Updated: Feb 8, 2022
Her name meant flight; one who runs.
Hagar was the Egyptian handmaiden of Sarah, Abraham's wife. Years after God had promised Abraham a child, Sarah was still barren and very, very old. In a season of weakness and impatience, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands and Hagar was caught in the crossfire. In an effort to play God and gain an heir, Sarah gave Hagar to her husband as a second wife but when Hagar conceived a child, the big green monster inside of Sarah rose up and she treated Hagar with so much cruelty that Hagar fulfilled her own name - she fled.
The angel of the Lord found Hagar by a spring of water in the wilderness. He gently came to her, calling her by both her name, Hagar, and by her title, "Sarah's maid" and asked her two questions: Where have you come from and where are you going? She confessed she was running from Sarah and why. The Lord told her to return and He would make her child the father of a great nation, multiplying her descendants. Hagar worshiped and did exactly what she was told by God to do.
Have you ever tried to maintain eye contact with someone who constantly looks away? Or maybe you are the one who struggles to hold a gaze for more than a split second. Because of the fall, we are people naturally inclined to feel shame and naturally prone to retreat into the darkness when the light comes on. We grab all the fig leaves we can to cover ourselves because the innocence of Eden is gone and we are now very well aware of our every flaw. No one wants to feel rejected, so we do all we can to conceal our imperfections. We run and we hide and we search for refreshing water
I am like Hagar. I have been neck deep in insurmountable shame and have held my own wounded heart as I have ran. I have sat on the ground in a proverbial desert and hoped that each mirage in sight would quench my thirst. I can imagine Hagar's weary eyes searching for an oasis and her feet on the desert sand, burning from the journey. Hagar had basically been treated as an object; as someone who was used for one goal - a child. She wasn't the love of anyone's life, including the father of her own son. Her feelings were invalid, her pain was ignored and her value as a human being was based on what she gave rather than who she was. When Hagar received favor from God by conceiving a child, Sarah drove her out like a stray dog who had overstayed its welcome. Can you imagine the hurt? This woman had been purchased as a slave, had been given to a man for the sole purpose of having a child and now, pregnant and emotional and vulnerable, she was abused by her mistress, Sarah. If Hagar was like any woman, she was thirsty for far more than water. She was thirsty to be seen; to be welcomed and to be gently loved.
There in the wilderness, Hagar encountered God. The best part? She encountered Him personally. Feeling worthless and dirty and used, Hagar experienced what every human heart wants - to be fully known and fully loved by Someone who matters. There by the well, the God who knew everything about Hagar acknowledged her brokenness and her hurt and He helped her. People need more than nice sounding words or good intentions. Being one of "God's people" while inflicting hurt on others isn't going to incite praise from the wounded. Sadly, Hagar didn't find God in the tent of Abraham and Sarah. It was out in the desert, alone and broken when God revealed Himself and who He truly was to Hagar. And it was then that she worshiped and gave God the name El Roi which means, the God who sees me.
God had seen her! He had seen her pain. He had seen the way the voices of others had been raised at her. He had seen the mistreatment and the abuse. He had seen her tears and heard her voice weeping in the night. He had seen her fearful eyes and He knew the deep hurt of rejection and cruelty she had experienced. He had seen her running in the desert. He saw it all. And He cared.
Maybe you identify with Hagar too.
You may be scarred by betrayal, by false accusations, by conflict with the people who claim God's name, or by the overwhelming shame of sin, but the same God who met an exhausted and frightened slave girl in the wilderness sees you and He is not indifferent to your pain. He will come to you. Your parched heart will drink in His tender love and you will find yourself praising the God who comes to our rescue. Find your rest in the watchful care of the One Who sees.