The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” ~Genesis 16:7-13 (NIV)
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. The place where some of my best thinking occurs if I turn the radio down and begin to submit my mind to God. Still dark outside while I remained 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. Something 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 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 lived as we live, feel as we feel, and they suffered no differently than you or I. Yes, Hagar lived in a different culture where men bartered and sold women like a sack of goods. Sarai may have been favored and cherished by her husband, Abram. Yet Hagar lived the life of “the other woman” cast aside and used.
I can nearly feel the deep and festering wound within her heart. A woman unable to understand why this thing had to happen to her. Sarai only cared for her because she swelled with the life of a baby Sarai herself could not conceive in her own mind, much less an shriveled, aged womb. When the baby arrived they would let Hagar nurse and wean the boy, but she would never really be thought of as 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, husband-less mother. I felt 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. My precious baby boy.
He brought 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 should have loved and taken care of me.
Had Sarai really treated Hagar fairly or was Sarai even more threatened by the woman now carrying her husband’s child?
Sarai realized too late how easily her own lack of faith and scheming turned her heart against not only Hagar, but her child as well. And Hagar, could she be cast as 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 name was a mnemonic device for remembering the events and their significance. In this passage two popular 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 the 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 me 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 bareness. 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 shall 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 oratory (advisory) and the other promissory. 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 service… revelation came.
God allows us to remain in those situations that distress us and bring us difficulty–even pain. WHY? 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 left 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 also
stand amazed at the revelations that I receive because they powerfully alter my thinking. I told her that I had realized that often I had reached the point of breakthrough but saw it as a victory. I would give up or worse turn back and retreat never retaking the ground that was lost in the stronghold.
I believe Hagar wandered as far as she needed to go in the desert that day carrying her master’s child in her womb with her. She took one painful step in this new direction because she had to know one thing. God indeed had not left or forsaken her. He followed her, pursued her to the desert. He stayed within an ear shot of her. As Hagar’s weary body gave way to the heat and fatigue, God met her there in the desert of her affliction. Not only did He meet her, but He assured her He would not allow her suffering to be wasted. He made a promise to Hagar. And for the first time in what had likely been a long time, Hagar knew she had been seen.