Cover image for Meet Bathsheba : dramatic portraits of biblical women
Title:
Meet Bathsheba : dramatic portraits of biblical women
Author:
Gartner, Rosanne.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Valley Forge, PA : Judson Press, [2000]

©2000
Physical Description:
xiv, 145 pages ; 23 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780817013554
Format :
Book

Available:*

Library
Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Status
Central Library BS575 .G37 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
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Summary

Summary

"A wall of silence existed between Abram and me for quite a while after that." And so begins the fascinating, previously untold story of Abram's wife Sarah, Mother of Nations, as told by author Rosanne Gartner. A professional storyteller, Gartner captures the emotions and thoughts of ten women of the Bible in this series of first-person testimonies written from the vantage point of women, including Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Mary, and Bathsheba, who have played an important role in the plan God has for his people.


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Dramatic performer Gartner uses thorough research skills and lively prose to bring obscure female characters to life in these first-person monologues. Gartner has been performing these intriguing women-of-the-Bible historical presentations since 1994. As a member of the Village Church in Northbrook, Ill., the author was invited to lead a summer study that focused on people in the Bible. She boldly chose BathshebaÄand even more shockingly, promised to present this oft-misunderstood Biblical character in the first person. From there, Gartner continued to develop detailed story lines that fill in the fascinating cultural and historical traditions of the lives of Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah, Naomi, Mary (the mother of Jesus), the Woman at the Well, Martha and Priscilla. While written for dramatic presentation in women's group settings and churches, the book stands alone as a delightful read. Gartner's dramatic storytelling successfully whets the one's appetite to know more about these biblical women and their unique struggles, callings and activities. The author also includes suggestions for presenters: know the material well enough to gain empathy with the character, choose a setting that discourages distraction and minimize costumes and props to bring more focus to the woman and her narrative. These monologues bring new life to old stories and will fascinate audiences as diverse as the women portrayed. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter One Sarah, Mother of Nations My name is Sarah. I am almost one hundred twenty-seven years old, and I am beginning to feel my age. I don't spend much time looking ahead, but looking back is no problem at all. Reminiscing comes naturally with old age. Abraham and I have been through a great deal in our many years together, not simply as husband and wife, but also as half-brother and sister. You see, Terah was my father as well as Abraham's. We did have different mothers, however. Don't scoff. It was the custom.     We were city folks. Our native city, Ur, was the capitol of Sumer, in Southern Mesopotamia. Ur was an important metropolis, built alongside the Euphrates River. It was halfway between the head of the Persian Gulf and the city you now call Baghdad. Abraham and I lived there while it was at the height of its glory. Our city was the place to be. Ur was the prosperous center of religion and industry.     One of the most impressive structures in all of Ur was the ziggurat. That massive structure towered seventy feet above the plain! It dwarfed everything else in the city, and boasted a system of terraced platforms, built in successive stages with outside staircases. The inside was composed of plain mud bricks. Ah, but the outside! The entire structure was finished with fired bricks that were beautifully glazed and brilliantly colored!     At the very pinnacle of this breathtaking ziggurat was the temple. It was a shrine of Nannar, the moon god, one of the most revered of all Sumerian gods. The ziggurat symbolized a mountain. The worshipers believed that the temple bridged the gap that separates humanity from the gods. We loved fine things, and we had them. Ours was a family who enjoyed comfort and wealth. Our home was graced with exquisite china and fine crystal works of art. We were an advanced, thoughtful, cultured people. We recorded everything on our cuneiform tablets. It was not uncommon to hear legal decisions being declared from the door of the "Great House of Tablets." Being in such close proximity to the Persian Gulf made Ur a center for commerce and trade. I saw goods coming from everywhere, from as far away as Egypt, Ethiopia, and even India.     