On Tuesday in Woman’s Bible Study, I taught about Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. As you know, Abraham and Sarah’s lives are detailed in the pages of scripture. Hagar, however, is just a blip on the radar screen of their lives. Yet her inclusion in scriptures points us to an aspect of God’s character that is truly wonderful. Our God is a God of mercy!
Before continuing please read the following passages: Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:1-21. Here is a concise recap of Hagar’s story: God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations but ten years later the promise had not been fulfilled. Sarah convinces Abraham to take Hagar as his wife so that they could have a child, using Hagar as a surrogate. After Hagar becomes pregnant, her relationship with Sarah rapidly deteriorates. As a result, Hagar flees to the desert where she is met by the Lord where He tells Hagar to return to Abraham and Sarah, which she does. Hagar and Abraham’s son is born a short time later and he is named Ishmael as The Angel directed. Ten years later God appears to Abraham again and promises that he and Sarah will have a child of their own in one year. After their son Isaac is born Sarah sees Ishmael taunting Isaac. She demands that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out. This command is confirmed by God to Abraham. As Hagar and Ishmael are wandering hopelessly in the desert, near death, The Angel of the Lord once again appears to Hagar.
Because God is merciful, He will meet us where we are.
Hagar’s circumstances were beyond her control. She was a slave with no rights of her own, no freewill. She was someone else’s property. She had no choice but to obey Sarah and Abraham’s wishes. We might find ourselves in negative circumstances that were not our doing. Like Hagar, we may make choices that cause the situation to become worse but God’s mercy is bigger. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar and interrupted her flight as she was running away from her problem. God may allow us to wander in the desert as well, to come to a place where we are at the end of our own resources. When we come to this place then we are ready to meet with God, listen to Him, and obey what He says.
Because God is merciful, He asks us questions.
Although God knew her answers, He takes the time to ask Hagar some questions. He wants her to consider what she is doing and why. The angel didn’t accuse her. He asked her with kindness. In Genesis God appeared to Adam & Eve after they ate the fruit. He asked them questions, not for His sake but for theirs. God does this with us as well. He does not see us through the eyes of condemnation to place blame on us or put us on the defensive but because of His love and his mercy. When God asks us a question we have to articulate an answer. By putting words to our thoughts it helps us see things more clearly. God wants us to consider the choices we are making and the paths we are taking. When we see our situation more clearly, through His eyes, we are in a better place to take direction from Him.
Because God is merciful, He Sees Us & He Hears Us.
Throughout God’s Word there are numerous examples of people calling out to God and God answering. There is something really special about both of Hagar’s encounters with God. She never called to Him; in fact it doesn’t even seem that she was seeking Him. It says in Isaiah 65:1, “ I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me; I was found by those who did not seek me.” This is exactly what happened with Hagar. In Genesis 16:7a it says “and the angel of the LORD found her“. He told Hagar to name her unborn son Ishmael which means ‘God has heard of your misery’. “You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry,” (Psalm 19:17).
In Genesis 16:13 God says “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.” Can you really imagine what this must have been like for her? Hagar wasn’t anyone special, in a situation she did not choose for herself, the victim of someone else’s choices, mistreated, abused, not one single resource of her own. She spoke to and was known by the God who created the universe. He saw her tears, her pain, her aloneness. In the same way God sees us and He hears us.
Because God is merciful, He can’t help not being who He is.
In the very beginning of the passage we are told Hagar was a foreigner and a slave. We also know that she was contemptuous of Sarah, disobeyed her, and ran away. Yet God appeared to her, rescued her, and greatly blessed her. God’s mercy wasn’t something that she earned because of good behavior. His mercy was not about who she was or what she had done or didn’t do. Mercy flowed from the very character of who God is. “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all .” Romans 11:3. That is the heart of our God.
I am encouraging you, if you are in a place of pain where you think no one sees, no one understands, and no one cares, that is a lie from Satan. As Hagar was suffering she had no idea that He was watching and that He had compassion on her until He appeared to her later. Yet He was there every step of the way.
We have something that Hagar did not. We know that we have an intimate relationship with God if we can call Jesus our Lord and our Savior. His Word to us is easily accessible. We don’t have to wait for Him to appear to us to display His mercy. As God was merciful to Hagar, we can know through the authority of His word that He is and will be merciful to us too.
"The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works" Psalm 145:9