by Cynthia Bowen
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Can you believe who God watches? Hagar got God's attention! That's right, Hagar, Sarah's maid, got to encounter God. That's amazing because Hagar wasn't Abraham's wife, she was the slave that he bought to serve Sarah. She was the one who was considered the family property, a surrogate mother because of Sarah's infertility and impatience. Hagar was just the Egyptian slave, the sidenote to Abraham and Sarah's story.
Mistreated by Sarah and being used to bring someone else's dream to pass, Hagar ran away from the tents of Abraham. Tired and hurting, she sat down by a water spring just off the road. Surely, she wondered why life was so unfair. It wasn't her choice to bear Abraham a child. It wasn't even her idea; she had only been thrown into it. Sarah had been the one who grew impatient waiting for God to deliver on His promise to make Abraham's seed like the stars. It was Sarah who decided to come up with a plan to help God give heirs to Abraham. And when Hagar had been found pregnant with his child, it was Sarah who had dealt harshly with her. She wasn't sure what kind of life a pregnant slave girl on the run could hope for, but she had reacted to the hurt she was feeling inside. Sitting by the spring, Hagar was unsure of her next step.
A shadow fell across her , startling Hagar as she silently wept. Looking up, she saw a Man. He is called the Angel of the Lord in Genesis, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus. He was so bright that it seemed hard to look straight at Him, but the love and compassion pouring from Him was nearly tangible. He sat down beside the broken, weary young woman. Though He had been watching from the portals of Heaven as the whole drama had unfolded, He gave the broken woman a chance to give voice to her heart. After a few moments, He gently asked the runaway," Where are you coming from? Where are you going?"
She answered, " I am running away from my mistress, Sarah." As far as where she was headed, Hagar had no idea. She just knew that Sarah had hurt her, and Abraham, whose child she carried, had not defended her. She knew that she really didn't mean much to the couple. She understood that, to them, she was only property...a vessel to carry out their dream.
As she wept by the spring, Hagar's tears touched the tender heart of God. He knew where she had come from, a life of slavery. No choices had been offered to her about her destiny. She had faithfully served Sarah as maid, even though she wanted more out of life. She was denied dignity, humiliated by the whims of her owners. Her spirit was broken, and there was no one around her that cared enough to comfort her as she cried in the wilderness. The Lord also knew where she was headed. He had already seen that, though it would come as a result of being ejected from Abraham's camp, freedom would come for Hagar. He knew that the child she carried would be the father of multitudes, men who would stand their ground and fight against any who threatened them...men whom God would love and send Him to deliver from sin and false religion by His death on the cross.
When her tears were spent, the voice that would one day calm raging storms and raise the dead spoke gently to Hagar. The Lord reassured her that her heartache had not gone unnoticed. God had seen her. He gently directed Hagar, " Go back to Sarah and submit to her."
This was definitely not what Hagar wanted to hear God say. Then He promised her with a smile, " I will increase your descendants, Hagar, and this baby you are carrying now is going to be something else! When he is born, you are going to get to name him, not Abraham. Call him Ishmael, to remind you that the Lord has heard and paid attention to you when you cried."
Peace flooded Hagar's broken heart as she looked at the smiling Man. Relief felt like warm water running over her, washing away the pain that had been cutting her with its sharp edge. She might not be important to Sarah or Abraham, but she mattered to God. He had cared enough to come sit in the wilderness with her. She was loved and nothing could change that. No one could take that away from her, not even Sarah. She whispered in worship, " You, God, see me. Here in the dry, barren wilderness, I got to see the God who sees me, and I lived! You have plans and purposes for me!"
I'd like to say that when Hagar went home, everything was better and the rest of her life was a pretty picture. Of course, that wasn't true. Hagar stayed in slavery for several more years. Eventually she and her son were sent away from Abraham and Sarah's camp after Isaac was born. However, even then God took divine care of Hagar and her son, watching over them and providing for them. I suspect that the rejection they suffered didn't bother Hagar like it would have before her encounter with God. She might have been rejected by her masters, but God accepted her. God saw her and everything was going to work out. He had promised.
So many of us can relate to Hagar, because we have faced things in life that have been unfair and caused us great pain. We weren't slaves, but we know what it feels like to be helpless. We know the pain of abuse and rejection. We have seen Sarahs, privileged ones who seemed to matter when we did not. We know what it feels like to be second place. We have all known what it feels like when our own dreams are shelved for someone elses. We have known the sorrow of mistreatment, the heartache of rejection, and the torment of an uncertain future. Life, true to the old adage, has not been fair.
When the hurt comes, we find ourselves in the wilderness place just as Hagar did. The wilderness is not a lush, dense forest full of life that we often envision at the sound of the word. It is dry, dusty, and hot. It is a rocky, barren place, and it is not one bit comfortable. The wilderness itself is a part of the sorrow of our experience, a place we never wanted to be. It is in the wilderness that we have a choice to make, what will we do now? One choice is to keep running with no destination in mind, raging about the unfairness of our situation.
The other choice is the better one, the one that will heal us. If we will sit down by the spring of Living water, the Lord will come and sit beside us as we cry out our pain and frustrations. The hot, dusty, barren wilderness will bloom like a garden when He comes to us. His presence is peace and comfort, like the scent of springtime after rain, or the gentle, cooling breeze in the sultry heat of summer. In the quiet, He gently reminds us, "I see you and I love you. Your heartache did not escape my notice. I have come to reassure you and make you a promise. I have a plan for you. I have a purpose for you. Even if no one else believes in you, I do. I see you."
So take heart, your pain has not gone under God's radar. Your Shepherd is not far off or distracted, and He will not leave you alone. You may be hurting today, but your wilderness is just about to become a garden, the place of comfort, healing, and love. God is looking at you.
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