The God Who Sees
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.”
For context, read all of Genesis 16
When we left Sarai, she was faithfully following her husband’s lead who was faithfully following the LORD’s lead. Despite his sin in failing to trust God for protection and thus placing his own wife in harm’s way, Abram believed God’s promise to make him a great nation with numerous offspring and was obeying the call of the LORD.
But the problem of Sarai’s barrenness remained. So, Sarai endeavored to solve her own problem. Can you relate to that? I know I can. Instead of trusting that God is capable of working out the details of His own covenant, Sarai decided to fall back on a cultural norm of the time. Surrogacy. It was allowed and common at that time for a barren woman to give her maidservant to her husband. In Genesis 16:2, she says, “The LORD has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”
That slave, or “maidservant”, was Hagar. Hagar was from Egypt. It was likely that she was acquired by Abram and Sarai when they were in Egypt during the famine. During that time, slaves were often destitute individuals who sold themselves into slavery. Sadly, it was also not uncommon for poor families to sell their own children into slavery.
Regardless of how Hagar came to be in Sarai’s possession, she was just that. Sarai’s possession. But when Sarai gave her to Abram, she became something else. A wife of a wealthy man and the rival of her mistress. When she became pregnant, she became proud. Her status had changed from being a piece of her mistress’s property to being the wife and mother-to-be of a wealthy patriarch's firstborn!
Unfortunately, this poured salt on the open wound of Sarai’s infertility. Even though this whole thing had been Sarai’s idea, she blamed Abram for it. Abram tells her that Hagar is her slave, she can do whatever she wants with her. So Sarai is harsh, perhaps even abusive to her, until Hagar runs away.
Perhaps, two of the greatest lessons we can learn from this messy situation is that God’s way is best and His timing is perfect. First, God created marriage to be between one man and one woman. While polygamy was common during that time and in that culture, it was not God’s design. As we continue to study the women of the Bible, we will see example after example of polygamy causing major problems for all of those involved.
Second, Abram and Sarai were being asked to wait as God worked on His own timetable to fulfill His promises to them. Because they got impatient, people got hurt. One of those people was Hagar.
But as we will see, God did not abandon her. On the contrary, God appeared to her and spoke directly to her. In verse 7, it says, “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert…” The angel of the LORD appears to be the pre-incarnate Christ in this case. Why? Because He tells her to “return to your mistress and submit to her...I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” If he was just an angelic messenger, he would have likely said, “God will increase your descendants” but he said, “I will”. At the same time, He is referred to as “the angel of the LORD”, not the LORD himself. He is distinct from Yahweh and yet, He speaks as one with Him.
Did you catch what just occurred? An impoverished woman, who was owned by others, who had no civil rights, who was being used by her mistress as a tool to get what she wanted and then abused for succeeding at it, just had an encounter with Jesus. This often gets lost in the story. We have to ask ourselves what it reveals to us about God that an exceptionally underprivileged woman was given such an exceedingly great privilege-to be in the very presence of the pre-incarnate Messiah. Not only that, but she was given her own promise of a great offspring.
In verse 13, Hagar gives the LORD this name-”El Roi”. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” The WORD about women is that God sees us. He notices us and He cares, not just for women, but for anyone who is oppressed. Psalm 146:7 says, “He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets prisoners free.”
PrayLord, You are the God who sees us. Thank you for caring, for noticing, and for working in our lives for our good but for Your purposes. Amen.