Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar the Egyptian, her maid, and gave her to her husband Abram as his wife.  He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight….So Sarai treated [Hagar] harshly, and she fled from her presence.  Now the angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.  He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?” And she said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”  Then the angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.”  Moreover, the angel of the Lord said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”  The angel of the Lord said to her further, “Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has given heed to your affliction…

Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees.” ~ Genesis 16:3b-4, 6b-12, 13a

I know that was a long chunk of scripture, and I also know it has nothing to do with the Greeks.  This is the ONE post not about the Greeks, but about another ancient people intimately connected with the Hebrews: the Egyptians.  However, it has to do with one of God’s Names (which we talked about on Tuesday), and there’s a truth hidden in here that is so beautiful, I could not pass up this opportunity to share it!

A while ago, I began actively noticing when the Angel of the Lord is mentioned in the Old Testament.  In every case, He is saving, restoring, and judging.  This a fascinating, since most scholars believe “the Angel of the Lord” is often a pre-incarnate Messiah.  Jesus came to save and restore, and he’s coming back to judge.  It’s so beautiful to see Him doing all of that here, before His advent.

The Angel of the Lord

If we’re honest, His instructions to Hagar seem harsh.  He’s telling her to go back to her captors who’ve mistreated her!  Yes, she looked down on her mistress – which would be a sin – but Sarai mistreated her, which is so much worse in our mind.  Why would he tell her to go back?

It’s important to point out the obvious.  Hagar is a pregnant woman in the wilderness.  If someone finds her, she will be sold into slavery;  if no one finds her, she will die of hunger and thirst.  Of course she would be more protected by going back to Abram’s camp!  By telling her to return, God is saving her and her unborn child.

Second, even though Abraham and Sarah “were acting within the moral and legal conventions of their day,”[1] it didn’t mean the Lord sanctioned their actions.[3]  After all, He is comforting Hagar, an Egyptian, and not Sarai.

Hagar is a foreigner, a worshipper of foreign gods; and yet she is greatly hurting in body and soul, as well as carrying the child of God’s chosen man.  She was greatly wronged, and God responds accordingly.  God addresses her sin, which is only fitting; we can only ever change our reaction, not the reaction of another (and it fits into his role as judge).  God is also seeking to restore Hagar and Sarai’s relationship, which fits into the Angel of the Lord’s role of restoring.

Perhaps that’s why Hagar is the first woman in Scripture whom God addresses since Eve.

The God Who Sees

After being comforted and hearing God’s instructions, Hagar has an immediate change of heart.  She calls him El Roi – “The God Who Sees Me.”[4]  This is fascinating for many reasons, no less so because she is the only gentile to have a divine name revealed to her.  All other divine revelations of Names of God are to Israelites.

That, however, is not the most important thing.  The most important part of this name is that the Egyptians called Amun – their chief, creator deity – the “god who hears.”[5]

Think about the difference for a moment.  You can hear about something terrible.  Our news headlines are full of terrible atrocities.  But to see an atrocity happen before your very eyes…it changes you.  It changes how you think, how you live, and how you act.

Why would God be any different?

God doesn’t just hear of the problems in our life.  He SEES them.  And they cause Him to act.

Hagar could have called Him “the god who hears.”  She could have simply equated him with her own chief god.  But she didn’t.  When she had this personal encounter with the Hebrew God, her heart was changed.  There was nothing left but for her to call Him what He was: “the God Who Sees Me.”

The God Who Sees Us

Like Hagar in the wilderness, God sees us in the midst of our day.  Whether we’re overcome by the monotony of life or crushed under the weight of injustice, He sees.  It’s not a headline he scrolls past on his way to the movie reviews.  He sees it as it happens.

And He acts.

It may not seem as if He is acting, but rest assured He is and He will.  Sometimes His actions don’t make sense to us.  After all, why did He wait to act until after Hagar had been abused?  I have no idea.  But rest assured, He acted at the perfect moment.

And when He did act, it changed Hagar entirely.

Call on His Name.  Seek Him out.  For He sees you, and when He acts, you will be changed.

 

Sources

[1] Hayyim Angel, “Sarah’s treatment of Hagar (Genesis 16): morals, messages, and Mesopotamia,” Jewish Bible Quarterly 41, no. 4 (October 2013): 214. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed February 18, 2016).

[2] Ibid., 215.

[3] Ibid., 216.

[4] Ann Spangler, Praying the Names of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 27.

[5] Michael Hayes, The Egyptians (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, INC, 1998), 83.


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