My heart breaks for single mothers. I know many. These young women find themselves feeling blessed and cursed with every breath. They have the responsibility of young children rapidly growing into young men and women and these children do not have the consistent influence of a father. Every day is filled with uncertainty. The reasons are many and guilt and blame have no place in this equation. Life can stink. Life is not fair. But I am thankful God’s Word tells us in Acts 17:24-29 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’[b] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.” In other words, God chooses our family for one very good reason, He KNOWS what it will take to draw us to Himself. He maketh no mistakes! (Job 42:1-3, Isaiah 8-9)
The more I study the life of Hagar (name means flight) the more I realize what a bad rap this woman has received! She is a victim of her circumstances and until recently I missed her obedience to God. Her time out was a lifetime and her reward was she became the mother of a NATION! A nation God continues to use for His own purposes. None of this was of Hagar’s own making but because of the choices made by others that directly affected her life and the life of her child.
Genesis 16 records her story. The details reveal an unfair life. A life of few choices. Look at her life with me. Hagar is a “handmaid.” That is a nice way of saying she was a house slave. She serves Sarai the wife of Abram. She is Sarai’s “beck and call girl.” Her life is not her own.
Hagar is an Egyptian. She is considered a second class slave. She can be “used” for whatever her mistress chooses. Is your skin crawling yet?
Sarai is an old woman and has no children and she has given up on God to give her the desire of her heart. So she comes up with this cocka-maime scheme to use a surrogate. The only problem is they don’t have in vitro fertilization and her husband will have to “know” this surrogate. Ok, any woman who loves her man already knows this is a recipe for disaster. Jealousy is rearing its vengeful head. Of course, her loving husband agrees to this proposition: Sex with a young, firm, beauty and his wife approves. If he had had half a brain he would have adamantly REFUSED! But, oh no, he thinks this is a great idea.
Hagar gets pregnant. Surprise, surprise, surprise! Now, Sarai, her mistress, hates her. Well, of course she does! Hagar is young, beautiful, and is carrying her husband’s child. This disdain for Hagar begins to come out in Sarai’s treatment of Hagar. She is mean to her! And Sarai blames Abraham for her behavior. Of course, Abraham totally abdicates responsibility. He sounds like Adam in the Garden, “the woman made me do it.” (Genesis 3:12) PLEASE! He tells her to “do with this slave whatever you want.” No thought whatsoever is given to the fact that she is pregnant with his child.
Due to Sarai’s harsh treatment, Hagar flees out into the desert. Now, Egyptians are not normally God-worshippers. However, it seems because she has lived in Abraham and Sarai’s home she has learned of the Lord God of Heaven and Earth for He sends an angel to minister to her at the oasis. The angel asks poor Hagar where she plans to go. Her answer is incredibly revealing: she doesn’t have a clue. She only knows she needs to get away from the “wicked witch of the west.”
This is where Hagar gains my utmost respect. What the Lord is going to ask her to do is shocking! The Lord tells Hagar, “go back and SUBMIT yourself to Sarai.” YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING! Go back to where she is being abused at least verbally. Go back and SERVE the witch. Go back and TAKE IT on the chin. Go back to where she is despised. WHY? What good can possibly come from going back? Read what the Lord says to her (Genesis 16:10-12):
And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
God has promised to make her a mother of a multitude. God will give her a son. God Himself has seen and heard her pain. God has revealed to her, her child’s sex, his personality and his future. His ways are sure not my ways. (Isaiah 55:8)
But it is Hagar’s response I love the most and I need to take heed of: “And she called the name of the LORD that spoke to her, “Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?” Hagar reveals part of God’s character in His name El Roi the God who sees.
The Lord of Heaven had seen Hagar and Hagar saw the LORD! The all seeing God had seen this abused slave. (II Chronicles 16:9, Proverbs 15:3). Hagar named the place where she saw God the “well of the Living One who sees me.”
Do we understand God sees us in our affliction? Do we see Him when He meets us where we are? God Almighty came to Hagar at her lowest point in her young life and brought hope, encouragement, and HIS PRESENCE! A “nobody” seen by the omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent ONE. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) This means He will do this for me and for you and for all the single moms we know!
May we cry out, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;” (Psalm 63:1) in our day of trouble. Psalm 68:5-6 reminds us: “A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.6 God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.”
Yes, he sent Hagar back. He put she and her child into a family. She was obedient even in difficult circumstances. Do I know why God chose this route for her? No. But this we learn from Scripture: Ishmael was the only child of Abraham for fourteen years! He had his father’s undivided attention during his most formative years.We fast forward to the year Ishmael’s half brother Isaac is between two and three years old. Ishmael, who is now close to 16, is caught by Sarah making fun of her baby and the mother bear comes out in Sarah. Her opinion of Ishmael has not changed. If anything, there is now more animosity. She wants Hagar and Ishmael sent away. She will have no part of Ishmael trying to share the rightful inheritance of Isaac. The sixteen years Abraham has spent with this child has made Ishmael his son. He loves him and he struggles with what to do.
The God who sees does not miss this situation either. He comes to Abraham and instructs him on how to handle this problem in his home. Abraham will be the father of two nations. He SENDS Hagar and Ishmael away. This is a difficult time for Hagar. Can you imagine what is going through her head? “God you sent me back to put up with Sarah and NOW I am being exiled with a child.” As her provisions are depleted she cries out to God! And the God who sees also hears!
Once more He comes to Hagar and gives her hope, encouragement, and He meets her needs with His provision and His PRESENCE! (Genesis 21:14-19)
The single moms I know will tell you their God sees, hears and meets their every need! He is never late. Checks are in the mail box. A friend will bring clothes. Mother’s Day Out offers a reprieve. A child is given a “stand in” dad or granddad to meet the needs of masculine influence. The Lord who sees. He sees us in our time out! He is with us in our time out. Like Hagar, though you may have been “cast out” you are not alone! Though you may remain single, you are well loved. Though the future is uncertain, of one thing you can be certain of: YOUR GOD SEES YOU!
Father God who sees, I thank you for the life of Hagar who is far from a wicked woman of Scripture but is so like many of us, a victim of circumstances. Thank you for the lessons of her life. Lord, as we face circumstances beyond our control may we remember these situations are not beyond Your seeing. Thank You that “eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Today, we commit our lives to YOU! Amen.
The One Who Sees By Gwen Smith
Dedicated to all the single moms, you have my utmost respect and admiration.