Religion was prominent among our people. The important gods of our land were those over heaven, the air, and the earth. Their names were Anu, Enlil, and Enki. Father Terah was devoted to the moon god, Nannar, sometimes called by the name, Sin. Legend says that Father Terah made idols to represent his favorite gods, but I won't dwell on that.     Life was placid in Ur. That is until Haran, Terah's oldest son died. Terah had two remaining sons: Abraham and his older brother, Nahor. "It is time for my sons to have wives," Terah said. He went on to announce that Nahor was to marry Milcah. I became Abraham's bride. My, that was a long time ago. At that time, Abraham was called Abram, and I was Sarai. Nahor and Milcah were quite content to settle in Ur, but Terah was restless. Perhaps his nomadic ancestry was beckoning him to move on. "We will go to the land of Canaan," he declared. "We" meant Abram, our nephew Lot, and me.     I knew our father well. There was to be no question about his authority. "Obedience to one's father," Abram mused, "is nothing to be trifled with. Father Terah says `Go.' We will go." We made preparations to leave our beloved Ur.     The trip wasn't so bad, once I got used to living in a tent rather than in the ten-room house we left behind. We were a large company of people. Besides Terah, Lot, Abram, and me, there were all of our servants, plus all of our livestock and camels.     We headed up the Euphrates River, stopping briefly at Mari, that cosmopolitan city with its ziggurat, temples, and the most enormous palace I had ever seen. The edifice was so large that it easily boasted three hundred rooms. They were filled with beautiful art and wall paintings. And the kitchen was one that any woman of that day would love! But the most important wing of the palace housed the library. It contained more than twenty thousand cuneiform tablets. Everything from business contracts to lists of people, materials, accounts, and correspondence was recorded. There were even tablets with detailed descriptions of our divergent and infinite customs.     We were the typical tourists. I particularly enjoyed all the sights and sounds of this great city. The highlight was our attendance at a banquet honoring a city official.     "Isn't the music wonderful?" I asked Abram. Not waiting for a reply, I added, "Oh, look, Abram, see the honored guest and his entourage! How elegantly they are dressed!"     Abram condescended to my girlish excitement. "And see," he said, "the tables too are elegantly `dressed' with all the flavors of Mari." We laughed discreetly. The party had begun in our hearts already.     I loved Mari and would have liked to stay longer. It reminded me of our home in Ur. The urban life was still in me, but the pressures of our growing "family" got us on the road again. The final leg of our trip to Haran was rather uneventful, or perhaps the many years since then have dimmed my memory of our travels to that bustling city on the Belikh River. In any event, when we arrived at Haran we pitched our tents outside the city. We needed the good pasture land for our many animals.     "How long will we stay at Haran?" I asked Abram.     "Perhaps longer than we did in Mari," he said.     "Why is that?"     "Because Father Terah has heard that a temple to the moon god is being built here. His passion for Nannar has not diminished."     There was little doubt that moon worship and Terah went together. I could see Abram's discomfort grow with every passing year as we noticed Father's devotion to Nannar become more firmly entrenched.     There was another reality that had become a deep and growing source of concern--my barrenness. How I longed to have a child! How I desired to bear a son for my Abram. It is a disgrace for a woman not to bear a child, particularly a son. Even though our servants were enlarging our family, I could not conceive.     We settled in Haran, wondering if we would ever cross the Jordan into Canaan. Still it was a cosmopolitan city, the junction of the caravan trade between Nineveh and Carchemish.     We were still in Haran twenty-five years after our arrival when Terah celebrated his two-hundred-and-fifth birthday. It was his last. Terah died. We buried the father of our clan beneath the aspen tree some distance from the town itself. How Terah had loved the quivering leaves on that stately tree. It was a fitting resting place for him. "And now, Abram, you are the head of our family," Lot reminded him.     