Do you ever feel invisible, like no one truly sees you or cares what’s going on with you? Have you felt like even God himself had forgotten you? Perhaps you’re feeling that way right now. If so, I’ve got an encouraging word for you in the story of Hagar.
I used to feel sorry for Hagar. She was a victim caught up in circumstances beyond her control, and her story struck me as sad and hopeless. In fact, however, Hagar is a story of hope, a reminder that whoever we are, wherever we are, we are never invisible to God.
Hagar was Sarah’s Eqyptian slave. It is thought that perhaps she was acquired when Abraham and Sarah went to Egypt to seek refuge from the drought.
It appears that Hagar and Sarah had a good relationship. Sarah trusted her and had a certain respect for her. The problems with Sarah and Hagar erupted when Sarah got caught in her own fears, temporarily lost faith in God, and felt the need to take matters into her own hands. Poor Hagar got caught in the crossfire when Sarah presented Hagar as a substitute wife in order to bear a child with Abraham. Imagine what an awkward situation the two women found themselves in. This was not how God designed things to be.
Once she found out she was pregnant, I can see where Hagar might gloat a bit. She may have just been a servant girl, but she was a servant girl who was having a baby, and the father, was not just any old man, it was the patriarch Abraham!
And Sarah, being a loving wife, was reasonably jealous. But she reacted by treating Hagar so harshly that Hagar fled in fear for her life. Fear often causes us to overreact in ways that we might not otherwise. Fear causes jealousy and anger and snowballs into more jealousy and anger. It consumes us, convincing us of untruths. Fear is also contagious. Hagar caught it from Sarah.
Fortunately for Hagar, God saw her fearful exit and met Hagar in the desert. Even though she was an Egyptian slave, and not a child of God, God loved her and cared about her enough to personally reach out to her and encourage her with a word of prophecy. He told her that He would multiply her offspring and that they would be too numerous to count. He told her to name the child Ishmael, that Ishmael would be a wild donkey, His hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him.
Not exactly the words of prophesy I’d want to hear, but to Hagar, they were soothing words of comfort and hope.
In Genesis 16:13, Hagar says,‘You are the God who sees me, I have now seen the One who sees me.’
Hagar had to have heard much about God from Abraham and Sarah, but until she met Him in the desert, He was their God. In the desert, though, He showed that He could be her God as well.
Unfortunately, it was forbidden for a bondservant or slave to run away. The Angel of the Lord told Hagar to return to Sarah, since it was the right thing to do, and she obeyed.
For fourteen years she lived with Abraham and Sarah. She bore her son and watched him grow. She witnessed Sarah’s pregnancy and was there when Isaac was born. But the relationship between Hagar and Sarah remained strained, and at the feast for Isaac’s weaning, Sarah caught Hagar and Ishmael making fun of her baby boy. Sarah went into full mother bear mode and ordered Abraham to send them away.
We’re told that this was distressing to Abraham because Ishmael was his son, but God spoke to Abraham and told him to go ahead and send them away. So Abraham handed them bread a a container of water and sent them out into the wilderness. Why didn’t he load them down with enough food to last for awhile? Why didn’t he give them a donkey to ride on? With all of his wealth, he could have afforded to send them off in style. But for reasons we’ll never know, he gave them only a small amount of food and sent them on their way.
It didn’t take long for the bread and water to run out. They were stranded in the desert with no hope. Hagar gently laid her dehydrated son under a bush, then walked away so that she might not have to witness her son’s death. Did she forget God’s promise to her? Did she think that God had forgotten her?
He hadn’t. Just like before, He sent an angel to remind her that He was still watching out for her. She didn’t have to despair because neither she nor Ishmael would die just yet. God opened her eyes and revealed to her a well with water to save the two of them.
Hagar called God “the God who sees”. What a perfect reminder when we find ourselves huddling in the desert fearing for our lives. We may feel abandoned, forgotten, invisible, but God sees us and is there for us wherever we are.
How easy it is to feel forgotten and invisible. Even in a crowd we can feel alone, but in these days of social isolation, we can feel especially forlorn. But just as God heard the cries of Hagar and Ishmael, he hears your cries. You don’t have to be important by the world’s standards. You don’t have to be spiritual giants in order to be loved and cared for by our Lord. No, whoever you are, wherever you are, God is with you. He loves you and is watching out for you. He is the truly the God who sees.
Lord God, we come to you today thanking you for seeing us when we feel invisible and for loving us when we feel unloved. Thank you for never leaving us nor forsaking us. Thank you for seeing our needs and opening our eyes to the wonders that you have for us. We love you. In Christ’ name. Amen.
Tune in next week when we talk about Rebekah, a woman who loved, lied, and lost.
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