Updated: Jan 28
*In the 16th chapter of the book of Genesis, Abraham and Sarah are referred to as Abram and Sarai, but their names change after God reaffirms his covenant. For this blog, I will refer to Abram and Sarai as Abraham and Sarah, except for scriptural references. There are other scriptural references for Hagar, but for this blog, I am using Genesis 16:1-16.
1 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar;
2 so she said to Abram, "The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her." Abram agreed to what Sarai said.
3 So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.
4 He slept with Hagar, and she conceived. When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress.
5 Then Sarai said to Abram, "You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me."
6 "Your slave is in your hands," Abram said. "Do with her whatever you think best." Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.
7 The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur.
8 And he said, "Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered.
9 Then the angel of the Lord told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her."
10 The angel added, "I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count."
11 The angel of the Lord also said to her: "You are now pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers."
13 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."
14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.
16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
This blog is very important to me. In contrast to my usual style, I have decided to use my own experience as a sort of segue into the biblical story of Hagar. The Bible is generally viewed as a holy book with unattainable laws and rules, and it is indeed sacred. However, it's really about a relationship between a loving God and humanity. You will be pleasantly surprised to discover that the Word of God is full of examples of human frailties encountering an all-knowing and loving God who is familiar with all our ways. If you look a little closer, maybe you'll find yourself in the scriptures, as I did. Although this blog speaks mainly about the Christian faith, it can inspire people of all faiths. I pray that this blog will bring you comfort, healing, and a renewed faith in the ever-present God.
A few months ago, I felt like I was in a spiritual desert. Things weren't going as planned, and I felt like God wasn't answering my prayers. It was a frustrating experience. My prayers became questions instead of conversations. You know you're in a spiritual desert when your communication goes from adoration and thankfulness to a barrage of questions. Well, to be honest, I was actually complaining! I was asking God, "When will I see the answers to my prayers? Where are you? I've been praying, fasting, and crying out to you. Do you see my tears? God, do you hear me? Do you see me? God, I need you!"
While listening to a sermon at a virtual New Year's Eve watch night service, I felt compelled to reacquaint myself with God. Even though I have a relationship with God, I was pretty discouraged at the time. I'm not even sure why I was so frustrated. After spending so many years experiencing God's faithfulness, hearing God's voice, and following God's leadings, I found myself in a dry place, a desert. I couldn't hear anything from God, and that frightened me. To be clear, I wasn't serving the Lord for material gain. That was never the issue. I was frustrated because things were not going as I had anticipated. After hearing that sermon at the watch night service, I developed a renewed interest in reading the Bible from Genesis to the book of Revelation.
Before my journey through the book of Genesis, I called a prayer ministry and asked them to pray with me. Sure, I could have asked people I knew to pray with me, but I didn't trust them with what I was going through. There were no major issues going on in my life at the time. I just felt that I needed to release some things. The safe space I had so freely given to others wasn't available for me. When I called for prayer, the intercessor on the other end of the line did not judge or condemn me. She listened to my request and simply said, "Let us pray." We both prayed, and it was done! I felt God's presence when we prayed. I felt myself being released from whatever had been weighing me down. After the call, I broke down in tears. My spirit broke like a dam, and everything I was holding in poured out. Finally, I was free from all of the things that were weighing me down.
It never occurred to me that I was carrying a burden. I could not explain my feelings since I did not understand what was wrong. However, the scripture says in reference to Jesus - We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin (Hebrews 4:15 MSG). Even though I couldn't give voice to what I was feeling, God heard my heart crying out. God saw my tears. God heard me, healed me, and set me free. When I began reading the book of Genesis, particularly the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar, I felt as if I was reading it from a whole new perspective. Although I have read Genesis before, this time, it felt different. My heart was open. I was able to hear God clearly. It was like something clicked. I found myself in the scriptures through the story of Hagar.
I have read the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar many times, but I have never looked at it from Hagar's perspective. Hagar was Sarah's Egyptian slave and her servant. The name 'Hagar' means emigration, wandering, and flight. The scriptures do not provide much information about Hagar's background other than she was an Egyptian. The appearance of Hagar in Genesis was so short-lived that I didn't pay much attention to her. This is partly because I never read that she expressed an opinion or shared her feelings. Hagar was "on mute," so to speak, holding things in, just as I had done. She is referred to as an enslaved person, which implies that she was subject to the will of her master. Hagar first appears in Genesis 16:1-16 (NIV) when Sarah is faced with a dilemma.
