Oppressed Yet Blessed
Read Genesis 21:17-18
God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
For context, read Genesis 21:1-21.
Hagar truly endured a difficult life. Previously, God had instructed Hagar to return to Sarah and she gave birth to Ishmael there. But as we find out in Genesis 21, Hagar would be left in the desert again. This time sent away by the father of her child.
It seems that even though Sarah was now a mother herself, jealousy still got the best of her. When she saw Ishmael mocking Isaac, she found the excuse that she had been waiting for. She instructs Abraham to get rid of “that slave woman” because she doesn’t want Isaac to share his inheritance with him. Abraham is very upset at the idea of giving away his own son. But God tells Abraham to do what Sarah says!
It seems strange that God would condone sending a vulnerable woman and child into the hot, unforgiving desert alone. Abraham gave her provisions but those quickly ran out. Hagar put her teenage son under a bush and prepared for him to perish. But once again, God shows up to rescue her. He makes her a promise that sounds very familiar. God made a covenant with Abraham that his offspring would be a great nation that would bless the entire world. We know that Ishmael was not the chosen son of that promise. And yet, God appeared to a homeless, slave woman and told her that her son would also be made into a great nation. Ishmael’s nation was separate and distinct from that of Isaac’s, yet as Abraham’s offspring, he was still blessed by the LORD.
While it seems harsh of God to allow Abraham to send them away, do you realize that in the sending, they were given their freedom? She was no longer a slave. She no longer lived under a woman who treated her with contempt and cruelty. Verse 20 says, “God was with the boy as he grew.” Despite enduring terrible treatment, God never left them and provided for them in a dramatic way--the blessing of an entire nation.
Sisters, sometimes God works in ways that don’t make sense to us. But the WORD about women regarding Hagar reminds us that God often elevates the subordinate. His blessings and promises are not reserved for the socially elite.
And while slavery existed in Biblical cultures, the Bible shows us time and again that God was about setting captives free. The ultimate emancipation would be sending His Son, Jesus, to free us from the slavery of sin and death. A blessing greater than any earthly blessing He could bestow.
What is your reaction to Hagar’s treatment in this passage? What does this passage reveal to you about God?
PrayGod, I thank you that Your promise of freedom from the bondage of sin does not depend on my social status or my worthiness. You have granted me freedom through Jesus Christ. Thank you, Lord, for loving me enough to give me that gift. Amen.