Reader: “The moment you began praying,”
Response: “a command was given.”
Scripture: Genesis 16:7-15
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.”
And the angel also said, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar gave Abram a son, and Abram named him Ishmael.
Reader: “This is the word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
This portion of Scripture is interesting and fascinating when we go a little below the surface. Hagar, you’ll recall, was the servant of Sarai, Abram’s wife. You know the story. Sarai was unable to have children so she suggested, as was the custom in such situations, that she have children through her servant girl. At this point in the story, Hagar is pregnant by Abram and has become very arrogant and disrespectful toward Sarai. In response, Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so harshly that she ran away. Then the above passage occurs.
The opening phrase, “the angel of the Lord,” was the Lord himself, a theophany or a manifestation of God speaking with the authority of God. (There are several such occurrences in the Old Testament. E.g. Gen.21:17; Ex.3:2; Judg.6:11) The words from the angel (Lord) told Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to her authority with the promise that she would have many, many descendents. This is the same promise given to Abram.
The next sentence has an interesting parallel in the New Testament. Do these words ring a bell? “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him . . .” and then a description of what he will do and be. Right! Those words are remarkably similar to the words of Gabriel in announcing to Mary the birth of Jesus. (Lk. 1:31-32)
The name given Hagar’s son was Ishmael meaning “God hears.” Then come the words describing the nature of Ishmael which has sadly proven to be true through the centuries. Hagar was an Egyptian and Ishmael married an Egyptian. True to the prophetic word, Ismael raised up a wild and hostile nation living in the desert with continual warring with all his relatives, including the offspring of Isaac, the nation of Israel. Even after the death of Ishmael, his descendents continue to fight among themselves (Gen.25:18). (The Muslim world traces its roots to Ishmael and Abraham.)
After this encounter, Hagar referred to the Lord with the name of “The God who sees me” and named the well where this encounter occurred “Beer-lahai-roi” which means “well of the Living One who sees me.” So once again, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with Lent?” 1) God has a master plan of redemption that is not tied to days, months, or years. Abram and Sarai’s interpretation was tied to earthly time. “We’ve waited on God eleven years, now we need to move ahead.” Bad idea. Ishmael and 4,000 years of Arab/Israeli conflict! 2) We have a God who hears and sees into the details of your life right now. 3) It is best not to improvise on God’s design for your life. It doesn’t work out so well! 4) Hagar encountered the Lord when she submitted and returned to her mistress. 5) There was Hagar’s confrontation with reality in her comment, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” It is essential that we are honest in our dealings with the Lord and not pretend we encounter him or our image of him. The Lenten season is about repenting and reflecting on the Lord with complete transparency.
Music: “The God of Abraham Praise” Grace Community Church Congregation
Gracious and compassionate Father, we confess that too often we have been impatient and acted in frustration rather than waiting for you. We have not heeded David’s words of “Let all that I am wait quietly before God.” (Ps.62:5) And in moving ahead of you, we have messed things up. I’m afraid we haven’t actually believed you see and hear in earthly time. Too often we just say words, wait a while and then go ahead and do what we think best and assume that’s what you have in mind. Good Lord, help us to slow down! Help us to submit to you, to lay aside our urgency, our impatience, our twitchiness to do something, anything. May we learn to be quiet, hold still, and wait. It is one of the godly qualities in all of Scripture. Every single “great” of the Bible had long periods of waiting for you. The impatient ones were always in trouble. Lord Jesus, give me the grace to wait that I might truly encounter your life-giving Spirit. This I pray in the name of Jesus, who with you and the Holy Spirit is one God, world without end. Amen.