by Pastor Ron Thomas
RODGERS BAPTIST CHURCH
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Text: Genesis 16:7-13. "And the angel of the LORD found her (Hagar) by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
8 And He said, Hagar, Sarai's (Sarah's) maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai (Sarah).
9 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
13 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 seeth me?"
Introduction: Children were lined up in the cafeteria of a Catholic elementary school for lunch. At the head of the table, was a large pile of apples. Near the apples, a nun had posted a note reading, "Take only one. God is watching." Moving further along the lunch line, at the other end of the table, was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies. Near the cookies was another note written by one of the students. The note read, "Take all you want. God is watching the apples."
On vacation one year, we visited Leadville, Colorado, an old mining boom town rich with history. This is where the famous gambler Doc Holliday had his final shoot-out. Bat Masterson the famous gunslinger was here, as well as the notorious lawman Wyatt Earp and his four bothers. The famous rags-to-riches story of Horace and Baby Doe Tabor also began here. There in that town, is a historic Catholic church. Fascinated by old buildings and architecture, I decided to enter the Sanctuary and take a look. It was a beautiful structure, however it was filled with icons and idols, which repulsed me. The stain glass windows were equally lovely, but as I looked more closely at them, I noticed an eyeball staring at me. On one of the stained glass window panes, was the "all seeing eye" of God, and it creeped me out! I felt like I was being watched all the time! It didn't take long for me to make my exit!
Is this the picture of God we need in our lives? Does God look for opportunities to catch us breaking His rules, so that He can swat us real hard?
Our church focus is God's Place. The key to giving God His place in our hearts and lives, is knowing who He is and what He is like. One of the ways we can discover this, is to examine His many names recorded in the Bible. In Jewish thought, a name is more than a label to identify a person. A name conveys the nature, essence, and history of the person. This is not that foreign to us today. We often refer to a person's reputation as a "good name." God's character and nature is revealed in His names.
Our text contains yet another name for God. Oddly enough, the name is pronounced by an Egyptian handmaid named Hagar, who was in a difficult situation. Verse 13 of our text reads, "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 seeth me?" The phrase "Thou God seest me," in Hebrew gives us the name "El Roi," which means the God who sees. I have taken liberty to add the word "cares" to this wonderful name for God. Hagar came to know El Roi, as the God who sees and cares. It is one thing to acknowledge a God who sees everything, and another to know that the God who sees us, also cares about us. We must remember that God is love. God's love always seeks it's recipients highest good! What God sees in our lives, ....moves Him to respond in such a way that is ultimately in our best interest!
This name for God is set in an interesting, if not a sordid story involving Abraham, Sarah, and her Egyptian handmaid named Hagar. It's the kind of story you might expect to hear on the Jerry Springer Show. One of the internal evidences that the Bible, though written by men, is inspired by God, is its brutal honesty concerning its most notable personalities. For example, the name Abraham is reverenced today by Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. In Jerusalem, there is a monument to the three great Abrahamic religions. Three tall columns stand together, each with an olive tree growing from their top. Abraham is reverenced as a great man of faith by Christians, Jews, and Muslims. He is called "the friend of God," and yet the Bible also reveals that at times he evidenced little faith as he responded in fear. There are no perfect people in the Bible (or in the world for that matter) save one, the Lord Jesus Christ!
Earlier, God had promised Abraham that He would make of him a great nation, and through his offspring, all the families and nations of the earth would be blessed. There was one problem. His wife Sarah was barren. Of course Abraham and Sarah held out hope that a child would come, but the years passed with no conception, and they were not getting any younger. The pressure to have children was tremendous. At that time and in that culture, children were a sign of blessing. To bear a son was considered an even greater blessing. This whole situation of course, was orchestrated by God as a trial of their faith. God had a purpose for the delay, but Sarah took God's delay as denial.
Taking matters into her own hand, Sarah devises a plan to make it happen. She would give her Egyptian servant Hagar to Abraham to conceive and bare them a child, a son. In that day, it was not uncommon for a desperate housewife to build a family through the use of a maidservant. According to well established law, a barren wife could give her maid to her husband so that she might vicariously bear a child through her. A firstborn son would become the heir, unless the primary wife later bore a son herself. It was an ancient form of Surrogate motherhood.
Abraham went along with Sarah's faithless plan. Soon, the news came that Hagar had conceived a child with Abraham, but the blessing became a curse. The good news quickly became the bad news. Genesis 16:4 tells us that the moment Hagar discovered that she had conceived, she began to lord it over Sarah. Hagar finally had an advantage over her mistress. Filled with pride, Hagar provoked Sarah.
