I’ve been looking forward to writing about Hagar.
Her story begins in Genesis 16. I stumbled upon her most recently when reading Genesis 21:8-20 in my plan. What struck me about her then, is also seen in Genesis 16. But first, to put a bit of context to this.
Hagar was Sarai’s (Abram’s wife) maidservant. Sarai thought that she was unable to bear children, despite the fact that God had promised Abram (her husband) back in chapter 15 that his ‘very own son’ would be his heir. (Random side note- Did Abram and Sarai even speak to each other about this 'casual’ promise?! Marriage prep 101- You should probably tell your spouse if God promises you offspring, which outnumber the stars.) Anyway, back to Hagar…Sarai sends her to sleep with Abram as she thought she might obtain children by her. Hagar conceives. This does not go down well with Sarai. (I’m not sure what outcome she was expecting?) So she mistreats Hagar. As a result of this, Hagar runs away.
“The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.”” (Genesis 16:7-8)
I love these verses. Firstly, God finds Hagar in the wilderness. (verse 7) Imagine Hagar’s heart at this point. Made to sleep with her mistresses husband and then mistreated to the point of causing her to flee. Literal AND emotional wilderness. She’s at her breaking point, no doubt. But God finds her there. In seasons where things seem hopeless and we are close to despair, we must listen for God’s still, small voice. Let Him find us in our wilderness. In Hosea 2:14-15 there is a BEAUTIFUL passage about God alluring 'Israel’ and bringing her into the wilderness, speaking tenderly to her and giving her hope. It reminds me of what happened with Hagar here. Perhaps God led her away from Abram and Sarai for a moment? Away from the noise and confusion and into the quietness of the wilderness, where He could have her full attention. Secondly, God calls her by name. Prior to this, Hagar has been referred to as a servant. Here, in this wilderness, God reminds her that He knows her name. God tells her that she’s pregnant and that she will have a son and is to call him Ishmael (meaning God hears). God calls her by name and names her son. Hagar is overjoyed and for once, doesn’t feel invisible. “So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”” (Genesis 16:13). God calls Hagar back to Abram and Sarai’s house. Hagar obeys, goes back, and Ishmael is born.
That wilderness encounter changed things for Hagar. She was no longer just a maidservant, she was a maidservant seen and known by God. Remember, even if our geographic location doesn’t change, our right standing in Christ changes everything.
However, we find out later that Ishmael is not the 'son of promise’ as read of in chapter 15. Jumping to chapter 21, Isaac is born. The chosen one. Abraham and Sarah (their names have been changed by this point) are delighted. But it’s not all happy families. Sarah sees Hagar laughing with her son (21:9) and gets jealous. She wants Ishmael to have no part in Isaac’s promise. She wants him and his mother, gone. Abraham isn’t pleased. Ishmael is his son too afterall. But God tells Abraham to listen to Sarah and that there are promises for Hagar and Ishamel too. Abraham agrees. Mother and son are sent away.
“So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.” (Genesis 21:14)
Hagar is back in the wilderness. But so is God. Again, this is where He speaks to Hagar. At breaking point. Away from the noise, away from the confusion, weak, empty and worn out. Have you ever been in that place? Hagar’s story tells us that we’re not likely to end up there only once, but it also reminds us that God is right there with us. The rest of the story goes on to tell us that God hears Ishmael, tells Hagar not to fear, protects them both and opens Hagar’s eyes to His provision once again.
Even when we’re in the wilderness, God has not forsaken us. In fact, it is there, at the end of ourselves, where we may truly meet with Him.