Sometimes, it feels like the wilderness is better. But even there, God meets us.
Why I Love Hagar
The passages we’ll be reading from are Genesis 16 and Genesis 21. Central to both of them is the story of a little known lady named Hagar. I just absolutely love her and her character. I just feel that I (a man) can identify with her. I don’t identify with her because I know exactly what she’s going through. I’ve never been forced to be pregnant against my wishes (although I think it was more acceptable in the culture of that time). I’ve never carried a baby in my belly for 9 months and never will (except by proxy) :-).
I identify with Hagar because I often end up where she consistently ends up: in the desert. There are many ways to end up in the desert. There are many ways to wander and find yourself in a place where all around you is dust and there is no water and the land is barren of hope for miles and miles. And even should you see hope, an oasis in the wilderness, will it be real or will it be a mirage? And even if it is real (if I can make it there), how long will the oasis last before it runs out and I, like the water, have to run away again.
Hagar’s situation was a complicated one like ours often are. She was wronged and she did wrong. It was not fair and it was fair. But her outcome is the same. She is in the desert. All is lost and hopeless. What is she to do? What am I to do? And in the answer to this question, I discover why I really love Hagar. She shows me that the Presence of the Lord is better than any water I find in the desert. I love her because through her, I see that not only is the Lord Just and Merciful, He pursues me to shower me with this great justice and mercy. He, Almighty and Holy, woos me with mercy and favor to bring me to repentance. Even when I have despaired and given up, He does not hide His Face. When I am at the point of death so that, like Hagar, I have hidden my face from those in need, even then, He does not hide His Face. And for this reason, I always see Him for He is the God who sees me.
Better Is The Desert
As with a lot of the Old Testament stories, the story does not really begin until you get to the middle. (Pssst, you’ll learn this if you follow the lessons). The key to understanding Genesis 16 is in the middle of the chapter which incidentally has 16 verses. Let us begin then at
Now think how miserable her life must have been to consider that an unreliable spring was better than her suffering at the hands of Sarah. Before we move back in the story, let us draw near to Hagar and have a look at her. Have you ever seen yourself in her? Have you ever been some place where you know that escaping will probably eventually kill you and even still this potential death is better than the death it feels like you’re dying? Maybe its an abusive husband whom you could leave but would now have to find a way to feed yourself and your children. Maybe its a job situation that literally choking the dream from your life and all the life from your dreams. Sure you could leave this job but how would you pay rent, loans, credit cards and so on and so on. Maybe you sinned, did wrong and now you’re paying for it physically, emotionally and spiritually. The guilt is eating you up and sucking you dry. You know you shouldn’t leave because that would only add more guilt but you can’t take this feeling of worthlessness that you feel or are made to feel every day.
Maybe it hasn’t been anything as dramatic as the above. You’ve just kinda found yourself adrift in life and wandering from the Lord. You’re not in love with the Lord. Instead, you’ve found yourself drinking from the unreliable spring of being a “good enough” person. Slowly but surely, you have fled from your Lord and Master so that it is from far away that you hear His voice in