There was an attachment in Hagar's heart to Abraham. In Sarah's mind, it was a matter of "rent a body," but that is not how sexual intimacy works. There is something that happens when a man and woman come together sexually, then and now! This bond caused Hagar to despise Sarah, and of course Sarah returned the favor!
An all out war erupted in this home between the two women, with Abraham trapped in the middle. We can only imagine Abraham's frustration when Sarah tells him in Genesis 16:5, "My wrong be upon thee," or "This is all your fault!" Being a great man of faith and leader, what does Abraham do? He becomes passive. He tells his wife to do as she pleases, after all, Hagar is her property! In the end, neither Sarah or Abraham take responsibility, leaving Hagar alone to bear the blame and suffer the consequences. Love may be stronger than death, but jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Sarah makes life hard for Hagar, so hard in fact, that it causes her to pack her bags and leave. Hagar attempts to escape the mess that has become her life.
Hagar flees into the wilderness, perhaps with the intention of making it to Egypt. Genesis 16:6b says, "And when Sarai (Sarah) dealt hardly (harshly or cruelly) with her, she fled from her face." As Hagar stops by a fountain or spring in Shur, which is on the border of Egypt, she encounters "the angel of the Lord," who asks her where she came from and where she was headed. Who is this "angel of the Lord?" In verse 13, Hagar identifies this stranger as the Lord Himself in human form. Many if not most believe this is a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ! Hagar pours her heart out to this total stranger, and tells Him her sad tale.
The response of the Lord in verse 10 is not what we would expect to hear. Most would anticipate the Lord lovingly telling Hagar, "There now, I understand what those bad people have done to you. You just go on home to Egypt to your mommy, and I will take care of Sarah and Abraham." Instead, the Lord tells Hagar to go back and submit herself to, humble herself before, her mistress, Sarah! By this exchange, it is obvious that the Lord knew all along the identity of this Egyptian maid, as well as her circumstances. The Lord had not forgotten her. He saw it all and knew it all! Returning to face her hard and harsh mistress Sarah was not the easy way out. The Lord was asking Hagar to change her own attitude and actions toward Sarah. She must be willing to take whatever Sarah deals out! Hagar had to swallow her pride and return!
We are all so quick to run from the hardship and pain that results from difficult circumstances and relationships. Sometimes removing ourselves from difficult circumstances and people just might be the best thing to do, but Hagar proves that there are times when God calls us to stay and endure hardships. It is always easier to play the blame game, become an innocent victim in our own eyes, rather than stay in a relationship, face ourselves, change, and trust God to work in the lives of others! Sometimes God puts us on the anvil of hardship and harsh treatment to work out His purpose in our lives. Warren Wiersbe once said, "Life is 10% what we make it, and 90% how we take it."
The "angel of the Lord" goes on to attache a promise and blessing to Hagar's obedience. In verse 10, He makes a promise to Hagar and her seed, that all but rivals the promise made to Abraham! He told Hagar, "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude." A nation will come into existence through this conception! The Lord goes on to tell Hagar the result of her heavenly Sonogram. She will have a son. God tells Hagar to name her son Ishmael, which means God hears. This son however, will have the nature of a wild donkey, living as a nomad and in perpetual conflict with everyone!
God does not always protect us from the consequences of our bad decisions. When we sin, our sin, even sin that is confessed and forgiven, takes on a life of its own. Throw a rock in a pool of water, and the rock disappears, but on the surface of the water is a ring of waves that must ripple out! Moses himself was denied the opportunity to enter the Promised land because of one outburst of anger and pride. King David payed dearly in family strife, for his indiscretion with Bathsheba! Most of the time, God will use the consequences of our sin to humble us, break us, and hopefully change and shape us!
The consequences of this fleshly, unholy union still reverberates throughout the world today. The current Arab Israeli conflict, finds its origin here!
The amazing thing is Hagar's response. Rather than responding to the content of the Lord's revelation about her and her son, Hagar is overwhelmed to learn that God sees, knows, and cares about her! Even though she had to return to her difficult situation, she could find help and healing in the reality that God sees and cares about her!
It is one thing to theoretically believe that God knows about you, sees you, and cares for you, and another thing to be personally aware of God's presence. Think about it. Of the six plus billion people that populate the earth, the Lord, El Roi, sees and cares about you! His eyes see your every move! Psalms 33:13-14 says, "The LORD looketh from heaven; He beholdeth all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His habitation He looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth." Does the reality of a God who sees everything you do bring you comfort? Is it sobering? There are times in our lives when we count on no one seeing, no one watching! There are other times in our lives when we literally cry out for someone to know, someone to see and care.
The name El Roi is not just for Hagar. God is El Roi to each of us today. We all need in our lives a greater awareness of the fact that God sees and cares. It doesn't matter who you are, El Roi sees and cares. How?
El Roi sees all of life's inequities and injustice. While Hagar is not totally innocent or blameless in this situation, it is obvious that she is caught in a scheme that is not of her own making. She is under the authority of Sarah, and gets in trouble for obeying orders! When she looks to Abraham for support, he sells her out!
Life is not fair, or have you noticed? From the cradle to the grave, life is filled with inequities and injustice. We can be confident that as El Roi, God sees everything that is going on in our lives. There is a righteous judge who sees everything! This is why we can give vengeance to the Lord. We do not have to be concerned with getting back at people, getting even, or responding in kind! Notice Romans 12:17-21. "Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good." How wonderful it is to give that heavy burden to El Roi, the God who sees!
El Roi sees our suffering and heartaches. Hagar is brokenhearted. Just reading this passage, we can feel her grief! We can sense her pain and suffering!
As President, Bill Clinton was known for the phrase, "I feel your pain." We are in serious trouble when we cease to be moved by the human pain and suffering that is all around us. This week as my wife and I visited Betty Smith, we were moved by her present condition. As difficult as your situation might be, there is someone around with greater concerns!
El Roi sees our suffering. He feels our heartache. Psalm 56:8-9 says, "Thou tellest my wanderings: put Thou my tears into Thy bottle: are they not in Thy book? 9 When I cry unto Thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me." Hebrews 2 tells us that Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, taking on the form of flesh and blood. Why? So that He might experience life and death as it is for us! By His suffering as a man, Jesus is equipped and qualified to be our understanding, compassionate High Priest! Jesus was victorious in all of His experiences of life and death! Today, we can go to Him in the hour of our greatest need and suffering, knowing that He sees, He knows and understands! We can find help and victory in the time of need!
El Roi sees our sin, our own contribution to our circumstances. While Hagar had in some sense been a victim of a end around God scheme devised by Sarah, Hagar was a willing player. As an Egyptian slave, Hagar was an outsider, a piece of property. As the wife of Abraham and mother of his son, Hagar was presented with a chance to become someone of importance and gain the upper hand. Filled with a sense of pride, Hagar made matters worse by her actions and attitudes toward her mistress Sarah.
Truly, everyone shared in the blame. Sarah was wrong to forge ahead of God with her faithless scheme. Abraham was wrong in his passivity. He should have stood up to his wife and challenged her faith in God's promise!
It is amazing at what we refuse to see or acknowledge in our own lives. We are so quick to see the sins of others, and so slow to see or acknowledge our own. There are sins that we can hide from others, from our spouse, our parents, our friends, our employer, but there is not one sin, not one thought, that can escape the attention of El Roi! Hebrews 4:12-13 reads, "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do."
El Roi sees what is yet to be. El Roi gave Hagar hope of a brighter future!She was a nobody to the world, but a somebody to God!
Just as sure as God saved us, we can know that He has a plan for our lives! El Roi can not only see you now, He can look far ahead into the future, and see what you are yet to become!
One of the more sobering things you can do, is visit a website that charts the population growth on our planet. There are counters that tic the number of births and deaths by the second. Those counters are spinning! Every tic represents a person on this planet with needs, cares, concerns, and complaints.
This morning there are people who are trapped in a wilderness of their own making. They have made choices that have left them all alone in this world. Others are suffering at the hands of cruel individuals, such a negligent parent, an angry spouse, or dictator. Hospital beds are full of adults and children whose bodies are crippled with disease. The abandoned and abused whose wounds are invisible yet real, walk among us everyday. I believe El Roi sees and cares about each one. God so loved this world, that He sent His only begotten Son. Why? So that they would not perish, but would believe in Him and have everlasting life!
What about you this morning? Do you need to know that someone cares? Everyone has this basic need! Are you in need of the comfort that comes by knowing El Roi? Of the 6 billion people on earth, He's looking down at you today. God wants to hear your broken heart, forgive your sin, and change your life! God sees You and God cares!