Miracle Mother: Sarah’s Simcha

In by Lorna Simcox

Logically speaking, the State of Israel should not exist. Five fully armed Arab nations tried to snuff it out at birth in 1948.

Nevertheless, with few weapons; no air force; no navy; and an “army” composed of feeble, broken refugees who had escaped the ovens of Europe and could not even communicate with one another in a common language, tiny Israel survived. It was a miracle.

Logically speaking, the Jewish people themselves should not exist. They have been persecuted, victimized, and slain in almost every country they have lived in and by almost every means possible. Other civilizations that endured less have been erased from the earth. But the Jewish people have survived. It is a miracle.

In fact, logically speaking, the nation should never have been born. Sarai, Abram’s wife, was unable to conceive when she was young and later grew too old to conceive. Yet she did. And yes, it was a miracle.

In fact, Israel’s very existence is a triumph of the miraculous over the logical. But when has God ever been confined to human logic? And when has time, space, or natural law ever restricted the workings of the Almighty?

Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me? (Jer. 32:27).

I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure (Isa. 46:9–10).

And His pleasure was to use a ninety-year-old barren woman and miraculously create His own special nation to which He would give the land of Canaan and through which He would bless all mankind.

When Sarai’s servant, Hagar, gave birth to Ishmael, neither Abram nor Sarai realized that Ishmael was not the heir God had promised. But the Lord kept silent on the issue for thirteen years. Then, when Abram was ninetynine, He spoke (Gen. 17).

He changed Abram’s name to Abraham (meaning “father of a multitude”); changed Sarai’s name to Sarah (meaning “princess”); reiterated His covenant with Abraham, including His promise to give him “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession” (Gen. 17:8); gave the rite of circumcision as the sign of that covenant; and promised a child through Sarah, who by then was eighty-nine years old: “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her” (17:16).

Abraham immediately “fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? And shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear? . . . Oh, that Ishmael might live before thee!” (vv. 17–18).

Despite his great faith, Abraham struggled to understand how Sarah could give birth; and thus he begged God to make Ishmael his heir. But God said no:

Sarah, thy wife, shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him (17:19).

What did it matter to God that Sarah was past childbearing and would be ninety years old? He controlled conception. And He sovereignly established the child’s sex, name, and date of birth (17:19; 18:14). After Abraham laughed, God decreed the child would be called Isaac, meaning “he laughs” (17:19).

Later Sarah laughed also when the Lord appeared with two angels and told Abraham, “I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah, thy wife, shall have a son” (18:10).

Understandably, Sarah had difficulty believing she would give birth. But failing to comprehend God’s ways is vastly different from failing to believe in Him. He says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways” (Isa. 55:8). God does not explain to us everything He does. But He promises that if we trust and lean on Him, He will direct our paths. Even people of great faith sometimes struggle and have been known to make great mistakes when they lean on human reason rather than divine guidance.

Despite her doubts, Sarah was a woman of faith, as evidenced by what the New Testament affirms about her:

Through faith also Sarah herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised (Heb. 11:11).

Thus, when Abraham was one hundred and Sarah ninety—when it was illogical and clearly impossible for Sarah to bear a child—Sarah gave birth to Isaac. It was a simcha (Yiddish for “special joyous time”) that caused Sarah to declare, “God hath made me laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me” (Gen. 21:6).

Indeed, the very utterance of Isaac’s name should confirm to Jewish people throughout every generation that their existence is nothing short of a miracle. As God told Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (18:14).

Many people view life strictly from their human vantage points, desperately seeking earthly explanations for everything and reducing God to proportions that their limited, finite minds can comprehend. But often there are no earthly explanations. Sometimes the miraculous happens. And those occurrences (the Bible is full of them) come exclusively from the hand of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God.

The child born of Abraham and Sarah was the seed of all of Israel. The unconditional promises of the Abrahamic Covenant passed to him (Gen. 21:12; Rom. 9:7), then to his son Jacob (Gen. 28:13–15), and to the entire nation of Israel (Ezek. 37:25).

More important, the redemption of all mankind rested in Isaac because from his seed would come the promised Messiah—another miraculous birth.