“The angel of the LORD found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness, along the road to Shur. The angel said to her, “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.
The angel of the LORD said to her “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.”
Then he added, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.”
This chapter of Genesis 16 reveals some serious family dysfunction in the home of Abraham. Rather than waiting on God’s promise of an heir in God’s timing, Sarai had decided to take matters into her own hands by giving her maid Hagar to Abraham to be his second wife. But when Hagar actually had the nerve to fulfill Sarai’s plan by getting pregnant, things got ugly. Jealousy and resentment boiled over into disdain on Hagar’s part and abusive behavior on Sarai’s part, leading to Hagar’s decision to run away. This is where we pick up the narrative, with Hagar alone in the wilderness beside a spring of water…when the Angel of the Lord comes to her.
First of all, it’s helpful to know that whenever we see the “Angel of the Lord” in Scripture, most commentators believe that it is a theophany, or a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. In this instance, for example, Hagar certainly has no doubt that she has seen God Himself (“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.” Gen. 16:13).
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant…”
Those few words alone are amazing. Jesus Himself comes to her—a lowly slave, in the middle of a desert, a pinprick on this vast planet Earth. Yet Jesus knows exactly where she is and who she is, and comes to her with skin on…in a form that can be physically seen. Her name is the first word He speaks, and how beautiful it must have sounded on His lips.
Isn’t it wonderful to hear your name spoken by someone who loves you?
He also identifies her as “Sarai’s servant.” He not only knows her name; He also knows her lot in life. He uses the title that has long been the source of her misery, and which she has run from. In using that title, Jesus is saying to her, “I not only see where you are now, but I see where you have been. I see what you have suffered.” And yet, while acknowledging the role that has caused her pain, He does not release her from it. He uses “Sarai’s servant” as her present title, not her past life, and He sends her back to the place that was so grievous to her.
While there is no doubt Hagar had been both used and abused, it is also clear that her defense mechanisms of pride and disdain only added fuel to Sarai’s fire. But now she has had an encounter with God Himself. What could be more humbling and chastening? What could be more life-giving and affirming? God, the Maker of heaven and earth, has spoken her own name with love and intimacy, and has sent her back. Not only that, but He has given her hope through His words, “I will give you more descendants than you can count.” I imagine that she returned totally transformed, heart singing, able to bear up under any trial now that she has experienced a God who knows her completely, and Who has a purpose for her life.
And that has really encouraged me today as I sit here on my sofa, a mere pinprick on the vast planet Earth. Jesus knows me, and calls me by name, and sends me out to keep fulfilling my calling. He does the same for you. What more do we need?
Each ounce of matter belongs to God and is to find in God its fulfillment.
Each instant of time is God’s time and is to fulfill itself as God’s eternity.
Nothing is “neutral.”
For the Holy Spirit, as a ray of light, as a smile of joy, has ‘touched’ all things, all time—
revealing all of them as precious stones of a precious temple.
--Alexander Schmemann in “For the Life of the World”