Day 5


Genesis 17:15-22, Genesis 18:1-15, Genesis 20:1-18, Genesis 21:1-7, Philippians 1:6

BY Melanie Rainer

My backyard garden is an unrealized dream. A few months ago we sowed and scattered seeds with the haphazard helping hands of my four-year-old daughter. Despite multiple warnings not to do so, she dumped an entire container of bird seed alongside my hoped-for flowers. In addition, the sod we ripped up to make room for the garden left rows of roots that like to pop up, and no matter how many times I rip them out, they always seem to show up again.

Now I cannot tell weeds from future blooms, and the hours I spent trying to cultivate a beautiful cut-flower garden seem fruitless (or, flowerless). I know that eventually, the real flowers will bloom, and then I can root out the weeds that have grown.

Sarah’s life was marked by a root of bitterness, a weed that made her scoff at God’s promise and treat Hagar with contempt and cruelty. Bitterness was born out of her perceived injustice: her husband fathering a son with her slave (Genesis 21:9–10), her own inability to have children (11:30), and the seemingly-impossible promise God made to her (18:10).

If you told me today that in two months, my garden would be bursting with zinnias, peonies, snapdragons, and gardenias, I would probably laugh. My track record, like Sarah’s in childbearing, is sparse. I have nothing on which to base my hope of a bountiful flower harvest.

What did Sarah have to fight back against her bitterness? She had a promise, a word spoken by the Author of promises. But still, she laughed.

Thankfully, the fulfillment of God’s promise to Sarah did not rest on her. God did not bless her with a son, Isaac, because of her attitude. It was not a reward based on piety, or character, or anything other than His word. And His word is always good, no matter the shape and bent of our hearts.

Bitterness has deep roots in my own heart, and daily I have to push against its influence. I think, You deserve this. You’ve earned it. And then I compare my circumstances to someone else’s, reasoning, What has she done to get that thing (job, house, vacation, experience, complexion)? I am just as worthy!

The problem with this false narrative is this: not only is it deeply baked in privilege, but it feeds into the merit-based culture we live in. Entitlement begets merit, which begets more entitlement, and so on. The culture of God’s kingdom is anchored neither in merit nor in entitlement, but rather in the goodness and faithfulness of God.

Sarah had neither merit nor entitlement. She seemed to have bitterness where faithfulness should grow. But what she did have was the promise, and so she became the mother of the promise by God’s grace alone.

On bitterness, poet and hymn writer Anne Ross Cousin said this in her poem, “In Immanuel’s Land”:

Soon shall the cup of glory
Wash down earth’s bitterest woes,
Soon shall the desert briar,
Break in to Eden’s rose

I stand upon His merit,
I know no other stand
Not e’en where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s land.

The things I long for are chaff and weeds, distractions from the best promise ever made: the eternal presence of the Lord Himself. Like Sarah, I have no merit to cling to as I wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. But I have Him, and His Word, and His merit alone.

Post Comments (55)

55 thoughts on "Sarah"

  1. Jennifer Smith says:

    I love this metaphor. I want to weed out the weeds but cant tell until they start to grow. That so true in life… if you focus on the weeds you miss the beauty of the garden being grown.

  2. Janice says:

    Loved this reading today. It reminds me how I all too easily fall into bitterness and resentment when I see others get what I want or think I deserve. Father, thank you for all you have given me, forgive my sins of jealousy and pride. Amen.

  3. Afua Tobigah says:

    God kept me out of the temptation “ 6Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her. “
    I had a dream this dawn. In the dream I was very younger than now and resulted to promiscuity to feed my sister and myself. When I woke up , I was about to panic. However, instead the Holy Spirit reminded me that he just wanted me to know how my life would’ve been if he hadn’t stepped in . Now , this is not far fetch because I know some people and places I walk through. I have always been amazed how I didn’t do certain things . This is just a confirmation that it wasn’t me . To read this , right after such a dream is not coincidence. The Lord kept me from sinning against Him. Which means I have to be less judgemental and pray for others I was condemning. Ps: I had condemned my brother in my heart prior to this dream because he told me he is no longer a Christian. Again , This reading has reminded my that I have to keep praying because nothing is too hard for the lord . God is Amazing!

  4. Angie says:

    My mother-in-law, Mary, went home to be with the Lord today. The battle is over.

    I couldn’t help but think about our SRT study right now. We are reading about men and women of the Old Testament. Men and women like you and me, like Mary, created by God with a purpose and a plan, imperfect, but loved.