Abram became hushed and introspective, bearing the full weight of that awesome responsibility. He spent long periods of time in quiet reflection. One day, after his meditation, he approached me. "Sarai," he said, barely above a whisper, his face aglow with some new insight gained from his contemplation. "The Lord has spoken to me," he said.     "Nannar?" I asked.     "No," he said. "Not Nannar. The Lord ."     His face glowed as he related the words spoken by a God who was unknown to me: "`Get out of your country,' the Lord told me," Abram began. "`Leave Haran. Go from your kindred, and from your father's house. Go to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you; I will make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse anyone who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.'"     I could feel the sense of urgency in the Lord's commission to my husband: "Go!" the Lord had said. Go? Go where? I like it here! Rebellion rose up in my spirit.     "Did you hear the Lord's promises?" Abram asked. He didn't wait for my response. In his excitement, he recited them for me again. "The Lord said he would make me a great nation and bless me. He will make my name great and make me a blessing. And think of the protection he affords, even to those who bless me! He said he will bless them but will curse those who would curse me. And, how amazing, the Lord promises to bless all the families of the earth--through me . And all of this in return for our departure from Haran to go to the land of Canaan."     "Abram," I finally said. "You are seventy-five years old! And me, I'm sixty-five! Are you sure the Lord told you to leave? Haran has been our home for twenty-five years."     "The Lord said, `Go,'" Abram said with finality. "And we will go."     There was no arguing with my husband in this matter. He was determined to go to Canaan as the Lord had commanded. So, we prepared for the long trip. It took all of Abram's organizational skills to arrange for our departure. Our nephew, Lot, and indeed all of our people, had to be provided for, as well as all of our livestock. And the supplies needed for the long journey ahead of us had to be obtained.     It required a great deal of preparation and execution, but at last we were ready--and off we went again--this time southward toward Canaan, four hundred miles away. We traveled slowly, pitching our tents here and there, staying as long as grazing fields held out for our flocks. Sometimes we'd even plant fields of barley or wheat for a season or two, but always with the firm intention of moving on again, drawing nearer and nearer to the Promised Land.     We made our way to the heights east of the Jordan River. We saw a number of narrow passes leading up into the mountains across the valley. The most inviting was the Wadi Farah. Its greatest draw was its natural water supply. We descended to the ford of the Jabbok before crossing the Jordan. It was there that we entered Canaan. By this time we were seasoned travelers. In the cool of the evening, Abram and I often sat outside our tent at an oasis in the deep valley. We loved looking at the brilliant stars beaming in the black of the heavens.     "Oh, Abram," I would sigh wistfully. "Would that your Lord would grant us a son. He said he will bless you. What greater blessing is there than that a man should have a son?" I felt the tears warm my cheeks as they coursed their way in tiny rivulets.     "Don't despair, Sarai!" Abram would scold. " You are my blessing!" And he would squeeze my hand to comfort me.     The next leg of our journey was a difficult twenty-three miles. We made our way upward for an arduous three hundred feet, stopping at the oak of Moreh at Shechem.     That venerable old tree belonged to a man named Moreh, who we heard was a priest of a local Canaanite cult. But the real significance of that tree was that it was there that the Lord revealed himself to Abram.     "Sarai!" Abram called in excitement. "The Lord has appeared to me. He told me that he would give this land to our descendants . Think of it, Sarai, to our descendants!"     I watched in amazement as Abram built an altar to the Lord, not only to worship him but to leave a memorial of the Lord's appearance to him there by the oak of Moreh.     "It shall be here for all the Canaanites to see and ponder," he said.     Shortly after that we continued our journey, heading south along the watershed. As we traveled, we could see that it formed a natural north-south route through the land.     "See the rolling hills!" Abram said at the sight. "Bethel is there, to our west, and Ai is on the east. Come let us pitch our tents."     