I’m starting a new blog page where I will file posts on biblical women. It should be fun and fascinating to delve into their different lives and really dig deep for what we can learn from them as women who love God.
They will be a little controversial though. My short Abigail series took some readers by surprise, and revealed her story through a perspective that isn’t usually taken in our modern day. Here’s a hint: Everyone likes to say she was the perfect example of the UN-submissive wife to a foolish husband, but I found God leading me to the exact opposite conclusion! I encourage you to read it if you haven’t had a good look at why the way she treated her foolish husband Nabal made her stand out with respect and honor. It may not be what you expect.
I’ve been thinking though, recently, about Sarah, Abraham’s wife. God seems to have put her on my heart for a few months now, and I’ve been quietly studying her words, reactions, as well as what other people had to say about her across the Bible.
I didn’t know it, but she is actually the most mentioned woman character in the Bible – even more so than Mary, the mother of Jesus!
I had no idea she was so important. And it’s been odd how often she has come to my mind in these past few months, along with parts of her story, and always her actions or reactions. It’s been weird I’ll say that much.
What makes her so interesting to me?
It’s the way she obeyed her husband without fear,
and is honored repeatedly for it in God’s Word.
It’s taken me a long time to see her through this lens. When I was a child growing up in a Christian school, we learned about the biblical men and women all the time. I mostly viewed Sarah as the woman who dared to laugh at God and was shocked by her nerve. I didn’t like, or relate, in any way to her attitude. I understand her circumstances more now, and can see how human she was when hearing the response of her pregnancy in such old age. To me she finds redemption in being mentioned in the New Testament as the model of the kind of woman who is beautiful in God’s eyes. But again, it took me a long time to understand what all that meant.
Let’s look at the passage of Scripture I’m referring to specifically:
“Let your beauty not be external – the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight.
For in the same way the holy women who hoped in God long ago adorned themselves by being subject to their husbands, like Sarah who obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.
You become her children when you do what is good and have no fear in doing so.” 1 PETER 3:3-6
I’m going to take this apart in the same way I did for the Proverbs 31 woman piece by piece (but for length’s sake – not delving into the Greek meaning of each word this time). Here we go!
What kind of beauty is “precious in God’s sight?”
- The beauty found in a woman’s heart – her character and inner beauty
- The lasting beauty of a gentle and peaceful spirit
- Beautifying (adorning) yourself by being submissive to your husband, like the holy women of old, like Sarah who obeyed her husband and called him lord
- When you submit (subject) yourself to your husband, and have no fear in trusting him (doing so), you achieve the beauty this passage is talking about
How amazing that this passage is directing us to be like Sarah, not only in the way of disregarding showy outward beauty, but also focusing on the character and actions we are to develop if we want to have a lasting beauty that is “precious in God’s sight.”
And the key to achieving this kind of lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet (peaceful) spirit, is to fully submit to obeying our husbands, and to respect and revere them. Like Sarah did when she called her husband “lord,” we are directed to imitate her behavior, and “become her children” when we live these things out in our day to day lives.
This is all well and good, right? But have you looked at Sarah’s life with Abraham? Have you studied enough to understand what this passage in 1 Peter is implying? When it says that she obeyed him, doing what was good (submitting to him), and without fear, that is no light and ordinary statement.
This woman obeyed her husband during some of the toughest circumstances imaginable.
And with a good attitude.
And without fear.
Her love, faith, and trust in her husband and in God are so beautiful when we closely study her story. She has inspired me by her faith SO MUCH in the past months, constantly popping into my head at the strangest times, that I had to write this down here, hoping that it would bring joy and inspiration to someone else. ❤ 🙂
In our modern age where Christian wives seem to be constantly looking for flaws in their husbands’ leadership style so that they don’t have to submit to him (and obey him), Sarah’s story is a huge wake-up call as to how we’re really supposed to be responding.
How God expects us to respond.
I can hear the screeching of the wheels on the pavement now…
But Sarah obeyed when it was not convenient!
Yes, she definitely did. Many times! This woman had so much trust in her husband and in God, that yes, she willingly obeyed even when it was not just annoying, but even when it was extremely difficult.
Just the other day I was spending time with God early in the morning before anyone else in the house was awake, and suddenly a map from the back of my Bible fell out and onto the floor in front of my foot. I expected it to just be another journey showing the different routes Paul took on his mission trips, since those are pretty much the only maps I’ve seriously studied. But when I looked closely at it in the dim morning light, I saw it was actually Abraham’s travels when God called him and Sarai to leave Ur! I had never really appreciated how far they had to travel, and keep in mind they had no idea where God was wanting them to end up. It hit me again (like it has for months now) just how amazing her trust and faith in her husband and in God were – to follow her husband like that. Away from everything she had ever known, and over such a difficult journey, through dangerous foreign lands, and not even knowing where she would end up with him in the end. Talk about trust and faith producing a beautiful obedience in the heart of a wife toward her husband!
