A Fugitive Slave and a Seeking God

Genesis 16

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.”

verse 13, English Standard Version

There is hardly a more unlikely encounter in Scripture. An Egyptian female slave, pregnant by her master is fleeing from the harsh treatment of her mistress. Alone and exhausted, the fugitive interrupts her flight through the wilderness to get water from a spring. To her surprise, a mysterious stranger discovers her and calls her by name. “Where have you come from and where are you going?” he says. In truth, the frightened escapee has no place to go, but she knows from what she flees: the frowning face of her abuser. With an unquestionable tone of authority, the stranger commands: “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” But he has more to say–words unbelievable for an abused maidservant: “You will bear a son whom you will call God hears, for the LORD has heard your pain. I will give you countless children from this son, who will be a warrior chieftain.” With amazement, the fugitive slave gives the LORD a new name: the God who sees

Why does the LORD, the awe-inspiring God who cut a covenant with Abram in the preceding chapter, deign to appear in this remarkable manner to the lowliest of persons? In her world, Hagar is as the very bottom of the social structure: a woman, a foreigner, a slave. She possesses no rights; in fact, she herself is a mere possession of others, a piece of property. From a human standpoint, she is among those least worthy of a special, personal revelation from the LORD. Yet, as one student of Scripture has put it, this “is just like Jesus!” Centuries later, this LORD incarnated would allow his feet to be kissed and bathed in tears by “the sort of woman” whom others thought a rabbi should even not allow to touch him. It is surely grace, and only grace, that moves God to see Hagar and hear her affliction. 

It is this same God of grace whom we see and hear in the gospel of Jesus Christ today. Before we had a thought of him, he thought of us in eternity and planned for our rescue. Before we looked for him, he saw us, lost in our sin, with no one to whom to turn for salvation. Before we cried out to him, he had heard our pain and spoken to us in the person of his only Son. Even the lowliest of us who have placed our faith in Christ–disdained by others and distressed by our sin–can be confident that the God who sees is ever with us. 

Do you find yourself alone like Hagar, estranged from others as a result of their sin or your own? Are you on the run–spiritually, if not physically–from a painful situation? Does this time in your life feel like a wilderness experience, leaving you thirsty for something more than water? Are you blessed to be on the other side of such an experience, awesomely grateful for the God who sees you? Rejoice today that the LORD is every day discovering sinners in need and extending to them his grace, and respond to his grace with gratitude and obedience!