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Hagar and El Roi, the God Who Sees

August 21, 2019

She’d been mistreated by her mistress. She’d not wanted to do what was asked of her, but as a slave with no rights or opinions, she’d had no choice. Out of desperation, she finally fled because she couldn’t take the abuse and the pain anymore; but she quickly found herself alone and defenseless, without shelter or sustenance. And pregnant, no less.

To say she felt scared, lonely, and unloved is an understatement. She wondered, in her despair, if anyone cared about her or what was happening to her or her unborn baby.

This is Hagar’s story in Genesis 16:1-13.

Can you relate to her? Perhaps not to her situation, but to the emotions she experienced: fear, loneliness, feeling unloved? Maybe your husband has abandoned you and your children. Maybe you’ve lost your job or your home. Maybe your parents neglected or abused you as a child. Maybe your employer overlooks you and the hard work that you do. Maybe a friend has hurt or betrayed you.

Perhaps you’ve wondered the same as Hagar when she found herself alone at a desert well: “Does anyone care about me? Does anyone know what I’m going through?” Perhaps you’ve even wondered if God cares and you’ve even cried out, “Do you see what I’m going through, God, and how bad it is?”

The answer to all these heart-rending questions, as it was for Hagar, is: Yes, he does! Because, as with Hagar: God sees you.

God Sees You

You may have wondered, out of all the billions of people in this world, does God even know that you exist? Could he single you out as an individual, or are you just unknown in the mass of humanity?

Know that God sees you! As an individual, you are known by Him!

He knows the very number of hairs on your head (Matthew 10:30). Consider that your worth is more than the many sparrows in the sky (Luke 12:7). And, consider that He took an intimate interest in forming you, that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made; that all of His “works [that being you!] are wonderful” (Psalm 139:13-14).

He loves you so much, that He sent His only son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrific death for you and your sins, so that you could be forgiven and reconciled back to God, because He wants a relationship with you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Consider that you are his “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

That is how much you are known by God. And not only does He know you, but he also knows your name.

God Knows Your Name

One of the things that struck me in this short passage is that every time Sarah or Abraham mentioned Hagar in their conversations, she was simply referred to as “my slave” or “your slave” (Genesis 16:2, 5, 6). This leads me to conclude that she had no value in their eyes other than someone to be used for their own selfish gain: to manipulate God’s plan to provide an heir.

I can only imagine how demoralizing that must have been for Hagar.

But when God found Hagar at the well, the first word out of His mouth was, “Hagar” (16:8).

When no one else cared enough to show Hagar any decency, God did. Up until this point in the narrative, we don’t even know if Hagar knew who God was, but He certainly knew who she was. In fact, He knew her name, and He showed her respect by using it.

It’s the same with you. God knows your name. As His precious child, He knows each and every “sheep” by name (John 10:3). And, not only is your name known, it is “engraved” on the palm of his hand (Isaiah 49:16). Being engraved carries a deeper implication than being written. Being engraved means it is “cut, carved” into God’s palm, implying permanence, something that cannot be erased.

Furthermore, if you are in Christ—if you’ve believed in His name, having accepted the free gift of grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9)—then your name is immortalized forever, because it is written in The Book of Life. As a born-again believer, your precious name is now eternal!

Later in the story, Hagar, out of gratitude, gives God a name: El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16:13). Interestingly, Hagar is the only person in the Bible—male or female, Jew or Gentile—who’s named God personally.

God Sees Your Situation

El Roi is not blind to your plight. Your situation has not taken Him by surprise, although it may have taken you by surprise. Being omniscient (all knowing), He sees exactly what is happening to you every second of the day—good and bad. Your situation—your very life—is always before his eyes. Nothing escapes His divine notice or attention.

Stephen Altrogge writes, “Jesus knows us fully… He knows every nook and cranny of us. He knows us better than we know ourselves. And He also knows suffering on an intense, personal level… He meets us in our downcast state and pours out grace upon us.”

God Sees Your Need

I love the fact that El Roi came to Hagar. He sought her out and arrived at the moment of her greatest need. At that moment, it was to be reassured that she was seen, that she was loved and not forgotten, that she and her unborn child (a son whom God named personally; yet another special blessing God showed Hagar) would be cared for.

As “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort” (Psalm 147:3) God soothed Hagar’s worries and gave succor to her wounded, weary heart.

As with Hagar, God also promises you that He will “never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6). It is during your greatest times of need that El Roi pours out His grace and mercy upon you (Hebrews 4:14-16).

He will also meet your physical needs when necessary:

Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? (Matthew 6:25-34).

Rejoice, dear believer, God sees you! He sees exactly what you’re going through, because, to quote Hagar, “You are [El Roi] a God of seeing. Truly, here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Genesis 16:13).

Claim that promise, and “cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

Photo Credit: Unsplash

The Author
Denise Kohlmeyer

Denise is a writer and Bible teacher. She has been published in print and online magazines and blogs, such as Just Between Us, Today’s Christian Living, Christian Woman, Desiring God, Revive Our Hearts, and Christian Devotions. She loves Jesus and desires to share his love and life with those around her, whether verbally or in print. She lives in the Chicagoland area with her husband of 22 years and their three teenagers.

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