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!

Transcendent Thoughts of a Teenage Girl

Scripture Text: Luke 1.46-47

Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…!” 

verses 46-47, English Standard Version

These words of a teenaged young woman echo in my mind as I write. Contrary to their common portrayal in our culture, adolescents are capable of serious thought, and all the more so one with a contemplative nature like this girl. How interesting would be a conversation with her, were she to open her thoughts to you! We might say that is exactly what she does in the words of a beautiful song composed as she travels to her relative’s home. 

Mary is a contemplative person, but she is not turned inward as is the bent in our “iWorld.” She speaks of herself, but that self gazes outward. Nor are we to imagine that she thinks of “my soul” as we are prone to, as a separate entity from our minds or bodies. Given her thoroughly Hebraic and Scriptural viewpoint, she would have seen “my soul” as encompassing all of her being. In fact, that is probably why she uses “my soul” as the subject here instead of the simpler “I.” It is as a whole, integrated being that she speaks, entering fully and completely into “magnifying” and “rejoicing in” her God. This is no detached, superficial act, but a deeply personal exercise, as is intimated by the parallel subject “my spirit” in the second line of her song. 

That exercise is a magnifying in the sense of enlarging her own concept of the Lord, her divine Master. If God truly exists, Mary knows, our ideas of him must continually grow, not in the sense that they broaden to an ultimate fuzziness, but in the sense that they become more clear, more informed by the reality of who he is rather than our own predilections. Human philosophies tend to make God appear less and less so that he becomes quite manageable; Mary’s thinking makes him appear greater and greater, so awe-inspiring as to provoke a fear of this One so unlike her. This is a God deserving of worship with her whole being - body, mind, and spirit.

Yet this ever more awe-filled understanding of her Lord and God naturally, though perhaps paradoxically, leads Mary to a profound rejoicing. This is because her clearer view of who he is, as she unfolds that reality in the rest of her psalm, reveals him to be the One who is not only the infinite Other, whose essence is holiness, but he is also the One who comes as her Savior, the One who saves her from the ultimate futility of human existence in a world of hunger, suffering, and death. 

    What a transcendent thought for a teenaged young woman, and of course the irony added to this truth is that as she speaks these words of worship and rejoicing she carries within her body the Christ! God unites himself to humanity in the flesh of her womb, and she realizes that he has condescended to such an act in order that he might raise her up from sin and death to eternal life. May her faith be ours in this season of Christmas!