into a life of wandering, not knowing exactly where they were headed or why.

Again, a sense of  family obligation caused Abram to not fully obey God. He ended up taking his nephew Lot, who in turn brought along all his household servants and goods. (Gen. 12:1-5)

What baggage did your husband bring along on the journey? Maybe he didn't bring living, breathing people, but it seems"alive" just the same…memories and emotional attachments to family or others in his past that he can't leave behind. These phantoms still affect his decisions and cloud his vision.

Sarai's next challenge? A famine came upon the land. Instead of praying to God for direction, Abram decided to take matters into his own hands for self-preservation. Again, Sarai followed.

As they neared Egypt where grain was plenteous, Abram pulled a fast one on his wife and said, "When we get into Egypt, here's the plan. You are a beautiful woman, and  I know that they'll try to kill me in order to take you. Tell them you are my sister "FOR MY SAKE, AND I WON'T DIE"! (Gen. 12: 10-13)

Now in truth, Abram was Sarai's half-brother (Gen. 20:12), but the point is mute. He simply used a handy, little seed of truth upon which to hatch his self-preserving plan.

Have you been asked to cover for your husband in a season where he forsook his trust in God and relied upon his own ways?

What kind of lies, you may ask? Let's be clear: No woman should help her husband in blatantly sinful and illegal acts. No, it's the everyday "fudges" that trap us.

Once in Egypt, events happened just as Abram suspected. The newly arrived Sarai was commended to Pharaoh and he took her into his house. He paid Abram well for his "sister"--sheep, oxen, mules, camels, and servants. (Gen. 13: 14-16)

God will not be mocked, fair one! Read how God delivered Sarai before it was too late, and STILL…oh, yes, still worked in the life of an often fear-driven, prideful and selfish man to fulfill His promises!

The Lord troubled Pharaoh's house with great plagues. Calling Abram before him, Pharaoh confronted the newcomer about his lying scheme, returned Sarai, and booted them out of the country. (Gen. 13: 18-20)

The Bible doesn't say how Pharaoh uncovered the lie...just know this! God can reveal the truth on your behalf--protecting you, confronting your "Abe"--all in a way that circumvents an absolute disaster!

It is shameful that the world regularly operates in more integrity than the body of Christ, but note: because God's hand was upon Abram and Sarai, He turned a potentially tragic situation around for good TWICE!

Twice? Believe it or not, yes!  Let's fast forward…

Things seemed to be going good after the Egypt episode. Abram was prospering and so was Lot--so much that the two agreed to part ways to have more land for each family's multiplying flocks. Abram was communicating with God and growing in responsibility. When Lot got into trouble, Abram gathered a fighting force of his men and bravely executed a rescue.

The king of Salem, Melchizedek, honored Abram. God appeared in a dramatic way to cut covenant with Abram, reinforcing His mind-boggling purpose to make a great nation of him, reinforcing that his seed would be too numerous to count. What a staggering promise, seeing that Abram and Sarai remained childless.

Sarai was an enabler. If you're married to a wonderful man who unfortunately struggles with stability and maturity issues, then you're probably one, too.

Sarai knew about God's promise to Abram.  As we read his earlier conversation with God, notiice that  Abram assumes that the heir will be his trusted servant, Eliezer. The Lord corrected him by saying that the heir would come from Abram's own loins.

Time passed with no sign of the promise.

So, Sarai cooked up a plan to "help" her husband get his heir. Remember the Egyptian fiasco where Pharoah gave them lots of goods to get out and leave him alone? We have to be careful how we amass riches. In that send off package was a beautiful, little maid who became one of Sarai's servants. Her name was Hagar.

It was perfectly acceptable in Middle Eastern cultures for barren women to give a servant girl to their husbands for procreation. The male children would become the father's legal heirs, with the firstborn male as the leader and keeper of the family's wealth.

Ishmael was born and Abram thought he finally had his child of promise. He began to "relax" spiritually. Did you know that the most dangerous time for a man (or anyone) is right after the answer comes? We breathe a sigh of relief, only to slowly drift.

Ishmael was born when Abram was 86 years of age; God didn't speak with Abram again for thirteen years! Did Abram even notice the lack of spiritual leading and divine inactivity? Obviously not...he was too wrapped up in other things. He got the son he always wanted.

But Abram didn't have what God wanted.

The Lord waited until Abram was impotent and unable to produce anything out of his own flesh. You may wonder why God doesn't seem to answer your prayers. Your husband may still profess his love for Christ, but doesn't pray like he used to or go to church anymore. Other worldly pursuits have captured his attention and time.

Don't give up! Perhaps God is waiting for him to come to an end of himself, just like Abram. It's best when a man no longer has the inner strength to replace God with anything else.

In this next encounter with Abram, God was clear: the miracle child would be born of aged Abram and Sarai. He changed their names to Abraham and Sarah, both receiving the "ah" sound from HIS name, Jehovah. When men in ancient cultures cut covenant with one another, they took all or a portion of the other's name. Just as important, a change in NAME denoted a change in NATURE! (Gen. 17:1-17)

God commanded Abraham: "Walk before me, and be thou perfect (complete, mature; In other words: "It's time to grow up, son"). The outward sign of the covenant was initiated (circumcision) and Abram experienced a renewal, continuing to meet with God and becoming a mighty intercessor for Sodom during its last days.

