“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.’” Gen. 16:13, NIV
The story of Hagar in Genesis 16 is amazing. Here we have an Egyptian slave - probably picked up when Abram went down into Egypt [Gen. 11] - getting a personal revelation from God. Why is that? Was it because she was a wonderful “saint” who worshipped God and followed Him with her whole heart? Not that we know of. She was just an ordinary girl with human frailties caught in a situation beyond her control. Let’s look at her story for minute.
Hagar was a slave in Abraham’s household, specifically she was Sarai’s slave. For all she knew she would live and die a slave. But Sarai could not have children and one day Sarai got the idea of having a child through Hagar. So, at Sarai’s insistence, Abram took Hagar as a second wife. This was certainly a promotion for Hagar. And sure enough she got pregnant. If Hagar had been humble and continued to respect Sarai all might have gone well. But, probably like most of us would have, she began to act proudly and despised Sarai. First wife Sarai’s jealousy was flamed and she was not going to stand for that! If Hagar had thought Abram would choose her over Sarai because she was going to be the mother of his first child, she was mistaken. Abram and Sarai had been through too much together. Abram allowed Sarai to take her womanly vengeance out on Hagar. And so we find Hagar in the desert running away from a bad situation…
What is so amazing about this story is that God cared about Hagar! She was nobody. Abram and Sarai were the important people in the big picture. What happen to Hagar really would not make a difference. While her future son would impact world history he would have no real role in redemptive history - in fact, God would later refer to Isaac as Abraham’s “only” son, i.e. the son of the covenant.
Yet here we have Hagar, scared, alone, hurting - emotionally and maybe physically - running away from a problem that her own attitude help create. Sound familiar? Take comfort from this story - God sees. He knows you did not make all the right choices, He knows others have hurt you, He knows your disappointment and your pain…and He cares.
The Angel of the Lord appeared to her. The Angel of the Lord is often considered to be a pre-birth appearance of Jesus. And this is the first time He is specially recorded as appearing to anybody. The next two people He appears to is Abraham and Moses…yet the first time He appears is to an unimportant Egyptian slave girl. Unimportant to Sarai, unimportant to Abraham, unimportant in the family, unimportant to redemptive history, but important to God. God sees!
Have you been in Hagar’s position or felt like it? Have you made mistakes and foolish choices? Have you been rejected by those close to you? Have you been mistreated by authority figures in your life? Have you been betrayed? Have your hopes been dashed? Are you alone and afraid of an uncertain future? God sees. God cares. He will come to you.
When the Angel asked Hagar where she had come from and where she was going, she didn’t know where she was going. She was only running from her problems, she had no idea what she was running to.
Sometimes we are so intent on getting away from a problem or situation that we have given no thought to where we are going. Hagar just wanted to get away from Sarai, have her child and live in obscurity somewhere…anywhere. No plan just a vague dream. It could have been the death of her. But God sees and God cares.
God directed her to go back and face her problem, confess her own mistakes and live with the consequences. Abram’s family - although far from perfect - was still the safest and best place for her.
Hagar’s situation, although aggravated by her own attitude, was the “fall out” of the weakness of a “man of God.” He had not been the man he should have been. Many of God’s people have been hurt in His family - and, if honest, we having probably done some hurting as well. We are not perfect. We say the wrong things. We act the wrong way. Those in authority over us do not always act the way they should. Sometimes we are mistreated or unappreciated. Maybe we have sacrificed or worked hard to help a “man or woman of God” succeed in their ministry only to have them ignore us or treat us with contempt. Many, like Hagar, have chosen to run…to leave the church.
The instruction of the Angel to Hagar was to go back, make things right, be apart of the Church. Because we all still struggle with the sin nature [until heaven!], the family of God will never be a perfect place, but it is still the best place. It is what God designed for His people. God sees and cares when things are not right. He is able to bring correction, but running away is rarely the right response.
Is there ever a time to leave a specific church? A commitment to a local church is like a marriage commitment. Once you have found the one where God wants you, you should be committed and work on building relationships and strengthening the church. Leaving the church, other than for things like moving to a new location, should be as serious as a Biblical divorce. Is the church leadership engaging in unrepentant sin? Is false doctrine being introduced [not differences of opinion but on foundational truths]? Have they ceased to genuinely follow Jesus Christ?
You may feel that you are alone in the desert with an uncertain future. Take heart. God sees. God cares. You are important to Him no matter how you feel or what others think. Maybe you are never going to change the world. Doesn’t matter. Jesus loves you for who He created you to be. Take comfort in that and turn to Him…He will be there.