Hagar and the God Who Hears Me
Hagar is once again in the desert, not because she ran away, but because she was sent away. Sarah did not want Hagar’s son, Ishmael, to have any of the inheritance of his father Abraham so she insisted that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away. Hagar had been treated harshly, and now she had been abandoned and exiled. She is again an outsider. She is outside the protection and provision of Abraham. To be outside the protection of the patriarch in this time and culture was almost a sure sentence of death for a woman and child alone.
14 Early in the morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He put them on her shoulders, gave her the child, and sent her away. So she went wandering aimlessly through the wilderness of Beer Sheba. 15 When the water in the skin was gone, she shoved the child under one of the shrubs. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself across from him at quite a distance, about a bowshot away; for she thought, “I refuse to watch the child die.” So she sat across from him and wept uncontrollably.
17 But God heard the boy’s voice. The angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and asked her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid, for God has heard the boy’s voice right where he is crying. Genesis 21:14-17
“So she went wandering aimlessly through the wilderness”. . .
It was scary, empty and desolate in the wilderness. The water given to Hagar by Abraham was soon gone and she had nothing left to offer her son. Have you ever had a time in the dry, emptiness of the “desert”? Have people disappointed, left, shut you out, and pushed you away? You may have disappointed yourself and feel the shame of having nothing left emotionally to offer to your children. This is exactly where Hagar was when she desperately put her son under a shrub, probably to protect Ishmael from predators while they both awaited death to come. Hagar walked away, so that she wouldn’t have to watch her son die or maybe so that he wouldn’t hear her crying. Sitting a “bowshot” away, we see Hagar acting detached having removed herself from her son, maybe because she couldn’t bear the pain of watching him die. Even still, she couldn’t completely go away and abandon him.
It is so, so very hard to hear the gut wrenching pain of your child crying. I have had those times in my life when my children were suffering so horribly and I could do nothing to relieve their pain except be there with them through it. Honestly, it would have been easier to detach and move away where I couldn’t hear their painful cries and see their pain. It is possible to feel such hopelessness that the numbness of survival results in being detached from children, going through the day to day, but with shame and hopelessness, emotionally keeping a distance from those who need more than anything to have a mom that is present and connected to them. Sometimes the hopelessness of the desert can be so desperate, leading to abandonment and leaving children in the foster system or with relatives. Detachment can also come through substance abuse or harmful relationships with men.
But just like with Hagar, God can meet you in the dry, desperate, lonely, painful, numb, waiting for death desert. Fresh grace can change everything.
“But God heard the boy’s voice”
But God heard. The God who sees is also the God who hears. We don’t know if God heard Ishmael crying or praying for rescue, but God heard and He responded, once again, with a question for Hagar. “What is the matter Hagar?” In this simple question, she is given assurance that God has heard the boy’s voice. In God’s perfect time, He fulfilled Ishmael’s name which actually means “God hears”. God heard Ishmael right where he is was, right there abandoned in the wilderness. God hears. God sees. Even in the desert, even under a bush, God heard the boy. No matter where we are coming from or where we are going, God sees, hears and wants to meet us right where we are. The Lord graciously asks Hagar "what is the matter?" and then tells her “Don’t be afraid, for God has heard”.
Today, I pray that you know that the Lord will meet you right where you are saying, “Don’t be afraid. I see you. I hear you. I’m with you. I love you.”