This is a picture of the page of my Bible that fell out when I was doing my morning talking to God and reading His Word. When I look at this journey, I immediately think about how ridiculously hard that would have been for a woman to travel back then, in that kind of desert and arid weather, with their shoes, and just the plain, overall discomfort she’d have and the temptation to complain or whine or ask “Are we there yet?!” Honestly, it makes our long family trips to New Mexico from south Texas seem like a breeze in our air-conditioned and roomy van!
As Christian wives, have we behaved as well as Sarah did when she followed Abraham on a truly difficult journey, not even knowing where they were going? How many times have we whined about little inconveniences, wanting the easy way out?
Maybe our husbands need us to get up early and help with making lunches and getting breakfast on the table before the kids leave to school or before he has to go to work. I know in our family, it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for my husband to spend critical time with our older son in the morning, since he works most evenings. Even if the baby wakes up several times in the night, I still want to make sure it doesn’t affect their time together – it’s the only time during the day (most days at least) when my husband does a devotion with our son and leads him into understanding the deep meanings of Scripture. He gives him advice, listens to his problems or concerns, and it’s a truly beautiful time that would not be possible if he was having to do all the work I usually handle for them in the morning as far as getting everything ready for them to leave. The way I see it is that I can either have a bad attitude or demand I get my own sleep (a convenience for sure, but not necessary since I can nap later on in the day), or I can serve them with a happy heart and be grateful that he’s spending this time investing godly principles into our son’s heart. I choose to be grateful!
You can apply this to anything your husband may want you to do, but doesn’t line up with your idea of easy or convenient for yourself. Maybe he wants you to make good, healthy meals for the family, but you’re stuck on fast food on the go, or cafeteria food so you don’t have to wash the dishes? Maybe he’d like you to make and pack him lunches everyday, but you don’t want to spend the time serving him like that because it cuts into your time in the morning for yourself to eat?
If our husbands need us to do something that is hard or difficult, do we carry an attitude of resentment toward our task or him for asking more of us? Maybe your husband wants you to stay home to raise your young children, even though it means living on a lesser budget that makes life more difficult. Are you doing it with the attitude described in 1 Peter 3? Or perhaps he wants you to work and put your young children in a daycare – something that’s heartbreaking and hard for a mother to do? Are you trusting him and God that He will provide safety and protection over them and ultimately redeem the situation in the end? I know this sounds a lot easier than it actually is when carrying these things out, but it was never promised that living this Christian life would be easy or convenient by any means. Our true test of our faith in God is when we do these things, and do them not out of just a sense of duty, but with a glad and happy heart!
Obviously the best response is to do what is needed, and practice more gratitude if we’re tempted to resentment over having to endure inconveniences that come with following.
I know this sounds hard, it’s probably unlike anything you’ve ever read before when it comes to marriage and how we’re supposed to act in regard to our husbands leading us. But the Bible talks constantly about the value of doing the difficult tasks needed to be done. And whatever we do, we are to do it as though we are doing it for God. When we act like Sarah and “do what is good,” and “without fear,” we are honoring God with our choice to obey our husbands, even when it is inconvenient to do so.
But Sarah obeyed even when Abraham was making poor choices!
This is a hard one for Christian wives in this day and age. If her husband is doing ANYTHING even the tiniest bit “wrong” in her eyes, his wife is usually quick to point it out to him and try to get him to be better in his leadership.
I’m sure we’ve all seen examples of this. It’s common now to know or see Christian wives who refuse to fully submit to their husbands until his porn addiction is gone. Or maybe it’s his bad eating habits that bother her that she tries to change. Or his love of watching sports on Sundays, when she thinks he should be helping her fold the laundry. Or his decision not to do family devotions or spend time reading God’s Word in the way she’d like to see. There are so many things that wives want their husbands to be doing or not doing before they’ll even think of obeying and submitting to his leadership.
But that’s not the way God intended marriage to work.
A wife can’t demand her husband be perfect in her eyes and do everything the way she desires it to be before she’s supposed to actually submit to his leadership for their family!
If she’s demanding that he change, nagging him to go to counseling to fix his issues, or trying to get him to change in any way, she’s the one who is doing the leading in the marriage – and expecting him to submit to her wants, desires, and needs.
