Do you ever hear someone’s story and find yourself relating on many levels?
When we get to know people of the bible on deeper levels, we can see their humanity. We discover how real they were. Real flesh and bone. Real struggles. Real hopes and dreams. We hear them, see them, and can feel what they must have felt. In finding their humanity, we are reminded of our own. Time and culture may change, but the struggles humans deal with in a fallen world remain. People hurt us, we hurt others, and it goes on and on. Within the story of Hagar, we catch a glimpse of God’s nature. We are reminded that He, too, never changes. “For I, the Lord, do not change..” Malachi 3:6
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8
Hagar is first mentioned in Genesis 16 after God had promised Abraham that he would have a son. Many commentaries indicate that Hagar was an Egyptian slave given to Abraham by the Pharaoh of Egypt. If you are familiar with her story, you know that after 10 years of waiting for their promise, Sarai decides to take matters into her own hands and gives Hagar as a “second wife” to Abraham to bear an heir (yes, this was a real custom at that time). So the main points develop – Hagar becomes pregnant, conflict grows between her and Sarai (imagine that), Hagar is treated harshly by Sarai, and so Hagar runs away, pregnant and wandering in the desert.
I think about the possible messages her circumstances had given her up until this point in her life. Perhaps they were telling her, “Your value is only determined by what you can do for others”. “You are powerless.” “No one sees you.” “No one is listening.”
Life circumstances can and often do give us messages. When we are smack dab in the middle of our painful circumstances, our first response is often like Hagar’s – to run. While we may not physically run away, our thoughts and our emotions can take off like a runner at a track meet. Soon we find ourselves wandering in a wilderness of our pain. We may feel alone, unseen, and unheard.
I find great comfort in verses Genesis 16:7-8: “And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur. And he said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou? And whither wilt thou go?’”
Because Hagar was found, it meant someone must have been looking for her. She was called by her name. She didn’t have to look around , point at herself, and ask “ Who? Are you talking to me?” We hear Hagar’s voice for the first time. I hear hurt in her voice. I hear despair. I hear humanity.
The questions she was asked shows that God wanted to hear what she had to say. Perhaps this was a turning point in her heart. A turning point in her heart because for the first time someone saw her and heard her. Someone wanted to know her personal story. She was a real person with a real story, for once the main character with her own role.
Being seen for the first time, Hagar declared Him “El Roi”- The God who sees me.”
Yes, we will be faced with the “Hagar moments” of humanity that are painful and uncomfortable. Jesus tells us we will have trouble in this world. But, in those moments, we can find comfort as we embrace the unchanging nature of our God.
Our situations will reveal His nature and character to us in a personal way. That’s what happened in the moment with Hagar. Real humanity met a real God.
He is the same God today in our stories.
He is a God who sees us. A God that hears us. A God that asks us questions like, “Where have you been?” “Where are you going?”
We, like Hagar, can be encouraged in knowing that we can declare Him to be El Roi- The God who sees me.”