John MacArthur posed some…more personal questions in this chapter of Twelve Extraordinary Women. Exploring the life of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, reader’s are encouraged to understand the patience and enduring hope she had despite bitterness, and the urge to take matters into her own hands. I took some great advice from a trusted friend (after I had already answered the questions), re-read the questions, and will hopefully leave you with some self-reflection as succinct as I possibly can…though I could elaborate far more on some. I also encourage you to share your own opinions, thoughts, criticisms or agreements – regardless your beliefs. 😉
1. What are your first thoughts about Sarai (or Sarah)?
MacArthur’s first impressions of Sarah are obvious within the writing…but I like to draw my own conclusions about an individual. Although extremely beautiful, growing up Sarah may have developed a bit of humility – driving such steadfast faithfulness to Abraham. On the other hand, she may have been a spoiled, temperamental woman, based on the way she suggested and then dealt with her maid Hagar. Either way, I feel ridiculous calling her anything other than what God tells us she is: devoted, faithful and hopeful, remaining warm-hearted despite her tribulations.
2. We first discover Sarah when she was 65 years old. At that time she was beautiful but had no children. Why was it so important that a woman have children?
You wanna know what I wrote down when I was answering questions? “How the heck am I supposed to answer that?” I’m taking the easy way out. Other than inevitable biological reasons, I won’t answer this question. The fact is, I never want to experience pregnancy or give birth to a child (adoption would be fantastic). I’m upset just thinking about it. And I know everyone says, “You’ll change your mind when you’re older,” or “Oh, I used to think that too.” No. That really just upsets me further because you don’t understand how desperately I never want it to happen. I have no remorse for the fact that I don’t want to either. Then things start getting really depressing because it’s supposedly the one finite thing God put women on the earth to do (which I also find depressing, but that’s another story). It’s undeniable that it is our responsibility to further the human race. Regardless of all that, I still don’t want to. I feel positively horrible because I sincerely never want to undergo the one thing I’m meant to do, and I feel selfish and abhorrent for being so unwanted of God’s purpose. That makes me sad, deeply sorrowful, but it still doesn’t change the way I feel.
3. Review the material on pages 28-29. List Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses. Now list your strengths and weaknesses. In what ways are you and Sarah similar? In what ways are you different?
Again, I thought this question was a bit unfair, since what we’re supposed to base Sarah’s strengths and weaknesses off of is what MacArthur’s opinions are. He may have thoroughly researched and made intelligent observations to determine her personality…but still. I listed Sarah’s strengths as: beauty (which ofttimes can be a weakness, but I thought hers would be a strength), faith, steadfastness, deep affection, sincerity, and hope. Her weaknesses as: her barren-ness (making her rash and desperate), bitterness and other shortcomings (possibly with Hagar?). Feel free to criticize or throw in some input; I listed my strengths as: hopeful, good-humored, optimism, patience, and faith. My weaknesses as: meekness, doubt, anger, harshness, and jealousy. I like to think that I’m capable of Sarah’s patience, and I think I would be a bit jealous of someone capable of something I desired with my whole heart. I think I’m different from Sarah – and perhaps it’s just a cultural difference – in that I don’t think I could ever, ever ask my husband and another woman to conceive a child together. Period.
4. Because she was childless, Sarah is characterized as frustrated and resentful. When you don’t get what you expect, what words can be used to characterize the way you act? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Explain your response.
It all depends on the situation. Disappointment. Surprise. Utilize (I’ll try to make the most of it). Thankful/humility. Overwhelmed. Draw your own conclusions.
5. Sarah’s actions reveal that she was totally devoted to her husband. Your life reveals the people and/or things to which you are totally devoted. What does your life say is important to you?
I would hope that my actions and company would say that I’m devoted to God. I know that His presence in my life should be even more substantial and continue to increase. Family, friends, Michael, PAS, books and education are more noticeable components of my life.
6. In spite of her year of childlessness, Sarah remained confident that God would do what He promised to do. Your life is characterized by hope. For what are you hoping? How confident are you that God will do what you expect?
I hope for a life fulfilling God while simultaneously doing what I love. Should I really be expecting something from God? Only guidance – which I have no doubt He’ll provide if I seek it. I only hope that I follow it the way He wishes.
7. Read Genesis 17:20-21. How do you think Sarah felt when she heard these words?
“And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes he shall beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.”
I could imagine Sarah breathed a sigh of relief. After all God was much more specific in His reassurance in this instance. Not only that, He provided a timeline. Again we’re reminded that everything happens in it’s own time. MacArthur notes, “His plan all along was for Sarah to have her first child in her own age, after every prospect of a natural fulfillment of the prophecy was exhausted and after every earthly reason for hope was completely dead.”
8. What was significant about Sarah’s laughter in Genesis 18:15? How important is it that we be honest with God?
“Then Sarah denied, saying I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.”
In my opinion it showed that despite her temper and struggles with discouragement, Sarah was able to remain an essentially good-humored woman. To me, this is paramount; her heart didn’t harden. What does it say that she denied it, and later admitted to her laughter? It’s incredibly important to be honest with God – He knows your heart so it’s pointless to hide. So really if you’re being dishonest, it’s only being dishonest, and hurting yourself. We can move forward when we’re honest.
9. What life principles did you learn from the study of Sarah’s life? How will you apply these principles to your life?
Don’t take matters, especially what God has promised, into your own hands. Be prayerful in everything. Don’t let your heart be hardened. Read scripture. How do you think these can be applied?
Be on the look out for the next extraordinary woman from MacArthur’s book: Rahab! “A Horrible Life Redeemed”
The study questions are courtesy of John MacArthur’s book: Twelve Extraordinary Women; image one is from Life, Hope & Truth: http://lifehopeandtruth.com/change/faith/women-of-faith/sarah/; image two artwork of ‘Women after God’: https://www.facebook.com/abundantpeace?fref=ts