Abraham and Sarah—You Can Imitate Their Faith!
HE IS called “the father of all those having faith.” (Romans 4:11) His beloved wife also possessed that quality. (Hebrews 11:11) They were the godly patriarch Abraham and his devout wife, Sarah. Why were they such fine examples of faith? What were some of the trials they endured? And of what value is their story to us?
Abraham manifested faith when God commanded him to leave his home. Jehovah said: “Go your way out of your country and from your relatives and from the house of your father to the country that I shall show you.” (Genesis 12:1) The faithful patriarch obeyed, for we are told: “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place he was destined to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, although not knowing where he was going.” (Hebrews 11:8) Consider what that move meant.
Abraham lived in Ur, in what is now southern Iraq. Ur was a thriving Mesopotamian center that traded with lands of the Persian Gulf and likely the Indus Valley. Sir Leonard Woolley, who directed the systematic excavation of Ur, points out that in Abraham’s time most houses there were built of brick, with plastered and whitewashed walls. For instance, the home of one prosperous citizen was a two-story building with a paved central courtyard. The ground floor housed domestics and guests. At the first-floor level, a wooden gallery ran around the wall, providing access to rooms reserved for family use. With their 10 to 20 rooms, such residences were “comparatively spacious and afforded scope for a life decent, comfortable and, by Eastern standards, luxurious,” says Woolley. They were “pre-eminently the homes of a civilised people and answered to the needs of a highly developed urban life.” If Abraham and Sarah left such a home with the prospect of dwelling in tents, they made great sacrifices to obey Jehovah.
Abraham’s move took his family first to Haran, a city in northern Mesopotamia, and then on into Canaan. That was a distance of some 1,000 miles [1,600 km]—quite a move for an elderly couple! On leaving Haran, Abraham was 75 years of age and Sarah was 65.—Genesis 12:4.
How might Sarah have felt when Abraham revealed that they were going to leave Ur? Leaving the security of a pleasant home, moving to some strange and potentially hostile land, and accepting a lower standard of living might have concerned her. Nevertheless, Sarah was submissive, thinking of Abraham as her “lord.” (1 Peter 3:5, 6) Some scholars consider this a manifestation of Sarah’s “customary, respectful attitude and behavior toward him,” evidence of “real habits of thought and feeling.” But above all, Sarah trusted in Jehovah. Her submission and faith stand as a fine example for Christian wives.
True, we are not asked to abandon our home to obey God, although some full-time evangelizers have left their homeland in order to preach the good news in another country. Regardless of where we serve God, as long as we put spiritual interests first in life, he will care for our needs.—Matthew 6:25-33.
Neither Sarah nor Abraham regretted the decision they made. “If they had indeed kept remembering that place from which they had gone forth, they would have had opportunity to return,” says the apostle Paul. But they did not return. Confident that Jehovah “becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him,” they exercised faith in his promises. So must we if we are to continue to render whole-souled devotion to Jehovah.—Hebrews 11:6, 15, 16.
Spiritual and Material Riches
After Abraham reached Canaan, God told him: “To your seed I am going to give this land.” Abraham responded by building an altar to Jehovah and by calling “on the name of Jehovah.” (Genesis 12:7, 8) Jehovah made Abraham rich, and those in his encampment were great in number. Since he once mustered 318 trained men, slaves born in his household, it has been suggested that “his total group must have numbered well over a thousand.” For whatever reason, people regarded him as “a chieftain of God.”—Genesis 13:2; 14:14; 23:6.
Abraham took the lead in worship, teaching those of his household to “keep Jehovah’s way to do righteousness and judgment.” (Genesis 18:19) Present-day Christian family heads can draw encouragement from Abraham’s example as a person who succeeded in teaching members of his household to rely on Jehovah and act in a righteous way. It is therefore not surprising that Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant Hagar, the patriarch’s eldest servant, and Abraham’s son Isaac relied on Jehovah God.—Genesis 16:5, 13; 24:10-14; 25:21.
Abraham Sought Peace
Events in Abraham’s life reveal that Abraham had a godly personality. Instead of allowing a quarrel to continue between his herders and those of his nephew Lot, Abraham suggested separating their camps and invited the younger man Lot to choose the land he preferred. Abraham was a peacemaker.—Genesis 13:5-13.
If we ever have to choose between insisting on our rights or making concessions to preserve peace, we might note that Jehovah did not let Abraham suffer because he showed consideration for Lot. On the contrary, God thereafter promised Abraham and his seed all the land Abraham could see in every direction. (Genesis 13:14-17) “Happy are the peaceable [“peacemakers,” footnote],” said Jesus, “since they will be called ‘sons of God.’”—Matthew 5:9.
