THE WOMAN WHO WAS PAST THE AGE
Hebrews 11:11-12 (CSB)
“By faith even Sarah herself, when she was unable to have children, received power to conceive offspring, even though she was past the age, since she considered that the one who had promised was faithful. Therefore, from one man—in fact, from one as good as dead—came offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and as innumerable as the grains of sand along the seashore.”
We have been looking at the heroes of faith mentioned in this chapter. So far, we looked at what God did for four men – Abel, Enoch, Noah and Abraham.
• Abel had a short life, but God enabled him to not allow that limit to keep him from using his one shot at a life of faith.
• Enoch lived in a corrupt generation, but God enabled Enoch to walk in fellowship with him in spite of the failures of his world.
• Noah also lived in a corrupt generation, so corrupt that God had to destroy it. But God preserved Noah and his family from that judgment.
• Abraham came from a pagan people, but God called Abraham to himself and taught him how to put trust him implicitly,.
Today we take a break from looking at men of faith, because today’s text draws our attention to a woman of faith. We are going to learn about what God did for Sarah.
God enabled Sarah to look beyond her own limits (11a).
The first thing we need to know about Sarah was that her conceiving and giving birth to Isaac was a miracle. The text says that “she was unable” to conceive. Some women are fertile later in life, but Sarah was not one of them. In fact, Sarah had never conceived.
But even if she had been able to conceive when she was young, our text says that she was unable to do so at that point because “she was past the age”. Her time had passed her by. She missed the window of opportunity.
I think if I were Isaac, I would have had security issues. Nobody seemed to think it was possible for him to be born. When God told his father – Abraham – that Sarah would give birth, the Bible records this response:
• “Then Abraham bowed down with his face to the ground and laughed as he said to himself, “Can a son be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Can Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” (Genesis 17:17 NET).
When Sarah herself heard the promise, the Bible records her response:
• “So Sarah laughed to herself, thinking, “After I am worn out will I have pleasure, especially when my husband is old too?”” (Genesis 18:12).
The fact that both Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea shows how absurd it was – from the standpoint of the flesh. When the child was born, they named him Isaac, which is Hebrew for laughter.
Friends, the more we know about ourselves, the more absurd the gospel is. That God could establish his eternal kingdom in the hearts of people like us is so unreasonable it is laughable. But the author of Hebrews is showing us that God works in our lives in ways that do not make sense.
God challenges all of us to look beyond our personal limits, because that is exactly where he wants to work. Paul told the Ephesians:
• “For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast. For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them” (Ephesians 2:8-10 NET).
God starts at the limits of our workmanship, and then he adds his workmanship. When we get to the point where we realize that we can’t, then we are ready to start living by faith and receiving God’s power.
Sarah “received power to conceive offspring.” She may have thought it ridiculous that she herself could have a baby, but God challenged her to go beyond what she could not do, and focus on trusting him.
Maybe our prayers seem so ineffective sometimes because we are too busy limiting what God can do. Sarah wanted a child desperately. What she did not realize is that God wanted her to have a child. His will was not an obstacle. If what we want is not what God wants, then we need to repent of wanting it. But if what we want is what God wants, then we need to stop praying “if it be thy will” as a concession. We need to know God’s will, and pray it confidently.
God enabled Sarah to focus on his faithfulness (11b).
The text says “she considered that the one who had promised was faithful.” Like her husband, she learned to trust in God’s ability. When Abraham thought about what would happen if he slaughtered his son in response to God’s command, it says he “considered God to be able even to raise someone from the dead; therefore, he received him back, figuratively speaking” (verse 19). That old couple had learned to trust in the faithfulness of God.
We listen to promises all the time, in our families, at our jobs, from the politicians. But we learn that some people cannot be trusted because they are not faithful to fulfil their promises. We even learn to filter out some people’s promises because we know they won’t keep them – they won’t even remember them! But when we come across people of integrity who always keep their promises, we look forward to dealing with them, because we know their word stands for something. That is what Sarah knew about God.
God enabled Sarah to participate in his amazing plan (12).
Her husband was “one as good as dead.” The miracle was not going to come from him. But Sarah did not let that stop her. She was going to put her faith in the living God.
God had a plan. God wanted Abraham to produce “offspring as numerous as the stars of the sky and as innumerable as the grains of sand along the seashore.” Sarah knew that she could not do what God wanted to do, but she learned that God can do anything he wants, and he could use her to get it done.
Three questions are implied from today’s text:
• First, what does God want to do today?
• Second, do we trust him to do it?
• Third, are we willing to be a part of what he is doing?
We need to baptize our imaginations. For too long we have looked ourselves in the mirror and concluded that God cannot use us. Abraham and Sarah learned that the mirror lies. When God sets his mind on doing a miracle, he looks for people like us. It does not matter if some of us are past our “use by” date. Age doesn’t matter. Gender doesn’t matter. Education doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is our willingness to let God do what he wants to do through us.