Even if a husband is leading in an imperfect way, we as wives are still called to obey. His leadership is not contingent only on leading perfectly, and never making mistakes or bad choices. Like Sarah, we become “her daughters” when we submit to our husbands’ leadership.
But Sarah obeyed even when Abraham led her (and other people) into sin and deception!
Yes, she did. Again, it speaks to her faith and trust in her husband and in God that she was able to follow Abraham even when it was not the right thing for either of them to do. The Bible is still clear that she did what was good by obeying him and subjecting herself to his leadership.
Let’s take a look at the scriptures where these incidents occurred:
10Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe. 11As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are. 12When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live. 13Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”
14When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman. 15And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace. 16He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.
17But the Lord inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.18So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife? 19Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!” 20Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.
And then it happened a couple of decades later, almost exactly the same as the first time. Abraham’s faith was still not complete in this area, but did Sarah nag him? Did she resent him for not having more faith to not place her in another ruler’s harem (again)?
20:1 Abraham journeyed from there to the Negev region and settled between Kadesh and Shur. While he lived as a temporary resident in Gerar, 2 Abraham said about his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” So Abimelech, king of Gerar, sent for Sarah and took her. 3 But God appeared to Abimelech in a dream at night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken, for she is someone else’s wife.” 4 Now Abimelech had not gone near her. He said, “Lord, would you really slaughter an innocent nation? 5 Did Abraham not say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ I have done this with a clear conscience and with innocent hands!” 6 Then in the dream God replied to him, “Yes, I know that you have done this with a clear conscience. That is why I have kept you from sinning against me and why I did not allow you to touch her. 7 But now give back the man’s wife. Indeed he is a prophet and he will pray for you; thus you will live. But if you don’t give her back, know that you will surely die along with all who belong to you.”
8 Early in the morning Abimelech summoned all his servants. When he told them about all these things, they were terrified. 9 Abimelech summoned Abraham and said to him, “What have you done to us? What sin did I commit against you that would cause you to bring such great guilt on me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should not be done!” 10 Then Abimelech asked Abraham, “What prompted you to do this thing?” 11 Abraham replied, “Because I thought, ‘Surely no one fears God in this place. They will kill me because of my wife.’ 12 What’s more, she is indeed my sister, my father’s daughter, but not my mother’s daughter. She became my wife. 13 When God made me wander from my father’s house, I told her, ‘This is what you can do to show your loyalty to me: Every place we go, say about me, “He is my brother.”’” 14 So Abimelech gave sheep, cattle, and male and female servants to Abraham. He also gave his wife Sarah back to him. 15 Then Abimelech said, “Look, my land is before you; live wherever you please.” 16 To Sarah he said, “Look, I have given a thousand pieces of silver to your ‘brother.’ This is compensation for you so that you will stand vindicated before all who are with you.” 17 Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, as well as his wife and female slaves so that they were able to have children. 18 For the Lord had caused infertility to strike every woman in the household of Abimelech because he took Sarah, Abraham’s wife. ©NET
It’s hard to believe her amazing attitude in all of this! Her husband expected her to show her loyalty to him by misleading (lying by omission that she really was his wife and not just his half-sister) other people! Again, how does this compare to how we respond to our husbands’ failings or moments when he may have a lack of faith? Do we keep our faith in him even when we see his doubts and fears, or do we demand he be better for us and lead us more to our liking?
The biblical response is to have faith in him and in our all-powerful God. That even if our husbands make a mistake, or have their doubts, that ultimately God is still in control, and that we are safe in the palm of His hand.
Sometimes it is important to stop a man from sinning, like Abigail did, by using her gracious character and inner beauty to calm a King’s rage and murderous intent. You can read my thoughts on Abigail’s beautiful actions here (PART 1), and here (PART 2).
But Sarah’s silence in these situations was wise and showed her heroic faith! It wasn’t silence out of timidity or sinful “giving way to fear.” The Bible is clear that she did not give way to fear, in fact the attitude she displayed “that of a peaceful and tranquil spirit,” is translated to controlled strength and tranquility that arises from deep within. That kind of control, feminine strength of character, and peace in times of trouble, can only come from God and having a rock solid trust in Him.
When studying the context around these passages, I found that historically when a ruler saw a stranger’s wife that was beautiful and desirable, he was free to kill the stranger in order to take the woman for himself. However, if she was traveling with a family member (kin) like a brother or a father, then the ruler would simply negotiate a price for taking her as his bride (or concubine), and the male family member would be spared (maybe even given a prestigious place in their society).
