Women in the Bible Series: Sarah
“Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness (right standing with God), who seek and inquire of the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the excavation of the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; For I called him when he was but one, then I blessed him and made him many.” (Isaiah 51: 1-2, AMP)
I’ve had a few moments in my life that completely confronted and challenged the Jesus I believe in, but one of the biggest God-questions that I’ve ever faced was towards the end of 2016. I was dating a guy that had some pretty strong views on the Bible– to put it lightly– but the biggest point of contention between the two of us was
the role of women in the church.
He didn’t believe women should have a role at all. As someone who grew up in a church that celebrated its male and female counterparts– female elders, deaconesses, ushers, worship leaders, and the pastor’s wife who had a pastorate herself– this was something I’d never had to think about consciously before. I have to admit, it took me by shock. Here I was, dating someone who didn’t think I had any right serving in the church where I was serving as both a regular worship leader and as co-director of the youth group.
That hurt. And that opened up a larger debate to me that I had never had to consider before. I won’t lie, I struggled over it for months, turning it over in my heart, reading the Bible and what it said about women and their role in God’s Church.
And ultimately, when it comes to women being pastors or leaders, that’s a whole other conversation for another day, but what became blaringly clear to me was that women certainly had a role in God’s plan… And it was a much larger role than being mothers and wives.
And I think that’s where a lot of women struggle in their spiritual walks. Where is the line between what I can do as a woman to please God, and what is reserved for only a man? Is there a place for me? Why would God gift me in a certain area, only to sideline me for my gender? Am I a desired servant within the kingdom God is building?
Take it from someone who has been through the deep thought-processes and hurt that can come out of this white-hot debate still being discussed in Church circles today: some things we’ll never know. Some things are only going to be revealed through the conviction of the Holy Spirit in your own heart. But one thing is for certain: God has a place for the women in His Church.
Sure, both sides of the argument pull different scriptures to stake their claims, but no matter how many times I read the Bible, I know that I know that God uses women mightily to carry out His purposes, almost as much as He uses men. Sure, most of the actual books of the Bible are named after men; only a mere two, short books are named after women, Ruth and Esther.
But what it comes down to is that the women God has purposed for His will in the Bible are many, and sure, maybe they didn’t have these big, flashy roles, but they were still deeply important in bringing forward God’s ultimate plan for salvation through Jesus. I want to take a few weeks to touch on a handful of them, displaying the ways in which the Bible shows that women are the strong, faithful heroines that our culture seems to think Christianity lacks.
The first woman that comes to mind for me, is Sarah. The wife of Abraham, and the mother of the nation of Israel. Sarah was known not only for her beauty but also for her faith and her patience. I mean, seriously. If we look close at Abraham and Sarah’s story, you’ll find an imperfect man who trusted God but still got up to so much trouble. There were the times that he told Sarah to pretend she was Abraham’s sister so that any kings that noticed her beauty wouldn’t kill him to steal her away. There were the times where Abraham spent many nights hashing and rehashing God’s covenant with him, a promise that one day, a vast nation would come from him… meanwhile Sarah spent years well into her old age with no sign of the fulfillment of those promises. Sarah yearned for a child, and Abraham insisted God told him it was coming. She followed him from place to place, living a vagabond lifestyle out of a tent. She had to have been resourceful and resilient. She couldn’t have been a delicate flower, either physically or mentally.
She watched as Abraham had children with Hagar, a plan of her own design but a plan that didn’t fulfill God’ promises.
And finally, once she had the son God promised them they’d have– years after her youth had faded away– Abraham almost sacrificed the kid!
Maybe we don’t see much in the text while Sarah was alive as to how important she was to God’s plan, but we certainly see it after she dies. In Genesis 23, Sarah is the only woman in scripture to have her age of death recorded. You see, in the Bible, geneologies and birth/death records are important. They all ultimately help to trace the birth of nations, the dynasties of kings, and ultimately, the bloodline of Jesus back to Abraham. Out of the vast amount of information on the births and deaths of father and son– which is how the Bible tracks bloodlines– Sarah is the only woman confirmed to have lived 127 years at the time of her death.
Additionally, out of all the women in the Bible, including Mary the mother of Jesus herself, no one is pointed at as a woman who set an example for others. And yet, Sarah is mentioned twice. The first is our key verse today, found in Isaiah, where the prophet encouraged the Israelites to remember the “Rock from which they were cut,” Abraham and Sarah. We are told if we seek righteousness, then we should look to the two people that God called as one, and made into nations all by faith.
The second is found in 1 Peter 3, where the apostle Peter uses Sarah as a Godly example of a good wife– a woman who was a holy woman and honored her husband.
Everyone seems to remember when Sarah laughed at God in Genesis 18 upon finding out she would become pregnant in her old age, but I think Sarah proves to be a much more complex and righteous woman than this. And she’s not the only one. The more you read the Bible, the more you see that yes, there women who are purely evil, but there are so many that we can look to today as the standard of how God truly uses women just as powerfully as He calls and purposes men.
When I look at Sarah, I see a woman who partnered with her husband to birth a nation, and set the standard on a faith that was passed down through the generations– all the way to us. She wasn’t some satellite character that stood on the side while her husband did bigger, better things. If she was, she wouldn’t be so highly honored and remembered in scripture the way she is. Yes, she was an imperfect person. So was Abraham, but thank God that our inability to attain perfection doesn’t disqualify us from God’s grace.
It’s my hope that if you’re struggling with the gender-balance debate within the church, that over the next few weeks, you can be assured that God can and will still use women. He always has, and He won’t stop now. Yes, there are places in the church that are specifically for men and others that are specifically for women, but that’s because the Church is not a one-size-fits-all institution.
There are strong women in the Bible we can look to and model ourselves after. You just have to be willing to look.