A book with a title like Dark Clouds • Deep Mercy will not likely make your “feel-good” top 10 reading list. So if you’ve gotten this far, it’s probably because you (or someone you know) is hurting, and you feel out of your depth. Well, you’ve come to the right...
Today, I want to offer a look into the life of Hagar. She was the female Egyptian servant to Abraham and Sarah. And her story may speak into your life today.
As we’ll see, Hagar was emotionally abandoned, and spiritually wounded, but she was also deeply loved.
Hagar was never first in anyone’s life. No one was close enough to Hagar to know who she really was and what she really felt. There was no one she could count on—not even the father of the child she was carrying.
First, Pharaoh gave her up in giving her to Abraham. Second, Sarah (whom Hagar served) gave her up to Abraham as a wife (Genesis 16:3). And third, when conflict arises between Sarah and Hagar after she becomes pregnant, Abraham gave her up too!
He is the father of the child she is carrying. He has responsibility for her. But Abraham does not stand up for her. He gives her up, just as Pharaoh and Sarah had done before.
Who cared about this woman? Her whole life seemed to be a story of what other people want. She was pushed from pillar to post, according to what was most convenient for others.
At this time, we only know of one family on the face of the earth to whom God had made himself known—Abraham and Sarah and their extended family.
So, Hagar would have learned about God from Abraham and Sarah. They’d have told her about the Lord who made heaven and earth, the God who loves undeserving people, the God who choose to bless a rebel world through a Son in whom his blessing would be found. In the kindness of God, Hagar finds herself in the family God has chosen to bless.
Now think about what happens next: The people from whom she learned all that she knew about God turn out to be desperately flawed believers. That must have been devastating for Hagar. What good thoughts can she have of Abraham and Sarah’s God after this?
It’s not surprising that she ran from the family of faith. She ran from Sarah and from Abraham, and she ran from the God that they had failed so badly.
The last part of the story is full of hope for every person who feels emotionally abandoned or spiritually wounded. Hagar discovers that she is deeply loved by God.
Here are three glimpses of the love of God:
1.) God finds lost people.
The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. (Genesis 16:7)
It is very striking to me that God steps into Hagar’s life at a time when you would least expect it. She is angry and resentful; she feels a sense of injustice. This hardly feels like a time when she can hear the voice of God. And yet it proved to be the great turning point of Hagar’s life!
How did God turn her around?
The question. “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8). Here you are moving away from the path of faith in Christ. Gradually, you are pulling yourself away from believing people, linking up with another crowd. Where does this path lead? Where are you going? The path you are choosing is not the path to heaven.
As God intercepts her life, God’s question awakens Hagar’s conscience.
The command. The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” (Genesis 16:9) God calls you to do the one thing that you really want to avoid.
Maybe you feel like Hagar, with Abraham and Sarah. You are on the edge of quitting the people of God. The enemy tells you that you can have a private faith, but God says “Return to your mistress and submit to her.”
You are right to say that the church in this world is always fractured. That is why the church can never be the hope of the world, only Christ is. But on the last day, you do not want to be separated from the church.
The promise. The angel of the Lord also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude” (Genesis 16:10). Walk with God in faith and obedience, and however hard your life may be, good will come of it. Blessing will follow it.
God hears suffering people.
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. (Genesis 16:11)
It does not say “the Lord has listened to your prayer.” Up to this point, there is no suggestion that Hagar prayed. Why would you pray to God when you are you running from him?
But God has listened to your affliction. God hears tears as well as prayers. He has heard your suffering—the exhausted sighs, the unanswered questions.
God told her that she was to give her son the name “Ishmael.” Ishmael means, “God has heard.” Every time she called out his name, she would be reminded that God hears: “Ishmael! Ishmael! God hears! God has heard!”
There must have been times when Hagar said to herself: “Pharaoh didn’t look after me. Abraham didn’t look after me. Sarah didn’t look after me. Now I have found the One who looks after me!”
God sees all people.
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
Spurgeon has some wonderful words on this that I have paraphrased here:
You are looked at by God as much as if throughout space there were not another creature but yourself. [i]
God sees and knows you better than you see and know yourself.
The amazing thing about God’s seeing is that he sees, not with the eyes of condemnation, but with the eyes of love. This, for a woman who was running from God, in order to lay hold of her, and in loving kindness to bring her back.
His grace is sufficient
Obedience to God meant living with continued difficulty. Hagar did what the Lord commanded, and when she did, there were more problems with Sarah. The two women never really got along.
This is not a story that ends with “And they all lived happily ever after.” They didn’t! The Bible speaks to the real world—to the ongoing difficulties faced by single mothers, and perplexed wives and flawed fathers and troubled sons.
The message is not “Come to Jesus and you will live happily ever after.” The message is “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Living in the tension of a home where there is little peace? Living with the emotional abandonment and the spiritual wounding you may have experienced? I am saying to you today from the Scriptures that God loves you deeply.
God sees you. He knows you. He hears your affliction.
By God’s grace, and through his Word, he draws near to you today with the command to repent, and with a promise of blessing.
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[i] C. H. Spurgeon, “Omniscience,” Sermon #85, June 15, 1856.