08 October 2013

Water in the Desert (Hagar's Story, Day 8)

I hate Hagar's story.

I hate the way a woman suggests that her man try to impregnate another woman.  What's wrong with Sarai/Sarah?  No matter the cultural pressure of having an heir, I cannot put myself in her place.  I cannot understand.

I hate the way a man doesn't say no.  I thought Abram/Abraham, the man of God, would have done better than that, both in faithful love to his wife and trust in God's promise.

I hate the way Hagar just goes along with it.  She's a servant with little or no power in the situation,  but she was my last ditch hope of saving the story.  She didn't, and I realize the guilt can't possibly all hang on her, but she caves in and we're stuck with a dreadful Bible story.

What's more, Hagar lords her pregnancy over Sarai and uses every power play she can against her mistress.  Which makes Sarai mad, which leads her to blame Abram for her own wrong (see Genesis 16:5--that's pretty much what she says).  Abram tells his wife to treat the servant woman however she wants in an attempt to wash his hands of the matter, which gives Sarai the license to abuse the poor maid (who did turn mean but can we blame her?) more.

Which makes Hagar run into the desert.  Away from all those {truly} religious {but oh-so-human} people who messed up her life.

"And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur."  Genesis 16:7

Jesus found her there.  He searched for her, and found her.  To Him, she wasn't just a servant girl to be used and abused, she was His child who He couldn't bear to see lost and alone.  Even though she had let all the abuse of her life pile up inside and come out in hatred toward her mistress.  He still heard her cries.

She still had to go back home, she still had to face things she probably didn't think she could face, but without asking any questions, she obeys.  It's enough for her that God sees.

"And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me; for she said, Have I also here looked after Him that seest me?"  Genesis 16:13

[I don't believe for a second that God sent her back to keep having an adulterous relationship with Abram, but rather His instructions specifically include submitting to Sarai who is legally her boss.  There's no evidence of Hagar and Abram continuing their relationship; we simply know that he provided for her and her son Ishmael.]

But it doesn't end there for Hagar and the desert.  Her son Ishmael unfortunately doesn't treat Isaac very well once he is born into the mix, and Sarah (by this time Abram and Sarai have become Abraham and Sarah) doesn't like it. 

Doesn't it make you wonder what would have happened, what blessing might have come to the world, if Ishmeal had been more like Jonathan, who gave David his total support and friendship even though he knew the kingdom would pass out of his own hands into David's instead?  What unselfish loyalty!  But theirs is a story for another day, and we're left with Ishmael, who apparently had nothing in him of the character of Jonathan.

Abraham sends them away with food and water, his heart breaking at the father-son goodbye yet obedient to the voice of the Lord.  The supplies run out, and Hagar leaves Ishmael so that she will not have to watch him die.  She collapses, weeping.

And Jesus finds her again. There was no desert in Hagar's life, no place so far, so dry, or so barren, that Jesus couldn't find her.

She's out of water, and long before the children of Israel need water in the wilderness, God shows her a well, with more than enough flowing from it to satisfy her needs.

If I remember right, that's the last we ever hear about Hagar:  she's alone again in the wilderness, and the Lord seeks her out and provides for her needs. It's enough to get her going again.  She raises her son in the wilderness, later choosing his wife.

Perhaps, just perhaps, that's not such a bad end, especially for a story that starts out so horribly.  Found of God when she ran away.  Found of God when she was sent away.  Found of God both times when she thought she could go no farther, when she thought she would die, when she thought she had no hope.

If that's where you are--without strength, without hope--look up.  Jesus is there bending over you, offering you a glass of the water of life, just like He did for Hagar.
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  1. I've never thought of this story this way. I'll never look at it the same way again.

  2. Oh I love how God found her each time and provided her needs and guided her. What a great way of looking at this story. Thanks again for a great post- am so loving this series! Lisa :O)

  3. Beautiful post. I've always felt the same way about this story.

  4. "...what blessing might have come to the world, if Ishmeal had been more like Jonathan..." GREAT thought!!

    Also "ran away/sent away"... :)


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