Afterward, Abram journeyed south and came to Gerar, where he encountered a familiar situation that awakened an old fear. He again lied about Sarah to protect himself. King Abimelech took her into his harem, but God quickly troubled the king in a dream. (Gen. 20:1, 2)

Woman, take heart! Once again, the woman who was faithful to her husband was spared. Not only that, but God told the king that her husband was a prophet, and if the king would ask God's man to pray for him, the curse against the royal household (barrenness) would be broken.

Oh, my! You perceive your husband to be one way, but God sees the man in a totally different light. He sees the finished work. Therefore, in the midst of a disappointing set back, God didn't push him down into his falling, but pulled him upward into his calling!

At the same time, He demanded  that the man who caused the problem walk up to the plate and resolve it truthfully. Abraham was finally delivered from his fear and never fell back into this type of sin again.

If a man is spiritually weak (not deliberately, consistently sinful) and cooperates with God, although progress will be marked slowly with even stagnant and down times, the Lord will protect his reputation. So should his wife.

"The STEPS of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds (supports) him with His hand."  Psalms 37:23, 24

"For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again." Proverbs 24:16 Amp.

It's only when an unrepentant man continuously "kicks against the pricks" that the Lord may allow harsher correction. But back to the story!

Finally, Isaac is born amidst great rejoicing.

What has God promised to you and your husband that will take a miracle to bring it about?

As God asked Abraham and Sarah, "Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed, I will return unto thee, according to the time of life…" (Gen. 18:14).

There is a time appointed for you, too--a distinct time for a visitation from a promise-keeping God!

Once the promise manifests, there won't be room for two wills! As Isaac grew, so did the jealousy of Ishmael, who struggled with the realization that he was no longer THE chosen child and sole controller of the family fortune. He began to "mock" (make fun) of Isaac. (Gen. 21:9)

Be careful. Anything we birth into the earth out of our own fleshly devices and desires will be expensive to maintain and hard to get rid of!

Along the way, Sarah also matured and was no longer the enabler. She recognized serious problems erupting in the household and took action, rather than remaining quiet. She wanted Hagar and her child to leave. At first, Abraham reacted out of his natural love for Ishmael and Hagar, but God told him to "listen to his wife". He did, and mother and son were cast out. (Gen. 21:10-14)

It may appear cruel, but Ishmaels have to go when the real deal from God arrives. Anything we produce in our hasty, presumptuous flesh as a substitute will hang around and breed contempt. The womb that produced a work of flesh and not of grace must also go, or it could easily produce another counterfeit.

Does your hubby have an "Ishmael" still around somewhere?
Is it competing for your time and attention?
Does the devil use it to make fun of God's will for your life and ministry?
Is it draining your time and energy?
Is it a constant distraction?
How attached is he to it?

An "Ishmael" can be ANYTHING that stands in the way of you having healthy, growing, genuine walk with God.

Both of you are guilty, so both of you need to take responsibility and send it packing! Repent for opening that door, renounce your attachments to it, and then rebuke it from your lives, in Jesus' name. Finally, remove yourselves from the familiarities that encouraged and aided in its springing to life!

Of course, we all know the ending: Abraham passed his ultimate test. So can your husband. But like Abe, he'll not get to Moriah easily. Just remember that God can follow a straight line with a very wobbly stick!

The book of Hebrews gives us insight into Sarah's quiet, but remarkable faith. I believed it helped her hang onto God during those years when He was forming her Abram into an Abraham!

"Through faith Sarah herself received STRENGTH to conceive seed (bring forth what God promised—in spite of the difficulties, in spite of the apparent barrenness), and was delivered of a child WHEN SHE WAS PAST AGE.

How did she do this?

"…because she judged HIM faithful who had promised." (Hebrews 11:11)

Was this her secret to sanity and success?

Steadily gazing upon God, instead of Abe…(Hebrews 12:2)

Judging (examining thoroughly) His claims of faithfulness and finding them to be absolutely true, rather than pointing out the imperfections of the man journeying from the "what is" to the "not yet".

She avoided being trapped into bitter judgment against Abraham, which would have closed her womb for good.

"Sarah obeyed (followed the guidance) of Abraham, acknowledging him as the leader. You are her true daughters if you do well and permit nothing to make you afraid, and yield to no panic." 1 Peter 3:6*

There were no feminists in Sarah's culture or day; her very existence depended upon her staying with her husband. You may say that she had no choice BUT to keep her mouth shut and obey.

However, after a careful study of their story in Genesis, I do not believe Sarah moved in blind obedience to Abraham's every wishes. She loved him. She knew they came as a package deal and were not to be separated before God.

In her limited and difficult circumstances, Sarah honored Abe. In her quiet heart, she trusted the flawless faithfulness of God. And today, she has become an example to all women who believe.

*Moffatt, Centenary and Amplified translations combined

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