The God Who Sees Me
By: Sarah Norman
The story of Hagar in the Bible is one that is often misread and misinterpreted. She is often portrayed as the villain, put in the story to thwart God's plan for the covenant child coming through Sarah. But with a closer look at Hagar, we see that God can take the plans of man and use them for his purpose. We see that God is not a far off deity just watching to see what will unfold, but he is active in our lives, and cares about what happens to every person created in his image.
Hagar was a slave, taken from her homeland, perhaps sold by captors, her family or maybe she sold herself because she had no other means to provide. She was taken into a family with customs not her own, into a land different than her own. She was taken into the family who made a covenant with God. I can only imagine how strange it would seem to watch people worship one God, talk to one God and follow one God after a lifetime of seeing the worship of many different gods and a lifetime of trying to earn the favor of the gods with nothing in return.
In looking at it with 21st century eyes, I would have to think her life would have improved. She was living with God's people. Shouldn't they love her? Shouldn't they protect her? Shouldn't they treat her as the image bearer God made her? It's easy for me to judge as I have the whole Bible to learn from, as I can see the story throughout scripture of how God loves and takes care of the marginalized and oppressed. But Abraham and Sarah were not perfect and they were a product of their time.
It was the custom in that time if Sarah could not produce an heir, to give her handmaid to her husband that she might produce an heir for the family. In that culture, Sarah's value was based solely on her ability to produce children. Again, looking at this with 21st century eyes, what Sarah did was awful. She saw Hagar as nothing more than a vessel to carry a child and eventually be thrown away. But she herself was probably afraid the same thing would happen to her if she could not produce a male heir.
How often have I chosen to not believe in God's promises? It's easy to judge Sarah, but I often don't immediately obey when God wants me to do something. I often don't trust in God when things get hard and, much like Sarah, I try to make things happen on my own. God made a promise to Abraham that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars. Years went by and Sarah still had not conceived. Years. I would have gotten anxious too. So Sarah took matters into her own hands and gave Hagar to Abraham to produce a child.
Once Hagar conceived, scripture says she looked on Sarah with contempt. Sarah forced her to get pregnant. I think contempt is the natural outcome of forcing a person into a pregnancy they never asked for. And to make matters worse, Sarah began mistreating her. Sarah's fix did not make the situation better, but rather made it much worse. That's how it goes when we try to take over for God. We make everything much worse. Instead of listening to God, trusting in what God told Sarah would happen, she involved an innocent woman, hurt her, used her body and then kicked her out because it didn't solve her problem.
Hagar ran into the wilderness. She was pregnant, single, desperate and trying to figure out how she could survive alone. The angel of the Lord found her by a well. It's here we see God's heart for the broken, the cast out, the marginalized in society. The angel of the Lord saw Hagar, heard her cry out, and paid attention to her pain. He didn't minimize what she went through. He didn't tell her to get over it and do her job. He didn't tell her that it would be ok, because it wouldn't. Instead, he gave her, a slave woman, a promise. He promised that she would have a son and her descendants would become a nation. Ishmael is the first child given a name prior to birth and that name means “God hears.” God took time to listen to this lowly slave woman. He took time to listen to the woman who had been cast out of his covenant family. He listened to her and he instilled value into her.
And then Hagar names God. She calls him El Roi, the God who sees me. God, the almighty, omniscient God we serve, who has his hand on the whole world, had a conversation with this slave woman, saw this slave woman and loved her. It's easy to understand that God is the God of this world, sovereign over everything. We learn He's Got the Whole World in His Hands at a young age. But to think that not only is God over the whole world, seeing everything that goes on, he sees me. He sees you. He looked through the whole world, and went to visit a lowly, pregnant slave woman who'd run away from her mistress. He saw her pain and he had compassion on her. His promise made to her gave her the strength to go back and endure whatever would happen with Abraham and Sarah. God loved Hagar and he loved her child she was carrying.
When we live through a year like 2020 and now 2021, it's easy to think that God is far off. It can be tempting to think that God has forgotten about us, that he doesn't care what's happening. But then I read stories like Hagar's. I see that God “draws near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18). The God who visited Hagar in her desperate and alone state, the God who saw Hagar in her loneliness, in her pain, is the same God who draws near to you and near to me when we feel like we can't go on another day. He's the same God who sees your desperateness as you pray for your wayward child. He's the same God who sees the hurt of your broken relationships. He's the same God who wipes your tears away as you say goodbye to a loved one. He meets you in the broken places and carries you through them. Out of everyone in this world, He sees you.
Fast forward a few thousand years and we come to a different well, but a significant one all the same. Jesus, in his infinite sovereign wisdom, decides to journey through Samaria on his way to Galilee. His disciples thought he was crazy. Why would he go through this place of insignificant, outcast people. But Jesus never does anything by chance. He had a reason for walking through Samaria because he knew exactly who needed him in that moment. Jesus stopped at a well for a drink of water and met a lonely, broken and hurting woman. Here we see the longest recorded conversation in the Bible, and that conversation was with a Samaritan woman, the lowest of the low according to Jewish customs. But Jesus saw an image bearer who needed him. In this conversation, he offered her living water, saying those who drink living water will never go thirsty again. This woman had no clue when she went to the well that she would meet Jesus, but when she left, she became the first evangelist, she told everyone she saw that she had met the Messiah.
Jesus didn't judge the Samaritan woman. He saw her. He looked into her broken soul and healed her. He offered her a life that only he could give. So often in this world we seek healing through other means. We numb out with screens, we eat our comfort foods, we turn to substances, we let our anger take over thinking it'll make us feel better. When we do those things, we miss what Jesus is calling us to. He's calling us to himself, into relationship with him. He says “Come to me, all who are weary and I will give you rest”. (Matthew 11:28) Those aren't empty words. And he's not talking about rest that the world tries to give. When we draw near to Jesus, our souls find a rest that nothing in this world can fix.
So as the world keeps spinning out of control, seek Jesus, talk to Jesus, follow after Jesus. He is the God who sees you and the God who hears you. He cares about what you are going through. He is the only means of finding rest for your weary soul.
Leave a Reply.