6 But Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she fled from her. 7 The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 8 And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” 9 The angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel of the LORD also said to her, “I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.” …. 13 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.”
El Roi. The God who sees. “The Angel of the Lord found her.” He FOUND her… Friends, not only did he SEE her, as she so beautifully observed when she gave God one of the names by which we still call Him, El Roi, he was looking for her, or you might say pursuing her. Just as God found Adam in the garden, he didn’t just happen upon her in the desert while on his way to do something else. He had seen her affliction, he had seen her fear and desolation, and he had gone after her and, like Adam in the garden, when he found her he asked her for her reasons.
When we read Genesis 3 we often shame our first parents for blame-shifting the responsibility for the events of the fall. While I’m not arguing that this is not a completely human thing to do, listen to how God responds.
12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
13Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this….
16To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe…
17And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree….
Do you notice, friends, that God whose very footsteps they heard as he pursued them in love, came with a gentle question? Considering that humanity had just instantaneously been cast into a state of brokenness which would require a remedy of the most costly variety, God approaches his children so gently.
“8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…”
Wouldn’t you imagine that, had you just broken the brand new perfect world, you would hear the angry, thundering battle ready stomps of God? As a parent I am certainly guilty of making my approach seem a little more dramatic when my child is in the wrong. But here we see God walking in His garden in the cool of the day. And we hear him honoring His image in them as reasonable beings by asking them a question, rather than, being omniscient and knowing their wicked hearts, immediately smiting them. He asked Adam, Eve… Hagar a question and did not shame them for their honest responses.
Furthermore, we don’t hear him mocking their answers as we so often do ourselves when we hear them blame-shifting. He listens to them and believes their words and acts accordingly, in both judgment and mercy. There are consequences for all three of the guilty parties in the garden, for all of us, for the earth itself, for their individual roles in the breaking of his beautiful creation. While God holds Adam especially accountable because of his primary responsibility, He listens to their reasoning and takes each of his children at their word and deals not only with them directly, but also with the one who immediately aided and abetted them. Friends, do you hear the compassion and mercy in that? He’s obviously not saying that because another person was involved the person being questioned has no fault at all, but he does not even question the veracity of the claims of shared responsibility. God knows. He sees the affliction of his children.
He saw the affliction of Hagar. And he blessed her with a child. The blessing didn’t come without consequences and more hardships and sadness down the road, but God did not leave her. He sought her. He saw her. He listened to her. He didn’t shame her for running away. He pursued her because he acknowledged her suffering. And he also told her how he was going to provide for her. I’m sure Sarai would have loved for Hagar to stay away, but God would not allow Sarai off the hook. He was about to bless Sarai with a miracle baby but he wasn’t going to allow her to drive the victim of her abuse away, never to be seen or heard from again. While our actions have consequences, God is determined to bless his creatures. Friends, this is why Isaiah 28:21 refers to his judgment as “his strange work, his alien work.” And it goes on to say,
“28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it, but one does not use horses to grind grain. 29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty, whose plan is wonderful, whose wisdom is magnificent.”
While there is pain in the preparation, the end result is blessing. And blessing is not his “strange work,” it’s his favorite work.
Friends, El Roi, our Jesus, sees. He knows your affliction. He knows you have been wounded. He will not leave the guilty unpunished, nor will he leave any of his own dear children undisciplined.
In Hagar’s case God saw her affliction and provide for her by having her return to a place that was exceedingly difficult. When God saw the affliction of the Israelites in Egypt, he worked to set them free from their abusers and promised to bring them to their own land. But they didn’t get there without further refining trials such that they frequently requested to be returned to their harsh masters.
Whatever your affliction is, friends, if you belong to Jesus he sees you. He pursues you. And he will never leave you. He may call you to further refining, which very often comes by way of suffering, but He will absolutely not leave you or forsake you. Don’t imagine like Hagar that your affliction will define you or determine your future. We have a God who sees and who delights in blessing.