Hot topic this month – jealousy! And where do we find it? Right after Eve, jealousy returns and enters the life of the next woman mentioned by name in the Bible. Yes, Sarah! Sarah the wife of Abraham, a man known as the father of many nations, a friend of God, and the father of all who believe! Even in the heart of Sarah, who plays an important role in the history of salvation, we unravel the emotion of jealousy.
We meet this woman in Genesis 11, who was first named Sarai, which in Hebrew means my lady or my princess. Then God renamed her Sarah, which has a similar Hebrew name meaning lady, princess, or noblewoman. She was so beautiful that when traveling from country to country to the place God was taking them, Abraham became so worried about the response of other powerful men to her beauty that he lied about his relationship with her in an attempt to save his own life – twice (Genesis 12, Genesis 20). My God, as my teenage daughters would say, this chick is a baddie. So, what would Sarah have to be jealous of?
At some level, we all have insecurities. If we do not deal with our insecurities, this is where culture attempts to deceive us. And when we do not deal with those insecurities in a healthy manner, we find emotions like jealousy taking root in us.
Alright, let’s go a little further. First, we have this super baddie who is married to a modern-day Denzel Washington. I mean, Abraham had it going on at all levels! Yet this power couple finds themselves without children. In this time period, women who could not have kids struggled with many different labels. Some do even still today. Barren is one of those labels. In Sarah’s time and throughout Jewish history, it was considered a severe punishment for a woman to be barren. Abraham and Sarah, two faithful servants obeying God’s call over their life, found themselves, without true justification, walking through this social, emotional, mental, and physical hardship.
The Bible states in Genesis 12, Abraham was 75 years old when God first promised him that he would become a great nation. Surely the excitement Sarah had to have felt at that time stirred up a right now faith in her! I would not doubt for a minute that she believed with everything within her that she would instantaneously become pregnant. But no, that is NOT what happened.
Ten years have passed since God’s promise to Abraham that he would become a great nation. What Sarah desired most had not become tangible in her life in her timing. So then, Sarah does what many of us find ourselves doing when God doesn’t move in our timing. She took things into her own hands! She disrupted what once was a sisterhood, a valued relationship, and shattered it.
In Genesis 16, we meet Hagar, who served as a maid to Sarah. I can only imagine when serving someone at this level that there had to be some type of relationship formed. Hagar was probably at one point a confidant, someone in which Sarah could do life with. Apparently, so much so, that Sarah sent Hagar into the bed of her husband in order to aid God in fulfilling His promise. My, my, what a dangerous space to play in, doing something against the will of God for the sake of Kingdom impact!
At first, like all sinful acts, things seem to be working out. Everything is going according to plan and Hagar conceives. But, as with all sinful acts, there are unexpected, negative consequences.
So Abram had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. But when Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, “This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt. The Lord will show who’s wrong—you or me!” Genesis 16:4-5 NLT
Hagar goes from maidservant to Abraham’s concubine and becomes the mother of his firstborn son, Ishmael. In the words of Beyoncé, Hagar was feeling herself! Despite Sarah’s beauty and all the uncommon, supernatural favor she had on her life, she had not yet accomplished what Hagar was able to produce! Here the battle begins. Hagar begins treating Sarah as if she was beneath her and Sarah deals harshly with Hagar to remind her of her place.
Both women begin battling the fruits of jealousy and envy that were taking root in their hearts. Sarah probably entertained the devil’s lies to her, like Hagar’s conception was proof that she was permanently barren. Not to mention the mental turmoil Sarah went through having had her husband sleep with another woman. Her alternate plan worked, but at what cost? Hagar most likely struggled with her own thought process as well, desiring some level of acknowledgement as a child bearer for Abraham. Both would cope negatively, and this would manifest in their behavior toward one another.
Sin makes great promises, but never discloses the problems attached. Sin never tells us what the negative side effects are until after we have committed the sin. With emotions running high and a constant feeling of wanting what the other has going on between these two women, the battle continues to rage. Then one day, Hagar decides to make a run for it! But God. She is found by an angel of the Lord and told to return to Sarah and in obedience, she does.
After the birth of Ishmael, for about fourteen years, perhaps up to seventeen years, Hagar and Sarah endured being in relationship with one another despite their contempt for one another. This is what the enemy ultimately wants. He will do anything to steal, kill, and destroy our praise (John 10:10). I cannot imagine the toll jealousy took on these women.
But then God, whose word will not return void, allows Sarah to become pregnant. Finally, Abraham’s son, Isaac, whom God had promised to make a covenant with, was born to Sarah.
And Sarah declared, “God has brought me laughter. All who hear about this will laugh with me. Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse a baby? Yet I have given Abraham a son in his old age!” Genesis 21:6-7 NLT
One might assume this would resolve all the resentment and feelings of jealousy between the two women, right? Wrong!
One day, Sarah turned and saw Ishmael making fun of Isaac and her jealousy and anger rose again. Deep down she feared that Ishmael would share in the inheritance due Isaac. Once again, Sarah takes things into her own hands, and she demands Abraham to send Hagar and her son, Ishmael, into the desert (Genesis 21).
Due to Hagar’s obedience during her first encounter with the Lord, what appeared to be a setback became a set up for her comeback! Once sent away, Hagar is freed from those who ultimately controlled every aspect of her life. She was able to subdue her jealousy, discover her own personal identity, and continue an intimate relationship with God. God not only sustained them in the wilderness but created a great nation through Ishmael.
But let’s return to Sarah for just a minute. Why was jealousy able to grip Sarah’s heart so tightly? Because she had given up hope. She was looking at God’s promise from a very limited human perspective. And then, things just spiraled out of control.
But that’s what I love about God, He will take our mess and turn it into His message! In spite of all the sinful emotions streaming between these two women, the Lord used their lives to unfold an extraordinary plan. Let Sarah and Hagar’s story remind us that a time of waiting may be God’s precise plan for His promise! While we wait, we must control the spirit of jealousy. Do you want to experience the peace and self-control that comes from trusting God during the wait? Or would you prefer to continue wrestling with the bondage jealousy brings? The choice is yours!
Written by Stacha Ashburn
Please note all scripture was taken from the NLT
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.