Today’s chapter looks at two women and their heartbreak. It begins with Sarai. Abram and Sarai had been married for some time, they had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai had not yet gotten pregnant, and she was aging. She was losing hope that it was going to happen. Verses 1-3 read,
Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. 2 And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. 3 So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife.
She wanted Abram to be happy, she knew how much he wanted a child and so she gave him a gift. She took things into her own hands to make the promises of God come true. When Sarai offered her husband this gift the desires of his flesh overrode his faith in God. And he listened to Sarai’s voice instead of the voice of the Lord. Sure enough, God let Hagar conceive. But it didn’t turn out the way Sarai had hoped. Sarai tried to make God’s promise come to pass but the child her servant would give Abram was not the child The Lord would give Abraham. Verses 4-6 read,
And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. 5 And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!”6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her.
Hagar was not a piece of property, she was a person with feelings. She was treated like second best, but she was the one who had conceived and given Abram what he longed for. She felt like she deserved some recognition for that. She wasn’t a breeding cow, she was a mother.
Abram didn’t deal well with the situation. Maybe he felt guilt and shame for giving in and wanted to make it up to Sarai and so forgot how Hagar might feel in the meantime. He told Sarai to treat Hagar in any manner she wanted. Hagar was only Abram’s “wife” that one night, she had been relegated back to servant pretty quickly. So the heartbroken Hagar ran away. Verses 7-12 read,
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 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.” 9 The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” 11 And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Behold, you are pregnant
and shall bear a son.
You shall call his name Ishmael,
because the Lord has listened to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild donkey of a man,
his hand against everyone
and everyone's hand against him,
and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”
Hagar left Sarai, but the Lord didn’t leave her alone. He met her at a spring. He provided for her and the unborn baby. He saw her broken heart and He understood her pain completely. But He couldn’t let her go. She was Sarai’s servant. He reminded her of her commitment, her contract with Sarai and told her to go back.
Can you imagine how devastating it was to hear God Himself say she had to return and she had to submit? But His compassion and love shone through. He comforted Hagar with an amazing promise. God’s promise to Hagar resembled His promise to Abram, but it was a different promise about different people. She would name her son Ishmael, God hears. Her son would forever remind her that the Lord heard her cries and cared about her pain. He was born out of rebellion and would be a man of strength and power and rebellion. He was not going to fit in to the rest of the world. His descendants were not going to fit in to the rest of the world, they would not give in to conformity of the world. What we know though is even though they are Abram’s descendants they do not share in the blessings and inheritance of Abraham. The Arab peoples are as The Lord described them to Hagar, strong, independent and mavericks but they missed the One True God and made Him into a god that suited them. This is seen in the difference between God’s promise about the Messiah and His promise to Hagar. Isaiah 7:14 reads,
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel
Immanuel means, God with us. It means God actually being with us. Ishmael means God hears. Immanuel implies a union with God, while Ishmael suggests distance. But like the rest of the world who are not descendants of Israel they can still inherit the blessings of Abraham through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Lord knew who Ishmael’s descendants would be, but it didn’t change His love for Hagar, nor does it change His love for her progeny. So in order to submit to the Lord, Hagar had to return and submit to Sarai. But she returned with renewed hope and a closer relationship to God. Verses 13-14 read,
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.” 14 Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; it lies between Kadesh and Bered.
15 And Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to Abram.
The God of seeing or The God Who Sees Me is one of my favorite names for the Lord. It describes how intimately and wholly He knows us and cares about us. He knows your broken heart, he knows your hopes, He knows your past, and He knows your future. He sees you and He looks for you even when you are not looking for Him. He loves you. He looks after you.
Hagar was able to go back to Sarai and submit to her, even if it meant enduring unwarranted and harsh treatment because she knew that God saw her and God heard her.