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  • Heather Bramblett

The God Who Sees and Hears

“In my distress I called to the LORD;

I cried to my God for help.

From His temple He heard my voice;

my cry came before Him, into His ears.”

Psalm 18:6

Does life ever feel hopeless? Do you ever wonder if God knows or even cares what you’re going through? It’s an age-old problem. The devil has always been in the business of trying to convince us that God doesn’t hear us or care about what we’re facing. So maybe we need a fresh look into an old, old story. Let’s take a look at a woman who really needed God to show up in her life, and that’s exactly what happened. That woman was Hagar. We find her story in Genesis chapter 16, alongside Ishmael, Sarai and Abram. (In the next chapter, their names are changed to Sarah and Abraham, so I’m going to go ahead and use those more familiar names.)

When we step into the story, God has already promised Abraham that he will have a son and that his descendants will outnumber the stars. But Abraham is already in his 80’s and his wife, Sarah, is not far behind him, so it seems quite unlikely. Sarah decides it would be best to take matters into their own hands, kinda “help God out,” so she gives her Egyptian slave, Hagar, to Abraham to be his wife and a sort of surrogate mother. Apparently this was common in their day, so I’m sure it seemed to her a logical solution to their problem of childlessness. But it got me thinking, how often do we take matters into our own hands, run ahead of God, and then live to regret it? Many troubles come from an unwillingness to wait patiently on the Lord and His perfect timing. There’s a card on our refrigerator door that says, “We are most likely to sin when we are desperate for what we feel we must have.” I may have put it there to remind me to be careful what I eat, but really it applies to so many areas of our lives, doesn’t it? When we want something really bad, we may try to manipulate our circumstances and rationalize our actions in order to get it. But it usually doesn’t end well. This story is no exception.

“We are most likely to sin when we are desperate for what we feel we must have.”

As soon as Hagar realizes she’s pregnant, verse 4 tells us she begins to despise Sarah. I don’t know exactly what that looked like, but I’m sure it wasn’t good. Then Sarah gets upset and blames Abraham for everything! I gotta feel a little sorry for the man. I mean, he did go along with the idea, but it wasn’t solely his fault. It was Sarah’s idea. And when her plan blows up in her face, rather than take responsibility, she blames Abraham and demands that he do something about it. It makes me think of the Garden of Eden. Eve takes the fruit (or the bait) when the serpent tempts her and she drags Adam into it too. Ladies, do we ever drag others (maybe our husbands) into our sin? Do we ever want something so bad, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it causes other people harm? Do we then try to blame others for our own bad decisions?

Do we ever want something so bad, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even if it causes other people harm?

Sarah’s plan causes Hagar a lot of trouble. She’s a slave. She really doesn’t have a say in the matter. But once the plan is set in motion, Hagar’s response isn’t so great either. She becomes arrogant and despises Sarah. What a mess! Abraham doesn’t know what to do, so he takes the easy way out and dumps the problem back on Sarah! In verse 6, he says, “Do with her whatever you think is best.” Apparently Sarah thought it would be best to make matters even worse, because it says she mistreats Hagar and she runs away. Commentators think Hagar may have been trying to get back to Egypt because she seems to be headed in that direction. However, it’s not likely that a pregnant woman would make it across the desert and all the way to Egypt by herself!

But here’s something that I thought was so cool! Verse 7 says, “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert.” She was running away from her problems, but God went looking for her. It’s nothing but God’s mercy that comes looking for us when we’re running away. What a blessing to be stopped by God before our bad decisions lead to even more bad decisions!

The angel asks her, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She answers the first question honestly, “I’m running away from my mistress Sarah,” but she avoids the second question. Sometimes we know what we’re running from, but don’t really have a plan of what we’re running to. Sometimes our only plan is to run from the trouble. But often we’re just running from one problem to another - from bad to worse!

It’s nothing but God’s mercy that comes looking for us when we’re running away. What a blessing to be stopped by God before our bad decisions lead to even more bad decisions!

I’ve thought long and hard about what Hagar must have felt like through all this. In one way, she’s in this mess because of someone else’s poor decisions. But she isn’t completely innocent either. As much as she’d probably like to blame all this on Sarah, she made her own mistakes as well. But that’s what surprises me about all of this. Even though Hagar was partly to blame, even though she wasn’t part of the plan for the great nation God was raising up, even though she was just a slave, God came looking for her. He pursued her. He didn’t leave her out in the desert to die. He cared about her and He had mercy on her.

The angel tells Hagar to go back to Sarah, to face her problems rather than run from them. Maybe the circumstances weren’t ideal, but surely it would be better to be with God’s chosen people than to be running off in a desert. The angel also promises to make her descendants too numerous to count, and tells her to name her son, Ishmael, which means, God hears, for verse 11 says, “the LORD has heard of your misery.” Isn’t that awesome? God knew what this slave woman was going through and He cared.

As Chapter 16 closes, we see Hagar giving a name to the angel of the LORD who has spoken to her. Many commentators believe this may have been the Lord Jesus Himself. Hagar gives Him this name, “You are the God who sees me.” Isn’t that beautiful? In that moment, Hagar knows that not only does God hear her, but He also sees her. I’m just guessing here, but I think that up to this point, Hagar may have seen herself as an outcast, maybe a victim of circumstances, a forgotten pawn in the cruel game of life. She may have felt that God could never bless her, that good things only came to people like Abraham and Sarah. So she ran away. But God came looking for her. And He’s looking for you too.

God came looking for Hagar, and He’s looking for you too.

You may feel lonely, forgotten, overlooked. People may have hurt you. You may have caused some hurt yourself. Maybe your life is a mess. So was Hagar’s. If you scroll through social media these days, it may seem like everyone’s life is perfect but yours. Their house looks bigger, their job looks better, their ministry looks more successful than yours. Might as well just face it. This is as good as it’s gonna get. God doesn’t care about people like me…

Then God comes looking for you.

He hears you. He sees you. He loves you. He has not forsaken you. And He gave His only Son to prove it. Take heart, my friend, and rest in His truth.

“But You, O God, do see trouble and grief;

You consider it to take it in hand…

You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted;

You encourage them,

And You listen to their cry.”

Psalm 10:14,17

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