“The angel of the Lord found Hagar…” Genesis 16:7
I’m spending some time in the Word this morning studying Genesis 16 and 21, specifically looking at one woman’s encounter with God. Hagar was an Egyptian slave, serving as handmaiden to Sarai, the wife of Abram. You may know them better by the names God would give them later: Sarah and Abraham. A woman in Hagar’s position was bound by any request of her mistress, and Sarai needed Hagar to perform a service that was quite common in the Ancient Near East – to serve as a surrogate mother and bear a child for the barren Sarai. Without being terribly indelicate, that meant Hagar would sleep with Abram. When she learned that she was pregnant with Abram’s child – something that Sarai couldn’t accomplish – Hagar “began to despise her mistress.” (Gen. 16:4b). In my Alabama home, we would say Hagar got uppity with Sarai. This caused much strife between Sarai and Hagar, as you can imagine. Sarai returned Hagar’s attitude and began to mistreat the Egyptian, to the point that Hagar ran away from her mistress, into the unforgiving wilderness
Lesson #1 – When God blesses you, don’t get prideful and uppity. When the Lord initially called Abram, He made this promise: “I will bless you…and you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Pride is a dangerous thing before God, especially when we become prideful over the blessings God has poured out on us. He blesses that we might in turn bless others
In the wilderness, Hagar stopped to rest. Scripture tells us “The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert” (Gen. 16:7).
Lesson #2 – God will seek out His wayward children. The Hebrew word for “found” means “to cause to encounter,” God purposefully put Himself in Hagar’s path to cause her to have an encounter with Him. Go with me to Jesus’ parables in Luke 15. First the parable of the lost sheep – the shepherd goes out on a mission to locate and rescue His lost lamb (Lk 15:4-7). The woman searches her house over to find her lost coin (Lk. 15:5-10) and the father searches the horizon continually, looking for his wayward son. God doesn’t go on a seek-and-find mission, He set Himself right where He knew she was going, because she was His wounded child and His heart was tender to her. (Note that her wounds all started out of her own pride and arrogance. Even when we are the root of our problems, God still desires to restore us to Himself.
Hagar encountered God – and gained precious insight into who He is. Through the angel’s assurances, she learned that the God of her master was very much aware of her and her plight. She named the Lord El Roi – “the God who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). This was an awesome insight for the Egyptian, because the pagan gods gave no notice to humans, unless they displeased them in some way. But here God revealed Himself as a God who watched over His people and tenderly cares for them.
Lesson #3 – God often reveals Himself to us in our times of struggle and pain.
Had Hagar not been lost in the wilderness, running from the hard hand of her mistress, she would have never encountered the Lord and come to know this tender heart of the God who saw her. I know this lesson has been true in my life. So often I have discovered aspects of God that I would have never known had I not been in difficult circumstances. When I was unable to pay my rent, I discovered Jehovah-Jireth – the Lord who Provides (Gen. 22:8). When my husband was desperately ill I found Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer (Ps. 103:3). When I was discouraged and fearful, Jehovah Shalom – The Lord is Peace (Jud. 6:23-24) and Yahweh-Tsuri – The Lord my Strength (Ex. 15:2) came to encourage and strengthen me. If you are in a difficult season, look for God to reveal Himself to you in a new and encouraging way.
After the birth of Ishmael (which means The Lord has heard – Gen 16:11) Hagar and her son were forced to leave their home with Abraham and Sarah, because of Sarah’s jealousy. Abraham gave them a little food and water and sent them to wander in the desert. This was a certain death sentence, and sure enough the water ran out and as they became dangerously dehydrated, Hagar recognized their inevitable deaths. She put Ishmael under a tree and walked away, so as not to watch her weakened son die. She and the boy were both crying, and God – once again – came to Hagar and assured her that they would not die, for God had a future planned out for the boy. Genesis 21:19 says, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” Oh see the beauty of this passage, El Roi – the God who saw Hagar, now opened Hagar’s eyes so she could see. He showed her a well of water, life giving water that would minister to their bodies and to their spirits.
Lesson #4 – The God who see you and me will open our eyes so we can see Him. When your eyes are blinded with tears, God will come and tenderly wipe away your tears so you can see that He is with you and will comfort and care for you. This is one of the most precious promises in the Bible to me “The Lord your God will be with you where you go” (Jos. 1:9). I have found myself in some difficult places and very hard circumstances, but I have never been out of my Heavenly Father’s sight. In the margin of my Bible I have written these words that God spoke to my heart: “Child, there is no place you can go that I will not be.” Whether they are physical places or emotional pits and spiritual dark caves – God has promised “I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Jos. 1:5)
If He went to the cross, and into the dark grave of death for us, then we can trust that He will never abandon us, no matter where we are. Did Jesus not say, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
I think of all the lessons we can take away from the life of Hagar, the most important one is this: Lesson #5 – God is forever faithful. He was faithful to a frightened, lost Egyptian slave girl, and He will be faithful to you and me.
El Emunah – The Faithful God, thank you for always keeping Your watchful and loving eyes on me. Wherever I am Lord, I will trust in You. Amen