Wednesday, February 27, 2019

A Little Bit of Hagar

As we jump into Genesis chapter 16 verse 1, I want to gives us the context of what is happening. Starting in Genesis chapter 12, God started working specifically with a man named Abram. Calling him from his family to a land that God would eventually show him. Eventually in chapter 15, God made a covenant with Abram with the promise of a child to carry on Abram’s lineage. But Abram was getting up there in age and so was his wife Sarai. Now when God made the covenant with Abram, he never disclosed how the child would come about, which brings us to where we pick up verse 1 in chapter 16 of Genesis.

1 Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; 2 so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
Abram agreed to what Sarai said. 3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. 4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived…

So my wife and I took a different approach to having kids, we went with adoption. I can’t see my wife Marika wanting to go this route. But this was a common practice of the time, getting a woman pregnant and then making that child your heir. Were they a true heir? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that they came from the husband, but no, in the sense that the child would come from a lesser person. See Sarai is the head woman of the household, she is the governess, Hagar is nothing, mere property. Hagar does not have the status that Sarai does. But that all changes when she gets pregnant. Let’s continue on.

…When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. 5 Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”
6 “Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

Since Hagar now is carrying the only heir to Abram’s lineage, she has gained more status. She now hows leverage in the family. Where once she was merely a slave, she is now the mother to Abram’s future. This gives Hagar power, and she starts to use it. 
But I love this exchange between Sarai, and Abram. Remember, it was Sarai’s idea for Abram to sleep with Hagar, but Sarai is turning it around on Abram, making it his fault for their current situation. And if we were making this into a series, we could stop right here and talk about the parallels between Abram in this situation, and Adam at the beginning of Genesis, but we’re not, so let’s move on.
Abram, trying to be smarter this time around, turns the whole matter over to his wife, and just leaves the room. And that’s when things get bad for Hagar. I’m thinking that before all this took place, Hagar was probably dealt with fairly. Even though she was a slave, she had gained enough esteem in Sarai’s eyes to be nominated to bear Abram’s child. But now, every time Sarai looks at Hager, all she can see is her own shortcomings as a wife. So what does she do? Sarai takes all her anger out on Hager, so much so, that Hagar runs away.
Let’s keep going.

7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: “You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”

This interaction between the angel and Hagar, and the theological implications of what comes out of this conversation, to me, gives us some interesting insights into God.
Up to this point, God has spoken to people that seem to follow a certain path. I don’t know if you have ever thought this thought: God cannot use someone like me. I don’t know about you, but the thought has passed my mind, that there are those that are useful to God and then there are those that are not. There are those that are a part of God’s plan and then there are not. Abram is a guy that is a part of God’s plan. Sarai is a women who is a part of God’s plan. Hagar is not a girl that is a part of God’s plan.
God’s plan that we see work itself out in chapter 21 of Genesis is that Sarai would become pregnant in her old age, and her son Issac would be born. Through Issac the nation of Israel would come into being, and through Israel, the messiah Jesus would be born, and through Jesus, salvation would come.
But Hagar was not a part of that plan. She was the human’s effort to make God’s plan happen.
And to me, I have felt like I am not a part of God’s plan. I’m not a Abram, I’m a Hagar. To me, people like Billy Graham, RC Sproul, C.S. Lewis, and A.B. Simpson are like Abram. Men and women who are useful to spreading God’s word in a way that I cannot. 
Have you ever felt like that? And up to this point in the Scriptures we can almost get that feeling. We learn about Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his family, and then Abram. All that we see in the first few chapters of Genesis, is God dealign with people to work out his plan. And then we get to Hagar, the one that isn’t a part of God’s plan.
The one, that out of all of these people, I feel like I can relate to the most.

But then she has this interaction with the angle of God. This slave girl, who was used for her womb, and then mistreated for it. This girl that wasn’t a part of the plan, but who has been talked to by God. Look at this interaction.
God doesn’t hold anything back. He recognizes her and calls her, Hagar, space of Sarai. God knows Hagar. He knows her name, he knows her place in society. And he asks her, to share what is happening in her life, where is coming from and where now is she going?
Hagar answers by saying she is running from Sarai, but gives no destination. 
So God gives her a destination, and that destination is to return to Sarai. Return to the hardship she is escaping. Return to the life where she was being used. And where only suffering awaits her. 
What kind of God would want anyone to return to such a place? How could God want someone, who isn’t a part of the plan, to return to an abusive situation?

Because the reality is, there is no one that is not a part of God’s plan. Hagar was not a part of one aspect of God’s plan, but she was still a part of God’s full plan. She might not have had a staring role like Abram and Sarai, but she still had a role to play.
This role would eventually lead to strife for the decedents of Abram, culminating in the Islamic religion thousands of years later. This child Ishmael, would be the ancestor to Muhammed, the founder and greatest antagonizer to the Jewish people. The story of Ishmael is of great importance from the muslim point of view, because he gives a direct connection to the promise of God to Abraham.

It was Abram and Sarai’s lack of trust and waiting on God, that will lead their descendants and the rest of the world into a place of terror for generations. The strife of the middle east today, has it’s roots in the lack of trust that Abram and Sarai displayed, by taking Hagar to bear a child.

But let’s see how the story ends. 

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. 

In this moment, we not only see that the slave girl Hagar plays a role in the plan of God, but that it goes deeper than that. Hagar doesn’t merely encounter God, but comes to realize a monumental theological reality of God: God sees the unseen.
What I find fascinating about this passage, is that Hagar does something monumental, she gives God a name. A name of who God is to her. God is not only the Creator God of Genesis 1 and 2. He is not only the Just and Wrathful God of the flood. And he is not only the God who deals with certain people who are a part of his plan. No, God is the God who sees. In Hebrew God is the El Roi, the God who sees. The God who cares for every person and creature on this world.
Hence why Jesus says in Matthew 6:26, 28-30, “26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?”
God doesn’t just look at the people that can work out his plan, he looks at every person. Big, small, rich, poor, useful and useless.

It is so easy to think that God does not see us in our circumstances. To not hurt, when we hurt. To not care about the things that we care about. But the reality is, that’s not true. God sees us in our hurt. God sees us in our doubt, and pain, and suffering. But the question is, do we see God in it? Hagar could have dismissed the angel, dismissed the words of God, continued on her way, but she didn’t.
She realized that that God saw her in her suffering. That he cared for her. This gave her the strength to return to her pain, to her abuse, because she knew that God was watching. She knew that God had not abandon her.

Which brings us to you and me. 2018 has come and gone and 2019 is going as fast as it can. Some of us are going into it full of joy and confidence. Some of us are going into it with hurt unimaginable. But God is with us both. He has not abandon us, he does see us, and is wanting us to do as Hagar did, to trust him. To push forward into wherever we find ourselves at the moment, by pushing closer to him. Trusting him more today, than we did tomorrow.

As we sing our next song, my challenge for you is this. Hagar named God. She named him something that he was to her. He was the God who sees. My challenge to you is this, there are four tables around the room, each one with a piece of paper and several pens. My challenge to you is to write a name of God on one of those pieces of paper. Who is God to you. Is he the God who sees? Is he the God who protects? Is he the God who provides? Who is God to you.
As we go into the rest of the year, may he be the God, whom you can trust. Who sees you every moment of the day. Amen.

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