Sarah, a Lady in Waiting: Day 1

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1 Sarah, a Lady in Waiting: Day 1 Your beauty should not be come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of you inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-4 Focus: Read the key verse above and think about what it means. Note: The family-given names, Abram and Sarai, are changed by God to "Abraham" (because he is the father of nations) and "Sarah" (because she quits being daddy s little princess to being a royal in the land God promised). For simplicity, we will use their God-given names in our homework, though scripture references may sometimes read as Abram and Sarai. Feed: Read Genesis 12: Moving Day! This is usually a hard day for women. We like to nest and we are very relational. To leave our people, our friends and family can be quite emotional. When God calls us, it can feel like He expects us to leave some things behind when we follow. But also, we face new promises and possibilities. Read again the promises God made to them. Now imagine what Sarah must have been dealing with emotionally, the joy as well as the pain, and write down what you think she felt: 2. Read Genesis 12: Make-up, hair, nails--many women try hard to be as pretty as possible, but sometimes beauty can be a curse. For Sarah, the beauty that probably attracted Abraham to her at first made him fearful later. He led her into joining him in a half-truth and then she found herself in Pharaoh s harem! When she was finally alone in Pharaoh s palace, what do you think Sarah was struggling with in her faith? With her husband? With Pharaoh? 3. Culturally, women could not just say no to their husbands, but in the broader story in Genesis, we see that Abraham had a good marriage. They were partners in the truest sense. With that in mind, what could they have done differently in Egypt? Follow: 4. Looking back on God s promises to Abraham and Sarah makes us really scratch our heads to how they respond in Egypt, doesn t it? But we all have famines and Pharaohs in our lives, so to speak. What do you know God wants you to believe Him for? Has mistrust taken you on any detours?

2 Sarah, Day 1, Page 2 Further:* 5. Read Genesis 11: Sarah was Abraham s half-sister, which set up the halftruth he told to protect himself. What was wrong with a half-truth? 6. Read Colossians 3:1-10. Here is a succinct description of some of the things, like lying, that God wants us to leave behind as we move Further up and further in to God s call. What reality of grace allows us to do this, according to Colossians 3:1a? In light of this reality, where does the Apostle Paul tell us to set our minds? (3:1b) Why do you think that is necessary? 7. What do you think it means to put to death whatever belongs to our earthly nature", in Colossians 3:5? In Colossians 3:8, Paul says to get rid of the old ways. What are those things? 8. Write down the "old self" ways from the list in Colossians 3:8-9 that you still struggle with most: Now write out a prayer for the Lord to "move you" further along to your new self: God sees our old self and saves us, but part of that salvation is leading us into a new self, Which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its creator. Write out a prayer of worship to the Lord that in deep love He sees all of you, the old self with all its sins, and the new self He so longs to create in you:

3 Page 3 Sarah, Day 2 Focus: Read Galatians 4: (The "free woman" is Sarah.) If you can, read these verses in different translations. Meditate on the meaning of these verses. Feed: 1. Read Genesis 11:30,15:1-6. Children, the fruit of marriage, are an all-consuming desire for some couples. For Abraham and Sarah, that very natural desire was also connected to a social stigma for being childless and was absolutely vital to the fulfillment of God s promise. Who did Abraham fear would to be his heir? How did God relieve Abraham s fear? Describe Abraham's response, and the result: Is Sarah mentioned in this first promise? 2. Read Genesis 16. The cultural law allowed the servant of a barren woman to bear a child in her place. In fact, the law almost compelled this action. While it was not as outrageous as we might think, it was still not the way God planned to make Abraham the father of a nation. How did Sarah react to this wait? What was the immediate problem when Sarah took the fulfillment of God s promise into her own hands? (16:4) 3. As soon as the deed was done, both Sarah and Hagar had strong emotions. Jeremiah the prophet says that God s plans for us are good. They may be hard, but the end result is good. When step out of God s plans, circumstances may not only be hard, but disastrous. Describe briefly what both women must have been going through: Follow: 4. We should all have big dreams in God. In His grace, God calls us to be coworkers with Him in having His will accomplished on the earth. But the way to God s will is as important as what His will accomplishes. What are you believing God for right now? How well are you waiting? Also describe how you could see yourself getting in your own way of His good will:

4 Sarah, Day 2, Page 4 Further: 5. Bible scholars have every reason to believe that the incident in Genesis 16 destroyed a close friendship. Though Sarah was large and in charge in their nomadic community, the fact that Sarah picked Hagar implies a certain amount of trust. Identify and explain what you think were the possible emotions that ruined this important female bond: 6. Read 1 Peter 1:22. What does the Apostle Peter say obedience to the truth does? What does Peter say is the outcome of becoming pure and obedient? Who is the object of that outcome? 7. Read 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. If Sarah had been able to meditate on this passage, how do you think it might have spared Hagar the turmoil she went through? 8. In Genesis 16:9, what does the angel tell Hagar to do? Why do you think that would be difficult for her? In 16:10, what promise was given to Hagar, and how does this reveal God's compassion to her? How does Hagar respond, in 16:13? If Hagar also had the verses in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 on a 3x5 card, how do you think it could have changed her attitude toward Sarah in obeying the angel s command?

5 Page 5 Sarah, Day 3 Focus: Reread Galatians 4: Paul is using this as a picture. As you read it again, think about what it illustrates. Feed: 1. Read Genesis 17: Point of clarification! When walking with God our Father, He smiles, nodding as we go down the road in the fellowship for which we were created. But if we let go of His hand and run off down a path leading to danger, He lovingly lifts his voice in warning. This has led a few believers to say, I think I know what God wants, but I m really sure of what he doesn t want! How do these verses further clarify the promise to Abraham originally given in Genesis 15:1-6? 2. It was culturally acceptable and even legal for Abraham to have a child by Hagar. But in Abraham and Sarah, God wanted to establish a new culture of faith. What do you think God was trying to communicate to that new culture by what He said to Abraham--that the promise would be fulfilled and it would be fulfilled through Sarah? 3. Read Genesis 17:19-21 again. The promised son will come who will carry on the covenant. And God would still bless Ishmael; he, too, would father a great people. Yet our reading in Galatians says in allegory to "cast out the slave woman and her son". In the real time event, the loving Creator had a different lesson. Ishmael s children can find redemptive blessing in the same faith promised to us. Isaiah even prophesies that, In that day Israel will be the third, along with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The Lord Almighty will bless them saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork and Israel my inheritance. Isaiah 19:24-25 What does this say to you about the heart of God in dealing with our messy lives? Follow: 4. Keeping it personal--not generalized or political--is there any area in your life where you are, or have been, just keeping it "legal, but are on a dangerous path and the Lord is warning you? Write down how you can experience God's whole blessing in your life right now, like Sarah:

6 Sarah, Day 3, Page 6 Further: 5. Read 1 Corinthians 10: (These verses speak to the cultural practice of eating meat offered to idols, which caused many to believe that eating certain food was a sin--yet others were not so bothered.) In verse 23, what does Paul say is permissible? What does he say is constructive? 6. In 1 Corinthians 10:24, explain how Paul expects us to know the difference between permissible and constructive: 7. Explain how the idea of permissible or legal could have led Abraham and Sarah astray: Where do you think they should have looked to set their parameters of action? 8. In 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, Paul gives great advice for helping us navigate the gray areas of life. In verse 31, what does he say to do? In verse 33 what does he say to seek? How do you think those two considerations can keep us off those dangerous paths? How does God persistence in choosing Sarah, despite their wavering, encourage you about God's faithfulness to your own life, even when you misread His will?

7 Page 7 Sarah, Day 4 Focus: Reread Galatians 4:21-31, making mental or actual notes of what you have learned from this passage since Day 1. Feed: 1. Read Genesis 17:17, 18:1-15 and Genesis 21:1-7. Guess who s coming to dinner? Many scholars believe these visitors in Genesis 18:1-2 are a "theophany" (the visible manifestation of God), or a "Christophany" (an appearance of Christ prior to His birth), or at least three angels with a message from God. Using the clues in the passage, who do you think Abraham suspects they are, and why? Who were the visitors specifically looking for, in verse 9? 2. Dinner guests that bring laughter to the home are the best kind, and laughter surrounds the miracle birth of Isaac. The very name Isaac means laughter. Abraham laughed in Genesis 17, Sarah laughed in Genesis 18, and everybody laughed in Genesis 21. What do you think is the meaning of the three different laughs? 3. The Lord asks Abraham (and Sarah, she s eaves dropping 'cause they live in a tent) a rhetorical, but soul-searching question in Genesis 18:14. It speaks to the Lord s understanding of our doubts. What is the question? Explain why you think, after all they have gone through, that Abraham and Sarah would still hear the message from these visitors with doubts: 4. Read Genesis 21:1-7. "Isaac" means "laughter". Why was this name so perfect? Follow: 4. In the gospel of Matthew (9:20-24), a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus tells him to believe and he cries out, I do believe; help my unbelief. Describe a time in your life where you have felt that same tension, and what the outcome was: Now describe a moment when your life was so whole, so perfect, so right, that it made you either laugh or cry for joy:

8 Sarah, Day 4, Page 8 Further: 5. Read Hebrews 13:1-3. Why do you think some have used this verse to support their conviction that Abraham and Sarah s visitors were angels? What does verse 3 suggest that angels could look like? 6. Hospitality has been a trademark of the Christian faith for centuries. Read John 1: We see Jesus model hospitality for us at this last meal. What does verse 1 suggest as His motivation? What do you think was preoccupying Jesus at this dinner? (Verses 1-3) What does he actually do? What does He say will be the outcome if we do what He did? (Verse 17) Why do you think that is true? How does this apply to Abraham and Sarah's lives? How has welcoming others blessed your own life in unexpected ways? 7. Read Luke 10: Put in your own words what we can learn from Mary and Martha about true hospitality: 8. Can you describe how Sarah must have felt when she first heard the visitors' words, in 18:12 & 15? Why was Sarah so quick to retract her words, in 18:15? What lesson do you think she learned about the Lord from that brief interaction? How does Genesis 21:1 describe the Lord's ways with Sarah?

9 Page 9 Sarah, Day 5 Focus: Read Genesis 21:8-12. Now reread Galatians 4: How should our relationship to Christ look? Feed: 1. Read Genesis 20:1-17. Twenty years had passed since Sarah was taken into Pharaoh s harem, so the dilemma was probably not Sarah s beauty, but Abraham s wealth that took Sarah from her familiar tent to another strange palace. Abimelech was probably seeking an alliance by marriage. What differences do you see between what happened with Pharaoh (Gen. 13) and the King of Gerar? 2. Sarah and Abraham are mentioned in Hebrews 11 in what has been called the Believers Hall of Fame. It is a roll call of those commended for their enduring faith. In Hebrews 12, Paul challenges us to be like them and to... lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets (entangles) us... (Heb 12:1 KJV). Describe why Abraham's lie about Sarah could be his besetting sin, and why God may be allowing Abraham to be in this circumstance again so late in life: 3. One difference between Genesis 13 and Genesis 20 was Sarah s involvement in the lie. Sometimes we get victory over sins before our husbands or friends--or sometimes, it's the reverse. The Puritan preacher Richard Baxter suggested that one purpose of Christian marriage (and we can insert friendship) is to help each other prepare to meet the Lord. If Sarah was no longer in cahoots with Abraham on this lie, what may have been her prayer alone in that palace in Gerar to God? For her husband? For the king? Follow: 4. Read 1 Corinthians 5: All we who believe are ambassadors of reconciliation. So in a sense, we are God's instruments of reconciliation. Can you learn from Sarah's example of trusting God for others' shortcomings? Make a list of a few people in your life who seem entangled in besetting sins. Write out a prayer for them from what you have learned; end it with the request that the Lord will put someone on their knees for you and your entangling sins also!

10 Sarah, Day 5, Page 10 Further: 5. Flip back to Hebrews 12:1-2. In the context, who do you think the great cloud of witnesses" are? What kind of race does it say we are running, according to verse 1? What do you think the race is analogous to in real life? What is our focal point? (Verse 2) Why? 6. What do you think, in 2010, entangles you? How do these verses suggest you deal with it? What part of verse 2 gives you hope for victory? 7. Read on to Hebrews 12:4-11. When God addresses your besetting sin, whether privately or through another person, what does this passage say He is doing? How does it say it feels while He does this? But what is the result if we endure? 8. How would you describe Sarah's "race"? How does her example of persistence through faith encourage you in your own race?

11 Sarah, Lady in Waiting Your beauty should not be come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of you inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God s sight. 1 Peter 3:3-6 Finish: Prayerfully look back over this week's lesson. Ask the Lord to show you any statements or scriptures that He wants you to further understand and put into practice. Be still and give Him time to speak to your heart. Then respond to the following: 1. Sarah had many lessons over a long life; what is one thing from her life that spoke most directly to me? 2. What was the most meaningful statement or Scripture I read this week? Read 1Peter 3:1-7. Why do you think this sums up well what we have learned about Sarah this week? 3. What portion of scripture that we studied this week speaks the most to me? Lord, help me reword it in a personal prayer: 4. What would becoming more like Sarah look like in my life right now? In other words, what does God want me to do in response to what I've learned from her life?

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