Who Would Be Abraham’s Heir?
Despite promises of a seed, Sarah remained barren. Abraham presented the matter to God. Would his servant Eliezer inherit all that he owned? No, for Jehovah said: “This man will not succeed you as heir, but one who will come out of your own inward parts will succeed you as heir.”—Genesis 15:1-4.
Still there was no child, and 75-year-old Sarah despaired of conceiving. Hence, she said to Abraham: “Jehovah has shut me off from bearing children. Please, have relations with my maidservant. Perhaps I may get children from her.” Abraham then took Hagar as a secondary wife, had relations with her, and she became pregnant. As soon as Hagar realized that she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Sarah complained bitterly to Abraham and humiliated Hagar, causing the maidservant to flee.—Genesis 16:1-6.
Abraham and Sarah acted in good faith, adopting a course that accorded with accepted practices of their day. However, it was not Jehovah’s way of producing Abraham’s seed. Our culture might dictate that certain actions are right under various circumstances, but this does not necessarily mean that Jehovah agrees. His view of our situation might be entirely different. Hence, we need to seek God’s direction, praying that he indicate the way he wants us to act.—Psalm 25:4, 5; 143:8, 10.
Nothing Is “Too Extraordinary for Jehovah”
In due course, Hagar did bear Abraham a son named Ishmael. Yet, he was not the promised Seed. Sarah herself was to give birth to that heir, despite her advanced age.—Genesis 17:15, 16.
When God specified that Sarah would bear her husband a son, “Abraham fell upon his face and began to laugh and to say in his heart: ‘Will a man a hundred years old have a child born, and will Sarah, yes, will a woman ninety years old give birth?’” (Genesis 17:17) An angel’s repetition of the message within earshot of Sarah caused her to “laugh inside herself.” But nothing is “too extraordinary for Jehovah.” We can have faith that he can do anything he wills.—Genesis 18:12-14.
It was “by faith [that] Sarah herself received power to conceive seed, even when she was past the age limit, since she esteemed him faithful who had promised.” (Hebrews 11:11) In time, Sarah gave birth to Isaac, whose name means “Laughter.”
Implicit Trust in God’s Promises
Jehovah identified Isaac as the long-awaited heir. (Genesis 21:12) So Abraham must have been stunned when God asked him to sacrifice his son. Yet, Abraham had sound reasons to trust God implicitly. Was Jehovah not able to raise Isaac from the dead? (Hebrews 11:17-19) Had God not proved his power by miraculously reviving the reproductive powers of Abraham and Sarah in order to bring about Isaac’s birth in the first place? Convinced of God’s ability to fulfill His promises, Abraham was ready to obey. True, he was prevented from actually slaying his son. (Genesis 22:1-14) Nevertheless, the role Abraham played in this regard helps us to see how difficult it must have been for Jehovah God to ‘give his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life.’—John 3:16; Matthew 20:28.
Faith in God made it plain to Abraham that the heir to Jehovah’s promises could not marry a false worshiper of the land of Canaan. How could a godly parent approve of his child’s marriage to anyone not serving Jehovah? Abraham thus sought a suitable wife for Isaac among his relatives in Mesopotamia, more than 500 miles [800 km] away. God blessed that endeavor by indicating that Rebekah was the woman he had chosen to become Isaac’s bride and an ancestress of the Messiah. Yes, Jehovah “blessed Abraham in everything.”—Genesis 24:1-67; Matthew 1:1, 2.
Blessings for All Nations
Abraham and Sarah were exemplary in enduring tests and in exercising faith in God’s promises. The fulfillment of such promises has a bearing on mankind’s eternal prospects, for Jehovah assured Abraham: “By means of your seed all nations of the earth will certainly bless themselves due to the fact that you have listened to my voice.”—Genesis 22:18.
Of course, Abraham and Sarah were imperfect, even as we are. When God’s will became clear to them, however, they promptly complied with it—regardless of the cost. Abraham is thus remembered as “Jehovah’s friend” and Sarah as a ‘holy woman who was hoping in God.’ (James 2:23; 1 Peter 3:5) By striving to imitate the faith of Abraham and Sarah, we too can enjoy precious intimacy with God. We can also benefit from the precious promises Jehovah made to Abraham.—Genesis 17:7.
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Because of their faith, Jehovah blessed Abraham and Sarah with a son in their old age
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Abraham’s example helps us to see what it meant to Jehovah to allow his only-begotten Son to die