Imagine your husband coming home from his job one day to announce that you and your household would be moving to a land far away. In answer to your questions, you find out that only heathen people live there, it is out in the middle of nowhere and you will be permanently living in tents. No friends, no shops, nothing but a lot of wilderness. This was the situation for Sarai (v. 1).
And there didn’t seem to be a lot of discussion. After a “Your-God-said what?” Sarai would simply be expected to say, “Yes, dear,” and begin to pack their many possessions. There may have been a moving sale or two.
In answer to her servants’ questions, she would have replied almost nothing, for she didn’t have many answers. All she knew was that her husband had spoken, and that his God had directed them to this far-away land. It didn’t make sense, but they were going. It’s likely that valued possessions were either sold or given away. All of the things she kept would have to be packed on camels. We can only imagine how difficult it must have been for Sarai, and yet she responded in faith, stepping out in obedience to her husband’s direction. How would you have felt if your husband asked you to do such a thing? It certainly wasn’t easy, especially considering the mode of transportation that was available – camels. How would you like to travel on a camel for hundreds of miles? There would be nothing easy about it.
Let’s look at Hebrews 11:8-10. What does this passage say about their move? What does this mean: “By faith, Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country?” How would they even know when they got there? What did it mean that he lived like a stranger (alien) in a foreign country?
Here’s something else to think about. Abraham decided to take their father, Terah, and their nephew, Lot, with them which proved to slow them down. God had said in Genesis 12:1, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household.” God had specifically said to leave their people and their father’s household. Why do you suppose they took Lot and Terah with them? Why did they disobey God’s clear direction?
Perhaps feeling responsible for Terah’s and Lot’s well-being, they decided to take them anyway, contrary to God’s spoken instructions. It is so easy to rationalize around God’s revealed will. We think we know better, so we obey part way, thinking that’s enough, God will understand. Let’s think about another Bible character who partially obeyed and convinced himself that it was okay to do so. Remember King Saul when he was directed by Samuel to kill all the Amalekites (I Samuel 15)? How did Saul partially obey God in this passage? What were the results of Saul’s partial obedience which is really disobedience? What did Saul mean when he said, “…they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.” Was this a lie? Did Saul really destroy all the rest?
We need to fully obey. Abram should not have taken his relatives with them. Terah slowed them down and Lot proved to be a real challenge when he chose the land of Sodom (Genesis 13:5-13) and eventually moved into that wicked city (Genesis 19:1-3).
After traveling about 400 miles, they stopped in Haran (Genesis 11:31), likely because Terah couldn’t travel any further. After Terah’s death, God renewed His call upon their lives.They were to go on to the land promised to them (located in Canaan), not remain in Haran. And so they continued their trip another 1100 miles, travelling a total of 1500 miles. That’s quite a trip!
There isn’t any record that Sarai knew God personally. She probably knew about Him, but she probably didn’t know Him. She had been brought up in the pagan city of Ur where the true God was not recognized or worshiped. In fact, the people of Ur worshiped the moon goddess, Nana. Terah, the father of both Abram and Sarai (they had different mothers, making this arrangement socially acceptable: Genesis 20:12) “worshiped other gods” (Joshua 24:2). Somehow, God had revealed Himself to Abram, but up to this point the text is silent about how He revealed Himself to Sarai. After all, women of that day didn’t have nearly the same status or importance they enjoy today. They were considered property. They were simply expected to obey their husbands, no matter how strange the instructions seemed.
Perhaps you have had this experience. No, you didn’t have to travel on a camel, but maybe you were asked to leave everyone you knew to go to a strange and new city, perhaps even a new country. I remember moving to a new church in a new city where my husband had been called to pastor. I had just given birth to our first child, and a week later we had to move across the state: new city, new church, new friends and away from supportive family. We were on our own! With a new baby! But God met me there in that brand new place. I had to learn to depend on Him! Just like Sarah! Twelve years later, God called us to move across the country, some 2000 miles from family and friends! And then 13 years later, God called us into missions to worldwide ministry when we would visit approximately 30 countries extending member care to our missionaries. Somewhat like Sarai and Abram, God was calling us to lands where we were “strangers in foreign countries.” But He was always with us, just like He was with Sarai and Abram!
Take Home Truth: God was pleased with Sarah’s obedience because she left all she knew to travel to a foreign land.