Genesis 16: God, You See Me

Songdove Books - You See Me

Genesis 16 brings us to the beginning of a story that I found myself relating to incredibly closely the first time it was re-introduced from a new perspective back in the Fall of 2007.  When most people read this story, they focus on Abram and Sarai jumping to conclusions, taking matters into their own hands, and thinking they need to help God keep His promise.  From a human standpoint, that is quite logical.  By this time in history, the human body’s reproductive capabilities had already fallen more into line with what we know them to be today.  This meant that now in their 80’s, the humanly feasible chances of having children were greatly diminishing for Sarai.

We learn from God’s description of what would happen to Ishmael and his descendents, that the strife we see between Israel and her neighbours has most definitely come to pass, and there are groups in the region considered wild even by Arab standards.  I put the word “even” in there, because there is such a thing as decent, upstanding, law-abiding, progressing Arabs and there are thriving Arab churches too.  Don’t confuse their regional moniker with those who are not necessarily Arab by birth at all, but adhere to damaging beliefs that pick up the sword against all who refuse to bow down.  No, there are decent Arabs out there, and even they don’t want anything to do with Ishmael’s descendents.

But neither of these points are what draw me to write today.  What causes me to put fingers to keys is not what happened to Abram and Sarai, nor the long-term implications of Ishmael’s arrival on the scene.  What prompts me to write, is the story of Hagar herself.

We are introduced to Hagar by her description as Sarai’s handmaid, and an Egyptian.  She was a servant in Abram’s household and was therefore required to be obedient to every request, command, and expected task that was given to her to complete.  It was customary in those times that the servant did not question the master morally, ethically, or in any other fashion, so when Sarai handed her to Abram as a second wife, Hagar did so as an obedient servant.  Hagar is not totally painted as the ideal servant however, she appears to have a bit of attitude of her own, as when she conceived, she scoffed at her master and in King James English, actually despised her.  This too was a cultural response to the role of women.  A woman who could bare children was more highly revered than the barren woman.  To be barren was a major slight that a woman would often take deeply personal, and it would be a strike against her perceived abilities to perform her duties as a wife, mother, and contributor to society.  So in this context, you could understand Hagar’s feelings and perceptions to a point, but only to a point.  She was still Sarai’s handmaid, still her servant, and it honestly might have been best to keep her disdain to herself.

Sarai would have none of this, tries to pin it on her husband, which of course doesn’t work, and then starts dealing harshly with Hagar, to the point that Hagar runs away.  This would be the first of two times when Hagar has left Abram’s household.  Several chapters from now, we’ll read about the second part of Hagar’s story.  But even as Hagar’s vocalized attitude results in harsh treatment and she runs away, God comes to her.

Songdove Books - You See MeDid you see that?  Let me repeat. . . God comes to her!

I have met people, and you probably have too, who have said, “Well, if you hadn’t said, done, this or that, perhaps you wouldn’t be in the pickle you’re in now!  Check your attitude, change your ways, then life will correct itself and go better for you!”  The closest God comes to saying anything of the sort, is telling Hagar to return to her mistress, because the promise He made to Abram will extend to Ishmael.

Even before the Law, and long before the Age of Grace, God comes to Hagar and extends grace to her.  This grace is epitomized by the very name God asks Hagar to give her child when he is born.  According to Genesis 16:11, the name Ishmael means, “I have heard your affliction”.  Hagar can’t help but exclaim that God has seen her, and names God as such in Genesis 16:13  And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?

Even more amazing in this verse, is her wonderment at herself.  The Hebrew lexicon for this instance of “looked after him” suggests the definition of having sought after, having considered, having discerned the other person.  Here we have an Egyptian woman amazed that God would come to her, that God would see her, and all the while prior, she had never sought Him herself or even thought to consider Him.

Truly the mercy of God knows no bounds.  Hagar had to deal with the fallout from expressing the thoughts and feelings in her heart toward Sarai.  Yes, even though her behaviour was culturally driven, it was still not acceptable to have allowed those to be visible to her mistress.  But God didn’t just tell her to go back and face the music.  God told her to name her child in a manner that would forever tell Hagar that God saw her in her affliction.

Hagar hadn’t asked to be Abram’s second wife.  Hagar hadn’t asked to bear his child.  Hagar’s sudden motherhood had been thrust on her by her mistress, acted on by her master, and now she’d opened her big mouth to jump from the frying pan into the fire as the saying goes.

Sometimes the things that happen to us in life are not caused by our own doing.  Whether we make our situations worse by how we respond to those unwanted circumstances and events, or whether we handle them gracefully, the fact remains, we do not always bring trials and tribulations on ourselves, sometimes they come to us by the hand of others.

Just like Hagar, I have not always responded well to being thrust into situations I did not ask for.  I am known for speaking my mind and letting others know exactly how I feel about it.  I’ve never been one to take unwanted negative situations “lying down”.  If I can see the silver lining quickly enough, that will often quell the need to speak my mind, because I can see a way to turn the bad situation around, whether quickly or over the long haul.  Just like Hagar, I became a mother, but not by my wish or design.  Also like Hagar, I would end up being a single-mother.  Just like Hagar, I didn’t necessarily handle my situation wisely at all times, but unlike Hagar, the need to flee was not over those circumstances.  That is our only divergent point.  However, fleeing, just like Hagar, my children came with me.

I can say right along with Hagar, God sees me.  God has seen me in my affliction and come to me.  He didn’t have to.  I am not a model celestial citizen all the time.  But God looked past my occasional outburst and rash responses.  God looked past my faults and failings, and just as He overlooked Hagar’s behaviour, He saw me and came to me.  Does that mean I was released from how my own behaviour inflamed things at times?  No!  Just like Hagar, I had to face the music for various situations that came up along the way.  But God in His mercy did not send me further into “exile”, but chose to show me that He still had a plan for me, that He had plans for my children*, that He would walk with me if I would be obedient to Him and learn to deal with the unwanted situations I’d ben thrust into.

This is one of the things I like so much about what God chose to include in the Scriptures.  Real people facing real situations having real reactions and having to deal with real fallout, make these stories so much more personal and applicable.  Even before the Law was handed down, God was showing His mercy, His love, and His presence to mankind.

What an amazing God we serve.  My God sees me!

*Epilogue to this note:

My kids are both graduated high school now, as of June 2013, and God has been their unseen Dad this entire time.  They thought I was the one late to the table when I told them God had introduced Himself to me as my unseen Husband in 2007.  God had to remove my son from a Christian school, and complete his education in the public school system, in order to show up the enemy who was trying incessantly to destroy my son’s educational prospects.  When my son crossed that stage, it was a fist in the enemy’s face!  My daughter has dreams that are fully realizable if she puts her goals and efforts toward them, and has already built herself a harp and is taking lesson and teaching herself to play worship music and hymns.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: