Your adornment must not be merely external — braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.
–1 Peter 3:3-5
“Submission and trust are not just thrown in as two arbitrary qualities of the Bible’s good girls. The two go hand in hand. A true heart attitude of peaceful submission — free from worry, anxiety, or bitterness — is only possible when we find a deep place of trust in God. Sarah learned trust through difficult situations as she trusted God, obeyed in spite of her husband’s fallibility, and reaped reward.” (from last week’s post.)
Let’s take a look at the opportunities for trust in Sarah’s life. Grab your Bible and turn to Genesis 12:1-5, and 12:10-20.
First, we see Abram (not yet Abraham) receiving a word from the Lord to pack up and go. Go where? Well, to the land the Lord would show him. Huh. I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when we get in the car for a trip, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Ryan doesn’t actually know where we’re supposed to be heading. (Fortunately, the handy-dandy iPhone calms most of my fears!) Nonetheless, Abram packs up house, servants, animals, and his wife Sarai (not yet Sarah), and they all head out. Unnerving, I’d say.
And then, through a series of unfortunate events, we end up in Egypt, where the story gets a little kooky. “Say you’re my sister, so the Egyptians don’t kill me,” Abram asks.* And Sarai must have thought, “Huh. Nice for you, but what about me? If they think I’m up for grabs, who’s to say they won’t help themselves?” But apparently, she kept her mouth shut and, when asked, said she was simply Abram’s sister. Surprise, surprise — Pharaoh ends up taking her into his house, and just in the nick of time, the Lord shows up and strikes Pharaoh’s house with a plague. Things get sorted out, and Abram’s on his merry way, with Sarai, who just had the roller coaster ride of her life — or so she thinks.
Except now we turn to Genesis 20:1-18, and Abraham decides to pull the same stunt!! You know Sarah was thinking, “You have GOT TO BE KIDDING!!” But no, he’s not. Amazingly enough, Sarah again displays a profound trust in God, and submits to what Abraham asks of her. And once again, the king of the country they’re in takes Sarah into his house. (This is my favorite part:) God, once again, shows up to save the day as Sarah’s defender and tells King Abimelech that he’s a dead man, because he took a married woman. Again, things get sorted out, and they’re on their way. Phew. What a day!
Reading in Genesis, we might be tempted to wonder why on earth Sarah played along with these crazy schemes. We might picture her to be an oppressed doormat of a woman. We might just chalk it up to a strange and foreign culture. Fast-forward to 1 Peter, however, and we discover that none of those scenarios rightly capture Sarah’s heart. No, the simple reason for her actions was this: she hoped in God — completely — and was therefore able to submit to her husband.
More on this next week!
*Note: A bit of reading of OT culture, along with Abraham’s defense in 20:12, leads us to understand that Sarah actually was Abraham’s sister, and in those days, the familial tie was much stronger and more respected than a marital tie. A greedy king may have been tempted to kill the husband of a wealthy woman, but wouldn’t bother killing a brother, since her wealth would simply go back to her father’s house. I only reference this to point out that Abraham did NOT ask Sarah to lie. We are not required by God to submit to immoral laws (“It is better to obey God than man.”)