    Mary’s journey on earth is finished. She is Home, in the presence of Jesus. I believe she will hear the words, “Well done,” but specifically-what did she do well? I don’t think it was her great earthly successes. I believe it will be a multitude of little acts of obedience and love along the way. Maybe God will remind her of the smile she gave the new couple in church – her worship in the choir – babies cuddled in baby quilts she made – the tummy of the orphan no longer empty because of her obedient support – the times she got up early to read her Bible – or stayed up through the night nursing a sick child. I wonder if lots of those who had gone before her and whose funeral dinners she made will be waiting to welcome her in?

    Life can be amazing and wonderful, overwhelming and crazy. Sometimes we get it right, a lot of times we don’t. We try and succeed. We try and fail. We dream big dreams and fill our hearts with hope. We cry broken tears, full of doubt and pain. We worship, praise, and love. We are self-absorbed, and selfish, and ashamed. We worry that we talk too little or too much.

    All along the way God continues to call us to Himself, right where we are. When we accept him as our Lord and Savior we are covered in the purifying blood of Jesus, pure, whole, redeemed. We are vessels, used on this earth to serve the purpose of a holy and wonderful God. The best and the worst of the Adams, Eves, Abrahams, Sarahs, Hagars, … could be found in any one of our stories, “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

    Oh, Lord, help me to live humbly before you, thankful, worshipful, serving, living and loving to glorify you. Thank you for being El Roi, the God who sees me and Jehovah Jireh the Lord who provides. El Shaddai all powerful and sufficient. El Elyon creator God most high. Jehavoah Shalom, my God of peace. Jehovah Rohi my Shepherd and Immanuel God.With.Us.

    Thank you Lord.

    1. Cynthia Foster says:

      God’s comfort and peace to you. What a beautiful post & tribute to your mother in law.

    2. Dawn Baggett says:

      What a beautiful remembrance! May you and your family be comforted in your loss.

    3. Alyssa Wiebe says:

      Thank you for sharing! That was beautiful and a great reminder of what life is really about.

  5. Darlene Lugo says:

    Today’s reading hit home to me. Lately I have been pushing back alot of bitterness thoughts. I am a single mom to two beautiful boys and I must admit sometimes I see families where theres a husband and I think to myself why don’t I deserve to have a husband who honors me like her. I look at families in these gorgeous homes and think why can’t my boys and I live in that. My bitterness and jealousy has gotten the best of me but thankfully through a lot of prayer and reading God’s word I am reassured that these things are just that things and I must trust God and be grateful for what I have. I must say anytime I am feeling some type of sinful way God always seems to deliver the perfect message in his word. For that I am truly grateful.

  6. Kathy T says:

    ***led, not lead!

  7. Kathy T says:

    Hello friends,
    I’m trying to imagine what it felt like to be Sarah right now. To have thought that Hagar’s child was the child of promise for 13 years, and then to be specially appointed as a 90 year old barren woman to bring forth the real child of promise. Imagine, to be blessed especially by God, chosen to be the mother of nations, and a new name, too! At 90! Only the God of the impossible could build a nation on this foundation–to God be the glory!
    Through Sarah’s laugh, I see a struggle with unbelief (“This is too fantastic!”) which lead to fear at the reprimand, which lead to lying. One sin often cascades into many. Our merciful God rebuked her, yet she was still blessed with the pleasure of a child in her old age. In her culture, she would have been seen as a failure to not have provided children for her husband, yet the barren wife has become the bearer of the miracle child of promise through the plan of God. My take-away: When things seem past HOPE, remember we have a God of HOPE, and HOPE anyway!

    1. Holly Wright says:

      HOPE: this is really good to remember. God does seemingly impossible things.

    2. Aiyana Berryhill says:

      Yes! It is so easy to say you know God can do anything but to put faith into action and to actually believe is a whole other thing. This is a great reminder that God can do anything! Literally the impossible even today! Even that situation where you might laugh in your head and say no way! I cast out any doubt in my heart and choose to believe in God’s ability not my own.

  8. Rebekah Buchanan says:

    Wow! I needed this today. I’m betting I wouldn’t have liked Sarah and Abraham much. I’m thinking my husband and I would have sat on our porch sipping coffee and talked about how much and in which ways they were failing. Yet God was using them. How often am I willing to write people off or dismiss them as

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