Forever Watching Over Us

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This passage deals with the Hagar, the Egyptian slave woman, of Abram and Sarai. Sarai has been unable up to this point to bear children for Abram, so she suggests that he have relations with Hagar, in the hope that she might “build a family through her.” This practice was not uncommon in ancient times under the given circumstances. As is the case in such matters, when Hagar does conceive, she begins to feel and act superior toward Sarai. This Sarai cannot bear and she complains to Abram, who tells her that Hagar is her servant and she can “Do with her whatever you think best.” (Genesis 16:6) Sarai then mistreats her to the point that Hagar runs away.

Hagar, young and pregnant, finally falls exhausted by a spring in the desert. An angel of the Lord appears to her and says, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Gen. 16: 7) The angel of the Lord tells her to go back to her mistress, Sarai, and submit to her. The angel then promises her that he will increase her descendants. He tells her that she will have a son and that she is to name him Ishmael, which in Hebrew means, “God has heard.” The angel then says of this Ishmael that, “He will be a donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (Gen. 16:12)

Hagar, stunned and awed says: “…You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'” It was believed in ancient times that if one saw God one would die, but there she was, still alive. She does as the angel had told her. She returns to Abram and Sarai and gives birth to a son who Abram gives the name that Hagar was told to give him by the Angel.

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What should we take away from this strange interlude in Genesis? I believe it is in the phrase we are given to reflect upon today, “You are the God who ‘sees’ me.” This is the nut hidden in the shell of this passage. Nothing we have done in the past, nothing we do today, and nothing we will do in the future, is hidden from God’s eyes. He sees all things, the good and the bad. If only we could keep this in mind at all time. Of course, the unspoken idea here is that, if we obey God in all things, if we choose willingly to walk in the ways of the Lord, living in accord with his just commands, we will never have reason to run or hide from him. If we are mature enough to see that God’s ways are the true path toward freedom and happiness, we will always be running toward God openly in all that we say and do. If we are immature and rebel from God, we will always be trying to run away and to hide. And what foolishness is that? We do not want to be like Ismael, our hands against everyone, and everyone’s hands against us. We do not wish to live in hostility toward our brothers and sisters as the angel has prophesied for Ishmael. Rather, we wish to live in the peace and justice that only God can give.

Lord, let us always be aware that you look on us with love at all times. Give us the grace to be awake to this truth in every moment of our days. Let us desire to be in your presence, to gaze at your face at all times and in all things. It is only in this that we know we will find our joy. We humbly pray this in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.