The Incarnation story which we celebrate is about the fulfillment of promise to deliver a people. The biblical narratives helps us identify those people and how and why they needed deliverance and how their story moved closer and closer to the fulfillment of the promise of deliverance.
As noted in previous articles, biblical scholarship has often selectively focused on the story of the ‘people’ in a way that excluded the female population of those who needed deliverance and those whose stories moved us closer and closer to the promised deliverance.
This article is an attempt to present those ‘hidden’ female figures of the redemption story through the eyes of the Old Testament. Since we have already demonstrated Eve’s part in this great story, we will move on to the other hidden figures that the Bible didn’t hide but which gender-biased biblical studies hid.
Sarai to Sarah
Sarah was the wife of the patriarch, Abraham. Her place in Redemption’s Story is often obscured in favor of her husband’s Abraham. But today, we will show that God did not just call Abraham to be the father of many nations and the people who be delivered, but that He also called Sarah to be the mother of many nations and the mother of all to be delivered.
God was firm about the lineage of Abraham’s heir – it was an heir that would come from Sarah and no other woman (Gen.21:12). It was out of the union of Sarah and Abraham’s gametes that God would launch the plan for deliverance. As such, it is important to focus on what we might learn from Sarah in this journey, rather than just a focus on Abraham’s contributions.
Sarah answered the call to ‘leave’ mother and father and all other relatives to go to the Promised Land as much as Abraham did. But in focusing on Abraham’s leaving alone, we often neglect the cost and sacrifice of Sarah to help fulfill God’s promise of redemption. God’s insistence that she was the mother of the heir also meant without her it wasn’t happening. God was saying to Sarah, I need you just as much as I need Abraham’s body in this journey.
It is interesting that God chose a woman who was ‘barren’ to fulfill the plan of redemption through a people that would come through her!
By focusing His desire and choice on Sarah, God was establishing that it is He who determines the standards of acceptability and suitability for His purposes and calling and that it is not based on any natural qualification we could ever bring to the table.
In Sarah, the birth of the Redeemer Jesus through Mary was foreshadowed. Neither would depend on laws of nature but rather on the will of God.
Just as Mary surrendered her body to bear the Redeemer, Sarah would surrender her barren womb for God’s purposes to set the wondrous plan of redemption rolling.
In launching the genealogy of the One who is the Light of the world through Sarah’s ‘dead womb,’ God also foreshadowed the gift of resurrection from the dead that is an integral of our Gospel story.
Mother Sarah marked God’s fulfillment of His word to her by naming her promise ‘Isaac,’ meaning “God has brought me laughter” (Gen.20:6).
Fast forward to Luke 1:46-49 and compare the first few verses of Mary’s song, The Magnificat:
“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
With Sarah’s song of laughter in Genesis 21:6 (btw, why is there no song named after Sarah???):
“God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
It is interesting that in pursuing the fulfillment of the plan of redemption, God also paid careful attention to intentionally affirm and honor the place of women in His plan and we will see this thread throughout Redemption’s Story.
Just as God never intended for one half of creation to bear His image or share in His activity, He did not design a Redemption that only included men, but rather one that equally involved women from beginning to the end.
As we observe this season of Advent, may we come to know our Father’s heart even more, by paying careful attention to how He placed men and women side by side not only in Creation Story, but all the way in Redemption Story. Let us also note how these men and women were not chosen for gender qualifications, socio-economic statuses, looks, etc., but instead simply because of God’s desire to ‘include’ them, male and female, in His Redemption Story.
Redemption Story started with Eve and then it moved to Sarah because God had neither finished with, nor given up on nor excluded women from full participation in His Gospel Story. Therefore, let no one -men or women- exclude women either at any level. For we see that at the highest of all levels in God’s Plan, He included even the most unlikely women, just as He included even the most unlikely men.