So Sarah and Abraham found themselves in life and death situations when they were traveling as a couple in these foreign lands.
Now stop and think about this for a minute. Can you IMAGINE how a modern day Christian wife would handle something like that?!?! Let’s go through some mental contrasting how wives in our age would respond to that scenario, compared with how Sarah responded and then is praised afterward for doing the right thing:
- Modern day wives would give way to fear. They’d panic when seeing their husband was making decisions that looked questionable, or if he was lying to ruler’s about who she really was.
- Modern day wives would be upset that he “demand” or expect her loyalty to him to be shown in this way.
- Modern day wives would be mad at their husbands for not “protecting” them from the ruler’s lust and desire to have sex with her because of her beauty.
- They’d be upset that their husband didn’t stand up to the ruler and engage in a (likely deadly) fight, sacrificing his life for her honor!
- They’d be livid that he allowed her to be placed in another man’s harem.
- Or they’d take advantage of having the opportunity to have sex with a powerful ruler! How many times have we heard wives admit on the radio that they’d cheat with a famous man if they had the chance?
- Or they’d make it through like Sarah did, in one piece, but still hold on to the anger and resentment of being degraded like that. When they got back to their Christian groups, they’d throw their husbands under a bus by complaining to other wives just what their husbands tried to do to them when they were on a trip!
- Or MUCH WORSE in my opinion, they’d drag him to the leaders in their church to get them to “counsel” him (effectively AMOGing him or criticizing his leadership as “poor” and “ill-effective”) until he felt he had to follow her ideas and designs for their marriage.
We may be Christian wives trying to do the right thing, but we still have a sinful nature that leads us astray and into not honoring or submitting to our husbands if we aren’t careful to study these ancient texts and learn how to act in the ways God desires for us. We want to display that kind of beauty that is so precious in God’s sight, right? Then that means we have to take Sarah’s examples here, when she submitted to her husband’s leadership, seriously.
Go back over the bullet point list of ways modern wives would react to the situation Sarah found herself in. Have you reacted in one of those ways in the past? It’s never too late to repent and humble yourself, and to start honoring your husband. Sarah doesn’t do ANY of those things! She doesn’t even seem to hold on to any resentment, and the Bible is usually quick to point out when a man or woman has misgivings or ill-feelings. If she was holding on to resentment or using his mistakes to hold over him later on, she wouldn’t be held up as the example we’re supposed to model in Peter 3.
No, it seems her actions are in line with how 1 Peter 3 describes her character as having inner beauty of the heart. She loved him, she didn’t want him to die. So she submitted to his plan to lie to the rulers of the land, and even be taken into their harems, so that she could keep her husband alive and trusted that God would make everything right.
Let’s look again at her qualities that made her character precious in God’s sight:
- She had a peaceful and quite spirit – not a panicky, or nagging, or complaining, or bitter, or resentful spirit
- She is called precious in God’s sight for obeying Abraham and for subjecting herself to him and his leadership.
- She is honored for calling him “lord,” even though he subjected her to doing something that was wrong and deceptive and leading others into sin.
It cannot be understated that Sarah was honored for obeying Abraham – and not giving way to fear when she did – even though his leadership was less than perfect (1 Peter 3:5-6).
She not only was honored in the passage we have unpacked here, she is the first woman mentioned in the wonderful chapter that outlines all the “Heroes of Faith,” Hebrews chapter 11. When I was 11 years old, our school had us memorize this entire chapter. It was so beautiful to recite and memorize each person mentioned and honored for their courageous faith displayed in critical times of their life. Their examples were glorified forever in God’s Holy Word because they decided to make the right choice. To have faith even when it was extremely hard or inconvenient.
Again, this is not something we as Christian wives can just gloss over and forget about. Sarah, with all the mistakes or poor choices Abraham may have made in leading her, is named among the Heroes of Faith for choosing to obey him, follow him when it was hard, not complain or hold resentment against him, and even follow him into circumstances that caused others to sin!
Her heroic faith coupled with her beautiful character in choosing to obey Abraham, is an amazing testimony to her trust in God, that His will would prevail in those circumstances, and that she would be taken care of.
May we have faith like this, and seek to honor and respect our husbands with the kind of fierce commitment and obedience that Sarah had toward Abraham.
RELATED READING –
Sarah: A Woman Like Us
Sigma Frame’s Pygmalion Project vs Shared Enterprises
That Stepford Gal’s post Women Should Be Seen & Not Heard (using your beauty to influence and save people or entire countries!)