March 21, the Eleventh Day of Lent

March 21, 2011 § 2 Comments

It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.

-Hebrews 11.11-

At this point in the chapter, we consider Sarah as well as Abraham. The author of Hebrews pulls our attention to the stories in Genesis 18.1-15 and 21.1-7. Abraham was visited by messengers from God, and one of them told Abraham that his wife, Sarah, would have a son within a year’s time. Even though both Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children, the prophecy became true; Isaac was born, just as the messenger said.

At first glance, it may seem odd that this story is included among those that we have been looking at; Sarah’s initial reaction to the message was incredulous laughter. Then, when the messenger asks Sarah why she laughed, she tells a lie and claims that she did not; however, the messenger refuses to back down. Then, when Isaac is born, we read about the laughter of joy. Isaac’s name means, “laughter.”

This does not appear to be behavior that lines up with the story of faith that we have been reading. Part of this difficulty comes from matters of translation; the original language of Hebrews presents some ambiguity here. This blog uses the New Living Translation because of its readability; however, an additional translation for perspective would be helpful here. The New Revised Standard Version translates Hebrews 11.11 like this: “By faith he received power of procreation, even though he was too old—and Sarah herself was barren—because he considered him faithful who had promised.” We see that in this translation, the focus remains upon Abraham as the one living in faith.

It may be better to operate from this translation. In the stories in Genesis, Abraham receives the message face-to-face while Sarah overhears it. Abraham did not challenge the message. The act of procreation, at this point in their lives, would have required faith on both of their parts. When the boy is born, Abraham names him, “laughter,” and we can almost picture him winking at Sarah when he does so.

In this verse, Abraham continues to demonstrate the life of faith. Yet Sarah did as well; despite her initial disbelief, she was able to later live in faith with her husband and trust to see the promise fulfilled. When it is fulfilled, she remembers her hesitance and marvels that God kept his promise.

Perhaps we have had this experience; the experience of having to rely upon others to  help us live in faith when we do not have faith of our own. This underscores the importance of living in community as a follower of Christ: when our faith falters, we have people surrounding us that can encourage us and assist us in living in faith when we simply “run out of gas.” As members of community, we also need to remember that at times we will have opportunities to encourage others as they need it. Abraham and Sarah demonstrate this for us: a life lived in isolation cannot be lived in faith.

As we journey through Lent together, may our faith be strengthened; and may God use us to strengthen the faith of others.

“Dear Lord, forgive me for the times when I have laughed at your possibilities. Thank you for those in my life who help me live as you desire me to; please grow and strengthen these relationships. Help me to live in grace so that, when needed, I may be able to encourage and strengthen the faith of those who need it. Amen.”



§ 2 Responses to March 21, the Eleventh Day of Lent

  • I hare to critique a prayer, but “live” should be “life.”

    I have the habit of withdrawing from community when my faith is weak. Perhaps I should open up more during the good times, so my friends may recognize these subtle cues and be able to offer assistance.

  • sethasher says:

    Corrected. Thanks for the keen eye. 🙂

    As I’ve had the opportunity to ponder this, it has occurred to me that community acts as a support system that helps our faith-walk remain strong. Some of the best conversations that I have are with atheists who approach me and say, “I want to believe, but I just can’t.” I wonder what it would be like if people within the church community could freely admit their doubts and exhaustion, just as people outside of the community do. Would we have a stronger church? A more authentic church? A better church?

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