As I read the passage from Genesis 16 I was given pause this morning as I sat quietly mulling my thoughts over with God. I was in the car, where some of my best thinking can occur if I turn the radio down and begin to submit my mind to God. It was still dark, and though I was a little groggy I just kept seeing Hagar in the tent of Abram – given to an old man to do nothing more than bear him a child his favored wife could not seem to do. I hear her heart as she weighs the matter, “They are just using me. I am nothing more than an incubator.” Hagar did not have a choice, Sarai owned Hagar. Sarai gave her to Abram. How little do we consider the human aspect of what we read in our Bibles? Hagar was a woman, a slave, a woman far from her home with no family and no one to cry out to for her gods were in Egypt. She had obviously been with Sarai long enough to have an idea of who God might be, but He was not her God.
Who would come to Hagar’s rescue? Like the teenage girl who was popular before she slept with her friend’s boyfriend on a night of foolish adolescence and later would learn she is pregnant. Maybe she was a good girl, maybe not… what does it matter? When you become the town scandal who comes to your rescue? Deep within each woman’s heart is a need to be honored and loved for who she is – the women of the Bible were not made differently, just living in a different culture where women were bartered and sold, not cherished. Hagar must have been wounded, angry and unable to understand why this thing had to happen to her. Sarai only cared for her because she was carrying the baby Sarai herself could not give her husband. And when the baby was born they would let Hagar nurse and wean the boy, but she would never be his mother. Sarai would be his mother. Nothing could be more painful than to be forced to give birth to a child you knew you would never keep. What is a girl to do?
I remember how appealing the desert looked when I was a young, husbandless mother. All I felt was the judgments and the censorship of my family and with the exception of a few friends, nothing in my life seemed like it would ever again be hopeful, except that baby, that precious baby boy. He was new life to me – a love I had never known – not ever and so I ran to the desert with my baby. I struck out on my own certain that whatever means I had would be better than living under the deep scrutiny and defeating comments of those who were supposed to love and take care of me. Had Sarai really treated Hagar fairly or was Sarai even more threatened by the woman now carrying her husband’s child? Was she the victim of her own lack of faith and scheming? Was Hagar the taudry vixen or just a young godless woman trying to make sense of what had happened to her?
The following is commentary from “The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament” (Walvoord and Zuck, Victor Books, 1984).
“Often in Genesis popular etymologies capture the message. [In other words, the history of the names tells the story.] These are rhetorical devices that draw from the account the explanation of names. Thus the nam was a mnemonic device for remebering the events and their significance. In this passage two poplular etymologies form not only the climax of the section but the point of the whole unit. God Himself named Ishmael, which He then explained: for the Lord has heard of your misery (16:11). Clearly He meant this primarily for Hagar, but it was also meant for Abram and Sarai.
“The other naming was Hagar’s referring to God as “the One who sees” after her, that is, looks out for her. So in these two names is a world of theology: God hears and God sees. This spot would afterward become holy, a place where God could be found providing for and hearing te cries of His people.
“The names provide the message: God spoke in direct revelation, and Hagar responded in faith. God sees distress and affliction, and He hears. Sarai should have known this. Since God knew Sarai was barren, she should have cried out to the Lord. Instead she had to learn a lesson the hard way – from the experience of a despised slave-wife who, ironically, came back with a faith experience. How Abram must have been rebuked when Hagar said god told her to name her son Ishmael, ‘God hears.'”
Consider this insight with for a moment. Abram and Sarai were benefactors of God’s promises and blessings, but lacked the faith to follow Him fully into His will. Sarai, like most women, lacked patience and desired to “help God out” by supplying a fertile younger maid servant to her husband as a surrogate for own barreness. How often do we lack the security and faith in our God to see our situation through to the end? For me it is not at all as often as it once was, but still doubt and fear creep in and niggle around the edges of my faith. The enemy whispers, what are you waiting for – that will never happen, it will never work out if you don’t DO something.
A few months ago I had the opportunity to learn this very thing. Our car broke down and went into the shop. With no money in the bank to pay for repairs and no other source of transportation, I was very given to stressing out and going over the edge. Borrowing money as we had in the past to solve our problem. However, God had other plans. That week I read and came back to this Scripture over and over again… “The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14. In the amplified it reads this way, “The Lord will fight for you, and you hsall hold you peace and remain at rest.”
Hagar learned in the desert that God was not only real, but He was very personally involved in everything that was happening to her. He knew Sarai’s response, He knew she would carry a child – Ishmael, and He knew that she would run in her agony – seeking her home, but God had other plans. He gave her two messages that day, one horatory (advisory) and the other promisory. He exhorted her to return to her mistress – our God who sent His son to set us free sent Hagar back into bondage and slavery to be mistreated and to have her son raised by a woman who despised her. Does God prefer that we remain in bondage or does He want us free?
In my journey this past month I have learned so much, but on Sunday as I considered the message from worship servcie… revelation came.
God wants us to remain in those situations that distress us and bring us difficulty and even pain so that we not only discover truth about ourselves, working out sin and areas where our faith is weak, but He wants us to know He is real, He keeps His Word, and that in Him we are strong enough to not only win the battle but take back the places/areas we have lot to the enemy.
In a conversation on Sunday I admitted I had so much trouble with some areas of stronghold in my life, but I was so amazed at the revelations that I was receiving because they were phenomenally huge. I told her that I had realized that often I had reached the point of breakthrough but saw it as a victory and so I would give up or worse turn back and retreat never retaking the ground that was lost in the stronghold.
I will post more as I ponder it… blessings.