And there, on the quiet hillside, dear Abram built another altar to the Lord. "Oh, Lord," he prayed, "this is such an arduous journey. I am still not sure I was cut out for the life of a tent dweller. Sometimes I really miss the city. Sarai does too. But you have promised blessing to me, and I believe your promises. I call upon your name, Lord. Be my guide through this Promised Land, that I may become the blessing you have promised."     The area between Bethel and Ai was very remote. There were no nearby towns or cities. Our life as tent dwellers and altar builders was a distinct separation from the Canaanites who lived in the cities and worshiped their own gods. "False gods!" Abram called them.     The Lord provided food for the animals in the brush-covered and forested hills where we made camp. But before long, water became scarce. The food supply was drying up. We were suddenly faced with a critical crisis: famine, severe famine.     I cried softly as I gathered my personal things together. I had grown to love this land and really did not want to move on. "Abram, isn't this the Promised Land?" I asked.     "Yes, Sarai," he replied. "But this is only a part of it. And now, we have no choice; we must move on. I think that if we move further south, we may find good pastures again."     So, south we went, along "the way of Shur," a direct and open route through the Negeb--a well-traveled route, even then. As we neared the land of the pharaohs, we saw as many Egyptians as Canaanites. I overheard Lot tell Abram, "I notice that these women do not have the striking beauty that the women of Ur possess."     "You're right, Nephew!" Abram replied. "And it makes the beauty of your Aunt Sarai all the more noticeable!"     I felt my heart quicken within me as I heard these words, for what woman does not love the compliment of her husband?     We had almost reached the land of Egypt. I noticed how distracted and apprehensive Abram was becoming. He was not himself.     Why, he has not spoken of the Lord for some time, I reflected. As I pondered these things I became apprehensive myself.     "Sarai," he said softly, "I have a great favor to ask of you."     "What is it, Abram?" My apprehension reached new dimensions.     He cleared his throat as a preamble. "Sarai, you are a beautiful woman."     "Why, thank you, Abram." I said as I lowered my head in a sign of humility. My apprehension turned to dread.     "But, Sarai," Abram continued. His voice sounded strained. "The Egyptians will see that you are uncommonly beautiful, too! And I'm a dead man if they realize that I am your husband. It is not unusual for a pharaoh to kill the husbands of the women he desires." He cleared his throat again. "Oh, Sarai, please, do me the service of telling them that I am your brother. That is true, is it not? After all, Terah was both your father and mine. And if you call me Brother rather than Husband, they will treat me kindly and well, rather than capture and slay me."     I was incredulous. After all these years of marriage! I could be thrust into Pharaoh's harem, and Abram could--well, I didn't know where Abram would be thrust. How could I refuse? If I denied Abram's request, I would surely become a widow and become part of Pharaoh's harem anyway.     "Oh, Abram," I cried. "Why, oh, why did we ever come down to Egypt?"     He could not answer. I had never seen him so distraught. He was clearly shaken by the events and deeply concerned about what would surely happen next if I refused to do as he asked.     Before I could respond, we were escorted into Pharaoh's court.     Bowing low, Abram spoke in a voice I hardly recognized. "Greetings, Pharaoh. We are from the land of Sumer, beyond the Jordan River. We have traveled all through Canaan and have come to your illustrious land because of the great famine that has spread throughout the land of Canaan." He bowed low again. "I am Abram."     As Abram straightened his frame, I lowered my eyes in an attitude of obeisance before the throne. "Greetings, Pharaoh," I said. "All that my brother, Abram, has said is true. We have traveled long and far since we buried our father, Terah, in Haran across the Jordan River."     My heart sank because I could see undeniably that the eyes of Pharaoh lusted after me. I trembled in my distress. I had responded to Abram's request.     And then, before I could gather my wits, I was ushered into Pharaoh's harem by two of his aids. The quarters were beautiful, but my heart was heavy with doubts and questions. Would I ever see Abram again? Would his Lord intervene for us?     Days passed, and I lived ill luxury reminiscent of Ur. I was adorned in beautiful clothing and exquisite jewelry. An Egyptian girl, Hagar, was presented to me as my personal maid.     