Families are often difficult to figure out. Living in good relationship with all parts of them is usually a challenge. One could argue this for both physical families and Jesus’ family, which is represented in our congregation, and all congregations that belong to Jesus. One of the strange and beautiful family narratives of the Bible is the one which recounts God interacting with Hagar the Egyptian. Genesis 16 is where you can read the story.
Hagar was Sarah’s servant/slave and Sarah gave her to Abraham to have a child, because it was taking too long for her to have a child. (vv. 1-3) There are many comments to be made at this juncture, such as, wait as long as it takes to make an important decision. If you don’t wait, bad things can happen. If you do, you might see the miracles of God. Sarah later sees the miracle of Isaac, but meanwhile she does not have the patience needed.
So Hagar gets pregnant by Abraham and she figures out that it is Sarah who was having problems conceiving. Hagar despises her “employer.” (v. 4) Sarah (still called Sarai at this part in Genesis) blames Abraham (still called Abram at this part in Genesis). Why do individuals blame others for their own choices? This is a good question to ask yourself. True, Abraham could have said, “No, I won’t do this…” but then faced the consequences of that decision. So now after leaving God out of the decision-making process thus far, Sarah says to Abraham “May the Lord judge between me and you.” (v. 5) Abraham tells Sarah that she can do what she wants with her servant/slave. So Sarah mistreats Hagar and she runs away. (v. 6)
One of the most beautiful parts of this story is how God pursues her. (v. 7) God pursues her and He pursues each of us. I hope you are able to tell your story with God there present pursuing you, even if you are running away, beat up, or mistreated in many other ways.
The other beautiful part of this story is how God speaks to a runaway slave, kindly, lovingly, and audibly. Hagar hears Him ask her where she is going. To which she replies, “I’m running away…” (v. 8) Then the Lord directs her to go back to Sarah and submit to her. And an amazing thing happens. Then the angel of the LORD prophesies over her and names the child Ishmael, says he will be a “wild donkey of a man,” and have a hard life. But God tells Hagar that her descendants will be like the sand of the seashore, the same promise He had given to Abraham. (v. 10) It is a beautiful moment, and a reminder that when we trust God, it will be okay. It may not be easy, but it will be okay.
Hagar later reflects on her encounter with God. She calls Him the God who sees me, and the place where the encounter happened Beer Lahai Roi: the well of the Living One who sees me. She experienced God in an intimate and personal way at that time. She trusted Him and spoke with Him, something that we note in the Bible because conversations such as hers, between God and a female runaway slave, are rarely recorded in that day and age. It reminds us that He wants to talk with each of us, meet us in our greatest challenges and weaknesses. He sees us and what is happens to us and cares. We do not understand everything of what He lets happens and what He doesn’t let happen, but we trust Him.
Trust Him anew in these days. God bless you.