Due to Sarah's age, she felt she was too old to have a child. So she suggested that Abraham go in unto her slave Hagar to conceive a child and build a family through her. In those days, it was common for another woman to give birth to a child for a woman who was barren. However, Sarah made this decision irrespective of Hagar's feelings. After all, Hagar was a slave. There are no indications in the scriptures regarding Hagar's feelings about this situation. Abraham had no reservations about his wife's request, despite God's promise that his seed would exceed the stars. So, Abraham slept with Hagar, and she conceived. Overnight, Hagar's status changed from a slave to a wife and mother. Hagar found herself in a precarious situation.
After Hagar becomes pregnant, she begins to despise Sarah. To despise someone means to harbor a deep hatred towards them. However, the scripture still doesn't indicate whether she expressed those feelings. We can only assume that Hagar carried those feelings inside. It is possible that Hagar became emboldened after giving birth to Abraham's son. She may have felt that she was equal with Sarah after becoming Abraham's wife. Sarah notices Hagar's behavior. This is the only time Sarah acknowledged that Hagar had feelings. Sarah only became aware of Hagar's feelings when it adversely affected her well-being. Abraham didn't respect Hagar either. Even though Hagar was now his wife, he still referred to her as Sarah's slave.
Despite using Hagar's body as a surrogate for the promise of God, Abraham and Sarah still saw her as a slave and treated her as such. Sarah also mistreated Hagar because she felt threatened by her. As a result, Hagar flees from Sarah's presence. Note that the scripture does not say Hagar casually walked away. Instead, it says that Hagar fled from Sarah's presence. To flee means to run away from a place of danger. The harsh treatment Hagar received from Sarah is barely mentioned, but it was severe enough to cause Hagar to flee even while pregnant. Unfortunately, both Sarah and Abraham allowed their privilege and class to mask their own contributions to Hagar's current situation. In their eyes, they did not see Hagar as a person. To them, she was only a commodity.
Hagar was traumatized by this whole ordeal, but never said a word. I can imagine Hagar just walking around thinking about everything that happened to her. Who could she talk to about her pain? Who would hear the concerns of a slave? There was no one she could turn to, so she kept her feelings to herself and fled. Clearly, Sarah treated Hagar harshly, but we do not know what she did to her. What we do know is that Hagar is hurting, and she needs help.
Hagar was not only carrying a baby when she fled to the desert. She was also carrying a burden. All of the pain she endured was too much for her to bear. Hagar was going through a terrible time. When she fled from Sarah, she had no idea where she was going. She eventually ended up in the desert, where she had no one to rely on but God. One might think that all was lost, but God loved Hagar. While she was in the desert, an angel of the Lord found her.
If you're in a physical desert, the first thing you will be looking for is water. When Hagar came to the desert, she rested near a spring, which is ironic because water represents cleansing and eternal life. Although Hagar was experiencing a "desert moment" in her life, she was led to rest by a physical spring of water. So even in our desert moments, God is still leading us back to the living water. For in Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28 NIV). I just love how God sets things up!
As Hagar rested near a spring, the angel of the Lord spoke to her and asked, "Hagar, slave of Sarai (Sarah), where have you come from, and where are you going?" Hagar answered, giving voice to her pain, "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai." Hagar finally releases everything in the desert. I can imagine that Hagar felt a sense of relief. Though she was silent in the house of Abraham and Sarah, her inner cries reached the heart of God. She was told by the angel of the Lord to return to her mistress. I am sure Hagar was puzzled when she heard these instructions. Why would she go back to a mistress who mistreated her? She continues listening to the angel of the Lord, who reveals that God has a plan for her and her son. It was also revealed that her son would be called Ishmael, whose name means God hearkened. The angel of the Lord said to Hagar, "The Lord has heard of your misery."
She was touched by the knowledge that God knew everything she was going through, even though it seemed like He wasn't there. It moved her to the point that she gave a name to the Lord who spoke to her. She said, "You are the God who sees me." Even though Hagar was told to return to her mistress, she returned with the Word of God she had received in the desert. This Word gave her the strength to continue on and was an anchor for her soul. Hagar had an assurance that God would never leave her alone.
Hagar's story reminds us that God sees us. God heard, saw, and felt everything Hagar was going through. There's no such thing as a blind spot with God. Hagar had no idea that God was directing her steps even as she wandered in the desert. In my own spiritual desert, God was also guiding my steps. The call for prayer, and the renewed interest in reading the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, ultimately led me to Genesis 16:13. Let Hagar's story serve as a reminder that even during your "desert moments", God sees you!