Rumors began to abound in the harem that some sort of a plague was sweeping the nation.     "There is widespread panic among the people of the land." one of the maids told me.     However, I had never felt better physically in my entire life than I did then.     Finally, I was ushered into the throne room. There was Abram! I wanted to shout out his name but did not dare. It was clear that the meeting had already begun.     Pharaoh's face was purple with rage. "What have you done?" he demanded of Abram. He jumped to his feet, as though ready to attack my hapless brother/husband. "Why didn't you tell me that Sarai is your wife? Why were you willing to let me marry her, saying she was your sister?"     Abram, who was usually so articulate, could say nothing.     "You have brought evil upon us, Abram! Our whole nation is suffering a plague, a mysterious pestilence. And all the while your people flourish!" Pharaoh shouted. Then, arm extended, finger pointed menacingly, he roared, "Take her--and all the gifts I gave for her. Go! Be gone!"     Pharaoh was a man of action. Without further comment he had his royal guards escort us to the Canaan border. He really meant for us to be gone! All of Egypt was glad to be rid of us. A wall of silence existed between Abram and me for quite a while after that. I was hurt and confused. Abram was--well, I don't know what Abram was at that point. I kept my thoughts to myself, and so did he. While we were in Egypt, there was no tent, and there was no altar. I mused. With no tent and no altar to set him apart with the Lord, Abram allowed the life and culture to dominate him. He was separated from God, not for him. And there was no communion between them.     I finally broke the silence. Someone had to. "We were not abandoned," I told Abram.     "I know," he said. "The Lord provided the plague, so that we could escape and, in spite of everything, we can still become his special people."     I, for one, was really pleased and relieved to be back in the hills of Bethel and Ai. Tent life did not seem so bad to me anymore. We were family again. But still, I had the ache of being childless. "Oh, to have a son!" I cried. Even in my barrenness, our family had grown. Lot was wealthy in sheep and oxen and cattle, too. His herdsmen seemed always to be at odds with Abram's men. It was getting tiresome to hear their constant wrangling and quarreling.     "Sarai," Abram said after a particularly difficult morning, "something has to be done. I am going to have a talk with Lot. We've got to come to some resolution to this problem or it will damage the relationship between Lot and us."     "Yes, I know, Abram," I agreed. "But what can be done?"     "We're going to have to separate from each other. We are just getting too big to remain together. We'll have to settle in different areas."     Just then we saw Lot approaching.     "Well," Abram said with a sigh, "now is the time. It cannot wait any longer." He got up from his cushion and motioned to Lot to join us. Lot bowed low before his revered uncle.     "Lot," Abram began, putting an arm around his nephew's shoulder, "this fighting between our men has to stop. Here we are, facing danger from the tribes of Canaanites and Perizzites, and still our men cannot get along as kindred should."     Nodding his head, Lot said, "I couldn't agree more. But what can we do? We have tried everything."     "Well," Abram said, "we cannot afford to let a rift develop between our clans. Close relatives such as we are must be united and harmonious."     "I'll have another talk with them," Lot offered.     "We've tried that, Lot. It did not work, but I have a plan. I think it is the solution. You take your choice of any section of the land you want, and we will separate." Abram pointed out to the east. "If you want that part, then I'll stay here in the western section. Or, if you want the west, then I'll go over there to the east."     I have often wondered at Abram's generous offer. I saw Lot gaze covetously at the fertile plains of the Jordan River, lush and well-watered everywhere. The whole section was like the Garden of Eden or like the beautiful countryside around Zoar in Egypt. The western section, on the other hand, was far less fertile and it was mountainous besides. Clearly, the eastern section held the most promise, except for its close proximity to the Canaanites.     Lot's choice was not a surprise. Preparations were made immediately. This was one time his herdsmen did not grumble. Why? Because our nephew had chosen the lush Jordan valley to the east. That is where he went, taking his large family, flocks, and servants with him.     "I will go as far as Sodom," he told us as he departed. After Lot was gone, the Lord spoke to Abram again.     "I think the Lord approves of our separation from Lot," he told me. "It seems that every time there is a separation, he talks with me."     "What did the Lord tell you?" I asked.     "He renewed his promise. The Lord said, `Look as far as you can see in every direction, for I am going to give it all to you and to your descendants. And I am going to give you so many descendants that, like dust, they cannot be counted!' The Lord told me to walk carefully in all directions to explore the new possessions he is giving us."     Shortly after that, we were on the move again. This time we moved our tents to the Oaks of Mamre, near Hebron. I was overjoyed to see Abram build an altar to the Lord.     I joined him beside the memorial and said, "How thrilled I am to see you once again building an altar! I feel a rush of hope, such as I have not felt for a long, long time."     Still that old apprehension was there. What about Abram's descendants? my heart cried. With each passing day, it seemed less likely that I would be the mother of those descendants.     While we were still at Mamre we got news that war had broken out. "Lot and all of our relatives and their belongings have been carried off!" Abram announced. "I must go to his aid!" Abram got an army together, and the three hundred nineteen men left, bound for Laish, where they planned to attack the attackers in the hope of rescuing Lot and all who had been taken with him.     I spent several anxious days and weeks, thinking of little else but Abram and his men. Those of us who had stayed behind tended our flocks and kept our routine. But nothing is normal when your husband is not there with you. Then, late one afternoon, I noticed someone approaching from the north. I watched anxiously as the curls of dust rose in circling patches. I stood transfixed until Abram and his fighting men finally rode into our camp. Abram was exhausted, but exhilarated by the events.     "You know, Sarai," he told me later, "the Lord is so good to me. But he is also so mysterious."     "How is that, Abram?" I asked.     "Well," he began, "on the way back from Laish, when we neared the Brook Kidron at the Valley of Shaveh, I met an extraordinary man."     "Who was he?"     "His name is Melchizedek. He is a king, but he told me that he had agreed to be a priest of the Lord, of El Elyon, God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth. This Melchizedek gave me bread and wine. It was a special experience."     "What made it so special?" I asked.     Abram paused, smiling. "He blessed me with an extraordinary blessing: `The blessing of the supreme God, Creator of heaven and earth, be upon you, Abram; and blessed be God, who has delivered your enemies to you.' Sarai, Melchizedek was a special messenger from God! God sent him to bless me. I gave him one-tenth of the spoils of victory. The Lord compelled me to do so.     "And then," he continued, "the Lord himself spoke to me in a vision." Abram looked skyward as he repeated the Lord's words: "`Don't be fearful, Abram, for I will always defend you. And I will give you great blessings.'     "And Sarai, I said to the Lord, `O Lord, Yahweh, what good are all your blessings when I have no son? For without a son, who will inherit all my wealth? A servant?' Then Yahweh told me, `No! No one else will be your heir, for you will have a son to inherit everything you own.'     "Oh, Sarai, what a glorious experience. God took me outside beneath the nighttime sky and said, `Abram, look up into the heavens and count the stars if you can. Your descendants will be like that--too many to count!'     "And my dear, I believe God! And there was so much more that God told me in that vision. I shudder when I think of how he told me about our descendants and how they would be oppressed. They will be slaves in a foreign land for four hundred years. But, Sarai, God made a covenant with me. That covenant gives all this land to our descendants, the land all the way from Egypt to the great Euphrates River." He made a sweeping motion indicating the vast space of land God promised our descendants.     "Oh, Abram," I cried, "I know that the Lord is with you, but I am so sad. Why has he closed my womb?" Suddenly I was struck with the thought of a solution. I rose to my feet. "My handmaid, Hagar! Why have I not thought of this before? Since the Lord has given me no children, take my handmaid, Hagar--and her children shall be my children!"     