I had planned to talk about Sarah this week. She’s the mother of Israel and probably has more scripture dedicated to her than any other woman in the Bible who wasn’t the mother of Jesus. Also, she and I have the same name, and apparently, she was smoking hot (see Genesis 12 and 20).
For these reasons, I really want to like Sarah. I just have trouble finding much that is redeeming in her story. I tried this time to read it with open eyes and ears, but still nothing. God’s going to have to show me something else about her at a later date if He wants me to talk about that woman. Today is not that day.
What reading Sarah’s story did accomplish, though, was pointing me to another woman of the Bible: Hagar. I’ve always felt so sorry for Hagar. To catch you up, Hagar was Sarah’s servant. When Sarah realized she was barren, she sent Hagar in to sleep with Abraham (Sarah’s husband), so that the family line would be preserved. (This, by the way, is sex trafficking. Just thought I’d point that out.)
Predictably, when Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarah gets jealous and mistreats her servant. In her pain, Hagar runs to the desert where she experiences one of the sweetest interactions with the Lord in all of Scripture. Here is a poor, knocked-up, abused servant girl, lying in the desert, unsure where to go, but thinking anything was better than where she had just been. And the God of all creation – the one who had promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations – speaks to her in that lowest point. He promises that He will bless her son, too, and that she should name him Ishmael, meaning God hears. Then, every time she called her son, she would be reminded that God had heard her and was taking care of and loving her, even when life wasn’t.
Hagar is so moved by this encounter that she also makes up her own name for God, calling him: The One Who Sees Me. It’s with this comforting knowledge of a God who sees and hears that she then goes back to Sarah as a humbled woman who knows that her God is with her, no matter what else may come her way.
Fast forward 14 years, and Sarah finally has a son, Isaac – the son of God’s promise. Again, Sarah does not like the threat posed by Hagar and Ishmael, so she sends them away. In a rather dramatic but obviously desperate moment, Hagar leaves Ishmael alone, walking away from him so that she won’t have to see him die. She has already forgotten the reason she gave her son his name – God hears. She’s already forgotten the name she gave to the Lord – the One who sees me.
But, God is merciful in our forgetfulness. He speaks to Hagar again, reminding her that He still hears, and He has not forgotten His promises to make Ishmael into a great nation. He remains faithful, even if the circumstances have changed.
How many times have I done the same? God shows me His faithfulness in such profound ways, and a few years/months/days/hours later, I’m doubting again, convinced that He’s forgotten about me, He no longer sees or hears, and that surely I will (metaphorically) die in the wilderness. God’s promises might have been true once, but are they still true now, I wonder.
Hagar’s story proves that they are. God is not a man that He should lie (Number 23:19), and all His promises are yes and amen (2 Corinthians 2:10). So, why do we forget and doubt? Who knows. Maybe it’s just human nature. Maybe it’s old age. Regardless, I’m glad that my forgetfulness is not a disqualifier for God’s faithfulness, but that He is patient and kind, even when I question and doubt.
What are some of the promises God has given you that you’re questioning in the “wilderness” of unfulfillment now? As you reflect on those, take another moment to think about the past times when God has seen and heard you and spoken right to your heart. He does not change, so if He was there for you before, He will be again. Cling to that, no matter how desperate the situation seems, and be encouraged by all that God has done in the past, as you seek Him for the future.