Rev. Regina Davis-Sowers, PhD
June 27, 2017
Genesis 16:6- 13 Abram replied, “Look, she is your servant, so deal with her as you see fit.” Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away. The angel of the Lord found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going? “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.” Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”
The story of Hagar is one that always touches me, because she found herself in an impossible situation through no actions on her part. She was an Egyptian servant, and as a slave, she had no authority or power over the events in her life. She was at the mercy of her mistress, Sarai, Abram’s wife, just as some of us find ourselves at the mercy of our bosses or significant others. Sarai had not been able to have children, so she gave Hagar to Abram as a slave-wife. By custom, a barren woman could give her slave to her husband, and the child born to that union was considered as the wife’s child and the adopted heir. So, Sarai was within her authority. However, when Hagar became pregnant, she started to show contempt for Sarai, making Sarai’s life miserable. Contempt refers to the lack of respect shown, or the feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving of scorn. It makes sense, for Hagar had accomplished something Sarai could not do.
Sarai complained to her husband, who advised her to take care of the matter herself, and she, in response, treated Hagar so harshly that Hagar ran away, trying to escape an unbearable situation. Powerless, no means of support, a run-away slave, and pregnant, Hagar attempted to get as far from her troubles as possible. Any of us can find ourselves in unbearable situations, and often we think that running away from the difficult job and boss, or the pains and sorrows of a dysfunctional home, or the sorrows of the loss of a beloved child or parent, is the answer, trying to put distance between us and the circumstances. But, like Hagar, we find that the trouble has accompanied us in our travels, and that there comes a time when we must stop and confront the pain, hoping and praying for help and guidance to get through the terrible state of affairs.
Hagar finds help in the form of an angel of the Lord, whom many Biblical scholars believe was either a theophany, meaning a manifestation of God, or a Christophany, which is an early appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus. The angel of the Lord shows concern for Hagar’s predicament, and knowing the plans that God has for Hagar’s life and the life of her child, convinces Hagar that the best course of action is to return to Sarai and submit to her authority. He tells her that she will have more descendants than she can count! He tells her to name her newborn son, Ismael, which means ‘God hears’. There is no indication that Hagar prayed, but in the choice of Ismael for the child’s name, it is obvious she did, because God heard her cries. Maybe living with Sarai and Abram, she had come to know their God. Hagar also refers to God as “You are the God who sees me.” She was amazed that she had actually seen God. She obeyed the angel ofthe Lord and went back to her mistress.
What is hopeful about the Scriptures today is the assurance that God hears and sees us. Like Hagar, I am amazed that He cares for me and has come to my rescue many times. It is grace, simply amazing grace, and tremendous love that causes Him to come find us and help us. I often ask God, “Who am I, Lord God, that You should be concerned enough to come find me in my troubles and help me?” But then I remember that I am one of the sheep of His pasture, and I am one of His children, the apple of His eye (Zechariah 2:8). When we feel overburdened and overwhelmed in our situations, powerless to change the condition by ourselves, just knowing that God sees and hears us should bring peace and comfort. Running away does not solve problems; instead, we must face our troubles, knowing that God sees and hears us and is working to resolve the problems.
Our Father in Heaven,
How wonderful it is to know that You see and hear us! It brings such peace and comfort to know that our problems are your concern. Thank you for coming to our rescue, and although we may still be in the midst of the problems, I am thankful to know that you are going ahead of us and working it out for us. I will not run from my troubles, O God. Instead, I will run to You, knowing that You will help me, in Your own way and in Your own time. Let Your Will be done in our lives, even as it was so in Hagar’s life. Praise be to You and to Your Son, Jesus, and to the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.