I did not wait for Abram's response but set off immediately in search of the girl. Abram did as I suggested, and the inevitable happened--Hagar became pregnant. She had been such a sweet girl, even for an Egyptian, but how she changed when she knew she would give Abram a child! She was unbearable, and she made my life unbearable. When I could stand it no longer, I went to Abram.     "This is all your fault, Abram," I accused. "Now this slave of mine is pregnant, and she despises me, even though I myself gave her the privilege of sleeping with you. Let the Lord judge between you and me!"     He threw up his hands in frustration and said, "Do whatever you want with Hagar. She is your servant. Punish her for her arrogance toward you!"     So I did as Abram suggested. I punished my handmaiden. But when I beat her for her haughty presumption toward me, she ran away. Once she was gone, I had some misgivings about my harsh treatment toward her. But I reminded myself of her rude behavior, and that soothed my aching conscience. It wasn't long, however, before Hagar returned to the camp.     "Well," I greeted her sarcastically, "I see you have returned. You know where you belong, don't you!"     "Yes," she replied, head lowered. "I have returned. But I came back because an angel found me beside the desert spring along the road to Shur. He told me to come back and to submit to your authority." She raised her head then and looked into my eyes with a defiance that startled me. "The angel told me that the Lord had heard my misery, but he said that I would have more descendants than I could count." She gloated further by telling me that the child she was carrying was a son. "A wild one--free and untamed," she said. "Like a donkey. He will be named Ishmael because God hears."     I was seventy-six years old then, and Abram was eighty-six. We were all miserable. I relearned an old lesson: nothing is harder to bear than broken relationships. Thirteen years went by, in the blink of an eye it seems. Year after year flew by with nothing but silence from the Lord. I had all but forgotten the promises he had made to Abram. Sometimes it seemed as though they were only dreams. Did the Lord really make a covenant with Abram? I pondered in those quiet twilight hours. One evening, as was his habit, Abram strolled beyond our camp into the darkening desert. He seemed to be gone longer than usual. I had begun to feel the chill of apprehension when at last I saw him returning, almost at a trot. How foolish, I couldn't help thinking. Does Abram forget his ninety-nine years?     "God appeared to me again!" he said breathlessly as he neared. "`I am God Almighty,' the Lord said. `Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to make you into a mighty nation.' I fell on my face in the dust," Abram said. "But the Lord continued talking. He said that I will be the father of not only one nation, but a multitude of nations. And he changed my name. It is no longer Abram,n but Abraham, for the Lord promised I will be the father of nations. And you, my dear, are no longer Sarai, but Sarah, for you are the princess. The Lord will bless you Sarah. He said so. And he will give me a son--from you. Sarah, the Lord will richly bless you and make you the mother of nations. Many kings shall be among your posterity! "Oh, Sarah," Abram exclaimed, "I threw myself down in worship before the Lord, but I have to tell you that inside I was laughing in disbelief. Me? A father? Ha, ha, ha. Me? One hundred years old? And you, Sarah, for you to have a baby at ninety? So, I said to God, 'Yes, Lord, do bless Ishmael.' But God said, 'No, that's not what I said. Sarah shall bear you a son, and you are to name him Isaac11 and I will sign my covenant with him forever and with his descendants. My contract is with Isaac, who will be born to you and Sarah next year at about this time." Don't ever think that God does not keep his promises. He is so faithful. I find it difficult to understand because of my unfaithfulness. I remember the day that Abraham had the conversation with the Lord regarding Sodom and Gomorrah.      "God called me his friend!" Abraham beamed. "Can you imagine bargaining with God? But I did. Oh, I was most polite, and humble too. And never, not for an instant, did I consider myself on the same level with the Lord, but I did speak frankly with God. My relation- ship with Yahweh is very precious, not only to me, Sarah, but it seems to the Lord as well."      Abraham told me the reason for their conversation: Sodom and Gomorrah.      "I wish Lot had never moved into Sodom, that depraved city of shame and violence!" I cried.    "Well," Abraham reported, "he is not there any longer."    "Why? What happened?"      "Two angels rescued him, his wife, and his daughters before God rained down fire and burning sulfur on Sodom, and on Gomorrah as well," Abraham said, shaking his head in disbelief. "It is such a shame about Lot's wife, though," he added sadly. "Why? What happened to her?" I asked.      "The angels warned them not to look back as they were fleeing, but she did not listen to them. Sarah, she has turned into a pillar of salt!"    "Oh, no!" I said.      "When God tells you to leave evil, you should never look back," Abraham observed. I'm getting tired now . There were many other things that happened to Abraham and to me. How could it be any other way in one hun- dred twenty-seven years? I try to forget some of the unpleasant things in our life together. Like when, for the second time, Abraham denied that we were husband and wife. This time, it was when we had settled between Kadesh and Shur at a place called Gerar. The king of that region, Abimelech, sent for me late one evening. I was brought to his palace to be his bride. Imagine that! Almost ninety years old, and still so desirable! But again, the Lord intervened and the truth was dis- closed. I was able to leave the confines of Abimelech's harem.      God's faithfulness knows no bounds, no limits. When Abraham and I were reunited, wonder of wonders, I became pregnant. It is still hard to believe, even when I look at my wonderful son, Isaac. Such a miracle!      But, wouldn't you know! Hagar was still a thorn in my side. I recall the day we celebrated Isaac's weaning. There was Hagar, along with her son, Ishmael, scoffing and ridiculing my dear little Isaac. She had not changed since she first became pregnant.      I remember every word I said to Abraham. I did not try to hide my feelings. "Get rid of that servant and her son!" I shouted. I could not even say their names in my anger. I told Abraham that Ishmael was not going to share the family inheritance with my son, Isaac. "I will not have it!" I cried in frustration. We sent them packing. And I remember a fine spring day , some years ago, when Isaac was a young lad--so full of life. Oh, how I love that boy. How Abra- ham loves that boy! God used that love to test Abraham. I thank our Lord that I did not know about the test until afterwards.     Abraham and Isaac went to the land of Moriah to sacrifice to the Lord. When they left, I did not know that Isaac was to be the sacrifice!     With tear-dimmed eyes, Abraham related the events later. He told me that as he and our son walked up the mountain, Isaac became puzzled. Something was missing. He said: "Father, here is the wood, and here is the fire, but where is the lamb?"     How prophetic Abraham was when he replied, "The Lord will provide."     And our faithful Lord did provide! Just as Abraham was about to plunge the knife into our son's heart, a ram appeared. It was stuck in the thicket by its horns. It would be the sacrifice! Faithful Abraham was tested by the Lord, and he passed with true nobility!     "I came down the mountain with our son," he said. "I came down with the words of the Lord Who Provides ringing in my ears. They will forever warm my heart: `By myself I have sworn,' says the Lord, `Because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, in blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.'"     Isaac was just a lad then. He is almost thirty-seven years old now. He has grown into a fine man. I know that he will marry and have children for I remember and trust God's covenant with Abraham: "I will give you millions of descendants.... I will continue this everlasting covenant.... It will continue between me and your offspring--forever." I have learned that with God all things are possible. After all, he took a sinner named Abram and made him Abraham, the Father of Nations. Abraham learned that although it is not always easy, it is always right--obey the voice of the Lord and you will be blessed beyond your wildest dreams.     And he took a sinner named Sarai and made her Sarah, the Mother of Nations. I learned you can trust God because he is faithful and true. Thank you, Lord, for the lessons you teach. Forgive me for being such a slow learner. Copyright © 2000 Judson Press. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Hints for Presentersp. xi
Chapter 1 Sarah, Mother of Nationsp. 1
Chapter 2 Rebekah, Isaac's Love and Comfortp. 18
Chapter 3 Rachel and Leah, Sisters and Wivesp. 37
Chapter 4 Bathsheba Speaks--Recollections of Sin Forgivenp. 56
Chapter 5 Naomi--The Road to Redemptionp. 68
Chapter 6 Come! Meet Mary, Mother of Our Lordp. 82
Chapter 7 The Woman at the Well--Encounter at Samariap. 102
Chapter 8 Martha--Touched by the Saviorp. 112
Chapter 9 Priscilla--Teacher, Preacher, and Tentmakerp. 129

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