As we explore the romantic relationships of the bible I want you to keep this in mind:
- What are the little foxes (Song of Solomon 2:15) or problems in their marriage?
- Did they respond by resting or trusting in the Lord? (Spoiler alert… no)
- How did God respond to their sins of mistrust?
Adam and Eve had that one little fox of original sin (not so little anymore). Imagine their first argument, how shocked both of them must have been. “Why are my thoughts opposed to hers?”, “What are these feelings of anger and shame I have towards him?” The rest of the Lord was replaced with blaming their beloved.
Wait! We don’t have to imagine it at all!
8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
And so, from that moment until today, we wrestle with our own knowledge of good and evil verses God’s absolute truth.
Abram and Sarai
Not much is known about Abram’s courtship with Sarai (who later became Abraham and Sarah). It was most likely an arranged marriage. Our present culture loves to laugh at arranged marriages, as if our modern and postmodern ways are better. The divorce rate of our present age should give us pause.
I don’t think that the cause of this is the lack of arranged marriages, but it does tell us something is wrong.
Personally, I think it has to do with modern mobility. The ease we have to leave our significant other, how easily divorces can be arranged plays the greatest factor. It’s easier to sin than to stick around and work things out.
Unless it is brought upon by the sins of abuse or infidelity, divorce is not a biblical option.
Back then, many of those hard choices were made for you. Most people lived in a small village. Imagine the parents talking behind their children’s back, arranging who should marry whom. As the children grew up, I’m sure it was not much of a surprise who they married.
Because of the limitations of who you could choose, divorce was not really an option. You were forced to work things out. Of course, I’m very sure that infidelity happened, they were sinners back then, but compared to the divorce rate we enjoy today, the limitations of that time limited temptation.
This doesn’t give them a pass however. Jesus, after all, said that even looking at another man’s wife was adultery. So, from that definition, all have fallen short of the glory of God. All are in need of a savior.
But, moving back to our topic at hand. Here is what the bible has to say about the courtship of Abram and Sarai.
29 And Abram and Nahor took wives. The name of Abram’s wife was Sarai, and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran the father of Milcah and Iscah. 30 Now Sarai was barren; she had no child.
Little Foxes Amidst God’s Blessings
For those who have well-to-do families that have little to no issues, there’s the redemption demonstrated in the book of Ruth (we’ll get to that one in due time). For the rest of us, we have broken families such as Abraham and Sarah, who through the providence of God were brought about to bring glory to His name. This was in spite of their sins.
Don’t worry now, we’ll also get to the broken relationships of Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel/Leah, David and his harem of wives, and Solomon with the Shulamite and also with his even greater harem of wives.
As we continue to look at the life of Abram and Sarai, I want you to notice God’s providence in all of this.
In genesis 12 Abram lies about his wife Sarai. Because of her beauty he fears men will kill him over her. So, when they enter Egypt due to a famine, he tells them all that Sarai is his sister. And Pharaoh took her into his house.
17 But the Lord afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. 18 So Pharaoh called Abram and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? 19 Why did you say, ‘She is my sister,’ so that I took her for my wife? Now then, here is your wife; take her, and go.” 20 And Pharaoh gave men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.
It appears that Hagar, an Egyptian servant, left with them.
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. 4 And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” 6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
In chapter 17 God starts a covenant with Abram renaming him Abraham meaning “the father of many nations” and also renaming Sarai to Sarah as a sign of this covenant; It is also prophesied that Sarah will bear a child. Abraham rejoices in this!
In chapter 18 three men (possibly angels) give a message to Abraham concerning Sarah’s coming child.
9 They said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “She is in the tent.” 10 The Lord said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife shall have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years. The way of women had ceased to be with Sarah. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I am worn out, and my lord is old, shall I have pleasure?” 13 The Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 15 But Sarah denied it, saying, “I did not laugh,” for she was afraid. He said, “No, but you did laugh.”
In chapter 20, Abraham, yet again, lies about his wife in fear that others will kill him over her.
In chapter 21 Isaac is born as the Lord promised! And Sarah throws Hagar and her son out into the desert. But God saves them and makes a nation out of this slave woman’s offspring.
And so it is a back and forth of sin, unrest, and a deep mistrust against the Lord. Yet God responded by having mercy.
In chapter 22 God tests Abraham by commanding him to sacrifice Isaac. Abraham passed this test.
What is the conclusion of this broken family’s messed up sins and life?
8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.
Hebrews chapter 11 continues all the way through the book of Judges and even to the martyrs of that time. All of them gave their lives for faith in God.
Chapter 11 ends with:
39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
And so, it appears that the romantic relationship of Abraham and Sarah were subject to God’s will in that time and place. What he cared about most, was their faith.
Flee from the Disney princess films and romcoms that plague our culture. Romance should not be an idle over God’s will and desire. Flee idolatry and understand the practical nature of romantic love that God has called us to.
We are not destined for a fairy-tale life in this fallen world. Our eyes must look onward to the new heaven and new earth to come!