Sunday, November 12, 2006

Book Club: 16th November 2006

This fortnight we are reading the Chapter on 'Sarah: Hoping Agains Hope' Pages 27-50 of '12 Extraordinary Woman'

Please post your comments here...


Ames said...

Here are a few of my thoughts on reading the Chapter on Sarah.

pg 27 'But reading the biblical account of her life, it is impossible not to notice that she sometimes behaved badly. She could throw fits and tantrums. She new how to be manipulative. And she was even known to get mean...' I thought it highlighted that Sarah, was and ordinary women, with the same sinful tendencies that all of us can have. Often I think when I think of the notable women of the bible I think that they're some how above all of that, Super women if you like, but no.. they're sinful just like me!

I wonder at Sarah's beauty. Imagine at 65 still being so beautiful that your husband feels the need to tell people your his sister because he fears for his life. That she can attract the attention of kings! "that kind of thing can spoil the best of women" pg 28. I guess we often see today, how beauty spoils women, or maybe I should add the pursuit of beauty. But despite the outward beauty she is also known for her inner beauty, of a gently and quiet spirit.

I think its amazing that by this time, idol worship already dominated the world. pg 31 'Abraham was only a ninth generation descendant from Shem, son of Noah.' You wonder how man so quickly loses sight of the True God. How quickly the curse takes effect, but then I guess there's little wonder when you consider how quickly it corrupted in the beginning; Cane and Abel only the first genereation from Adam and Eve. I guess its another reminder how sin thoroughly corrupts.

I thought it interesting that he points out that there were probably other families scattered around who also believed in YHWH. Like Melchizedek. I've never thought about why Melchizekek was a priest. And I think I always assumed that Abraham and his descendents where the only ones.

I thought the possible connection he was drawing between Sarah's ill conceived plan for Abraham to have a son with Hagar, and some of the trouble in the middle east were interesting. pg 38. I don't think that he was directly refering to islam and christianity (Judaism) on page 49, I think he was talking more of works and grace, but it is hard not to think of the two religions when he says '...spiritual principal in the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael. This symbolized the important truth that the kind of religion that is dependent on human effort (symbolized by the carnal scheme that conceived Ishmael as an artificial fulfillment of God's promises) is utterly incompatible with divine grace (symbolized by Isaac, the true heir of Gods promise). And the two are hostile to each other that they can not even abide close proximity.' I guess I remember how in reality Islam substitutes Ishmael for Isaac, and calls Ishmael the son of promise. And though I don't know all that much about islam, it does appear to be a religion of works compared to christianity's salvation by grace. Of course there are many religions of works other than islam, but the connection to ismael is notable.

I think it is also amazing and encouraging, that dispite all of Sarahs faults her lasting legacy is all about her faithfulness, and that she is commended "... as the very epitome of a woman adorned with 'incorruptible beauty of a fently and quiet spirit' (1 peter 3:4)"... truly a worthy example to follow...

Ames said...

A few thoughts we discussed about Sarah this week:

Sarah’s Laughter – pg 46 ‘Sarah’s laughter (just like Abraham’s earlier) seems to have been an exclamation of joy and amazement rather than doubt…’ Most of us had always assumed that Sarah’s laughter was of doubt, like a ‘yeah right’ but JM suggests that it was truly a laughter of joy and amazement. Upon reading the chapter the only thing that really suggests that it was anything other than joy, is her denial that she laughed, which JM explains this way… ‘That denial was motivated by fear. She was afraid because she had not laughed aloud, but “within herself.” As soon as she realized this stranger had such a sure and thorough knowledge of her hear, she knew instantly and definitively that is was the lord.”

Sarah’s Burden – When you consider that the promises that God had made to Abraham were all hinging on Sarah producing an heir, you realise how great a burden it must have been. You can understand why she would start to think of ways to bring the promise about, since she was beyond the age of bearing children. Only when she took matters in to her own hands it all back fired.
This is a reminder that Gods way is the best way, and the end does not justify the means. How we get there is important too.

Sarah’s Sacrifice – In giving Abraham her handmaiden Hagar, Sarah was making a great sacrifice. Its clear that she still loved Abraham, and it must have been a very painful decision to make. Imagine encouraging your husband to take another wife! This must have been one of the most difficult things a woman could do. Her motive, ‘that she wanted to see Gods promises fulfilled’ seemed good to her. Maybe she felt she was making a sacrifice for God. But in the end we see that this sacrifice was the wrong decision, which only served to bring her pain.

Sarah’s overreaction to Hagar – pg 48 ‘So what may appear at first glance to be an extreme overreaction was actually another proof of Sarah’s great faith in God’s promise’. I found this difficult to get my head around. But you see that Sarah understood that while Ishmael was around, Isaacs’s position as heir would always be under threat. There was wisdom in her demand. However it appears it was too harsh.
Isn’t it also amazing how God has chosen to deal directly with Hagar, a woman and a pagan? God shows her kindness, and appears to her directly.

Sarah was not always nomad – amazing to imagine going from the life you’d experience in a Chaldean city, the markets, busyness, the hustle and bustle, surrounded by many people, to becoming a nomad, wandering in the desert, living in tents! It must have been difficult. Even if 65 for Sarah was not 65 for us, even if it was only equivalent to say 35-40 it would still be very hard.
Can you imagine a woman so beautiful, that even when she was well past her childbearing years, she was still so stunningly beautiful that she attracted the attention of kings!

Ishmael vs. Isaac, and its consequences today; Islam versus Christian/Judaism.
Pg 49. ‘This symbolized the important truth that the kind of religion that is dependent on human effort (symbolized by the carnal scheme that conceived Ishmael as an artificial fulfilment of God’s promise) is utterly incompatible with divine grace (symbolized by Isaac, the true heir of God’s promise)
“… Hagar, the bondwoman, represents the slavery of legalism (the bondage of trying to earn favour with God through works). Sarah, the faithful wife, represents the perfect liberty of grace.
Whilst he was not directly talking about Christianity and Islam it is hard not to draw the comparison, as Islam does actually replace Isaac (the son of promise) with Ishmael.

A recent visitor to our church is involved in a Middle Eastern Ministry to the Middle East based in the Middle East. In his talk, he suggested that whilst here in the west we perceive that Islam is rising, in the middle east itself it is more a picture of a religion disintegrating, as more an more people, want the lifestyle, freedom and luxuries of the west. He was apparently suggesting that some of the extreme statements we hear reportedly made by Sheiks and leaders are often made to try to reign the people in.
Others had heard other discussions by people involved with the middle east that the irony may be in the future, that we may end up with more ‘Muslim’ Muslims in the west, than in the middle east, much like the Greeks, Italians and others who have settled in Australia, and in their communities continued their traditions and cultural practices only to find that when they return to their country i.e. Greece, they are more Greek than the Greeks!
It is encouraging also to hear that there are more Christians in the Middle East than we expect. The church in Iraq is struggling though, and needs our prayers. Strangely under Sadam they enjoyed some level of protection but since the war things have changed. The church was once quite large but is now small.

Sarah’s Legacy – Sarah’s lasting Legacy
Despite her faults, the NT only records good things about her. She is remembered as a good and faithful wife and a model for Christian women, and a women of great faith.
It is also a wonderful picture of Grace, that despite her sinfulness God chose that she be remembered for her most beautiful qualities. Infact, Israel’s whole history constantly points to Gods grace.
How much we take for granted. When you think that the prophets, Sarah, Abraham, etc, they only saw in part, they trusted God, but they didn’t see the fulfilment of Gods plan, Even the Angels didn’t know, and now we, have it all written down for us. We have now excuse, not to believe, we have no excuse for turning away.