The account of Hagar’s journey, the bondservant of Abraham’s wife Sarah, reveals God’s incredibly personal interest in his suffering children. Furthermore, it shows him as the God who reveals himself and his promises to those who respond to him.
The Lord will never ask us to journey along a road that he himself has not walked
Hagar’s journey commenced when difficulties arose in the house of her mistress. Being barren, Sarah had decided to take matters into her own hands regarding a son and heir for Abraham, and gave him Hagar as a concubine. When Hagar conceived, jealousies and frictions between these two women became rife! Both were to blame; however, Hagar chose to deal with the situation by running away from her harsh mistress, journeying through the wilderness to her native Egypt.
Genesis 16 reveals that God found Hagar – lost and in need of redirection – by a well (Gen. 16:7). The God of Abraham was with her on this desert journey and about to reveal his sensitive nature in a very personal way. With the focused eyes of the tender dove, he saw Hagar’s suffering and need of comfort. Hagar realised that the Lord saw her, and that she had seen him (Gen. 16:13). Though as a woman and a bondservant she was unimportant to the world, she was greatly valued by God.
Significantly, the Lord addressed Hagar not only by name but also by position – Sarah’s handmaid (Gen. 16:8). He saw deep into the heart of Hagar, who needed to face the truth that she was running away from her obligation as a servant. Hagar must dutifully return to Sarah and submit to her rule (v9); she must face suffering with patient endurance, like the Lord Jesus. The Lord will never ask us to journey along a road that he himself has not walked (read Heb. 4:14-16). Each step of the way is masterfully choreographed, his expertise and experience displayed in each perfected move.
The God of Abraham was with her on this desert journey and about to reveal his sensitive nature in a very personal way. With the focused eyes of the tender dove, he saw Hagar’s suffering and need of comfort.
The Lord gave Hagar a difficult command but followed it with a promise: that she would have innumerable descendants through her son. The child she had conceived was to be named Ishmael, which means “the Lord has heard my affliction [emphasis added]”. It is on hearing God’s word that faith is increased! God saw Hagar, heard her and gave promises to her. This triple revelation of his care spurred Hagar on the road to the place where God wanted her to be; the Lord’s words gave her strength to face the return journey and the future.
Elsie Tugwell, The Church of God in Liverpool