Genesis 16 is often a forgotten story. Sarah has not borne any children for Abraham and so she suggests an alternative strategy. She suggests giving Hagar, her maidservant to Abraham, and to obtain children through her. Even though this was a common practice at the time, it still seems interesting that Abraham did not argue but agreed quickly. When Hagar becomes pregnant she starts to resent Sarah. Sarah, upset with the way Hagar is treating her kicks her out and sends her away. Hagar is thus sent out into the wilderness to fend for herself. She eventually returns home and Ishmael is raised with Abraham until a later time when he is sent away again.
Often the story is forgotten past this point. We remember Hagar and that she bore Ishmael. We remember that she was sent away and we remember that Isaac was eventually born to Abraham and Sarah and became the child of promise. But what about the rest of chapter 16, what about the story of Hagar?
Hagar fled into the wilderness, fleeing from Sarah and the treatment she was receiving. An Angel of the Lord finds her in the desert and tells her to return home and that God will take care of her. While making this statement he also tells Hagar that she will bear a Son and that she should name him Ishmael which means God hears. After receiving this vision Hagar returns home, but before doing so she names God, the God who sees me. Hagar, an Egyptian maidservant, is the first one in the Bible to name God.
In this short account, which is often forgotten, God is named in two ways. First he is the God who hears me and next he is the God who sees me. Hagar is a minor character in the overall story of scripture. A female servant who has no rights and no privileges, who in many ways is forgotten and neglected, in this story is seen and heard by God. And she becomes the first to name God.
We often know that God sees and hears important people. It’s often easy to recognize how God is watching over others, how he is blessing their lives. And yet it seems so difficult to see the same blessings in our own lives. We pray and pray wondering if God will ever hear us, if God even cares. And yet one of the first stories in the Bible is about a person whom society would say does not need to be recognized and does not deserve watch and care but who God sees and hears. The overall story of scripture will not go through Hagar’s line and yet God still watches over her and cares for her. God still sees her and hears her.
Yahweh God is a God who sees and hears. He hears our cries for mercy, for relief, for deliverance. He sees our distressing moments, our moments of grief and pain and misery. He watches over our coming and our going, nothing is beyond his reach. Do not fear, do not lose hope. It may feel like you are alone, like you have fled into the desert and no one cares. But rest assured, the same God who saw Hagar in the wilderness sees you. The same God who heard Hagar’s cries hears you. And even though it appears nothing good will come of the situation, God can redeem any moment, any experience. Rest assured, you are not alone.