The story of Hagar is found in Genesis 16 and 21.
We have much history together. One would imagine such great people of God would have been good to live with and work for, but it was not the perfect family. And the Bible does not let any secrets untold. Let me tell you a bit of my story; maybe you can learn something from it.
We started on a very long journey. God had appeared to Abraham and said that we were to go toward Canaan; that God was going to give this land to Abraham’s descendents. Abraham did not yet have any children, but God promised him descendents as many as the stars in the sky. Years passed and Abraham and Sarah did not have any children. In time, with Sarah’s age, she suggested that Abraham take me as his concubine and they could have a family through me. This was the social custom of the day. I was not a wife to Abraham. He did not love me, like he did Sarah. We really did not know one another or talk together. My only function was to birth him a son. Today you may say that I was chosen to act as a surrogate.
When I became pregnant it was glorious. I now had something my mistress had longed for desperately. And pride grew in my heart. Now society would look upon me more highly than Sarah. I would not be seen as just a slave wife. Sarah was worthless – she could not give Abraham a son – but I did. I belittled Sarah and she must have complained to Abraham and she began to mistreat me, even abused me … so I ran away.
But an angel of the Lord appeared to me! And he told me to return and to submit to Sarah. And the angel also promised that my descendents would be too numerous to count, just like was told to Abraham! The angel knew I would have a son and told me what to name him, Ishmael, which means God hears. Everytime I called my son or spoke of my son, I would remember that God hears. I would remember that the God of Abraham heard my cries, the cries of an Egyptian, and that he cared enough for me to speak to me, and appear to me.
I was by a well of drinking water when God appeared to me and I named that well so that I and my family and everyone might remember what God did for me. I named it Beer Lahai Roi which means well of the Living One who sees me; for God is the one who sees me and now I had seen the One who sees me. This is the place God made himself known to me.
So I returned and when Abraham was 86 years old, I bore him a son and we named him Ishmael, God hears.
I watched as Ishmael grew so fast. His first tooth. His first step. Soon he was running and playing, embracing life. He was such a joy to me. I couldn’t believe when it was his 13th birthday!
It was then that God once again appeared to Abraham and reminded him of his promise of a son. Abraham was 99 years old then God said that Abraham and Sarah would still have a son! And they did. I could hardly believe my eyes. Sarah, one year younger than Abraham, was way beyond the age of having children. But just as God has said, they had a son and named him Isaac. Kind of a strange name for a child; it means laughter. But I am told it is because both Abraham and Sarah both laughed when God said that were to still have a child in their old age. I guess age doesn’t matter in God’s book.
The ill feelings between Sarah and I and Ishmael grew more and more intense. I told my son Ishmael the story of God’s appearing to me when I was pregnant with him. I knew God was with us. But I guess we were both threatened by the presence of Isaac. I remembered the angel of God saying that Ishmael and his brothers would not get along.
The day that Isaac was weaned Sarah told Abraham to get rid of Ishmael and me. Sarah did not want to share any of Isaac’s inheritance with Ishmael. I felt so used. I believe Sarah saw the mistake she had made.
She never believed that Abraham and she could have a child, even though God promised them. In some ways Sarah was playing God, manipulating circumstances and people to make what God had said happen. But now that Sarah had a son of her own, they had no use for my son. The angel had
told me that everyone would be against my son. It seems everything that the angel of God had told me and told Abraham was coming to pass.
Abraham came to me sorrowful. He loved Ishmael. Ishmael was his son. But he wasn’t Sarah’s son. He wasn’t the son God had promised Abraham and Sarah. And Abraham loved Sarah. He never loved me that way. I was just a slave girl and I even with Abraham’s son, I was still just a slave girl. And so we were sent away.
Abraham saw that we had some food and water as we set off into the desert. But the desert had nothing to offer. Our supplies quickly ran out. I knew we were sent off to our death! We became desperate. When the water was gone, I placed Ishmael under the shade of a bush. And I walked off into the distance and sat down and just bawled. I could not bear watch my son die!
But then, it happened again; an angel of God appeared. He told me not to be afraid that God had heard my boy crying. He told me to lift up my son and take him by the hand and then he made an even bigger promise than before. He said that Ishmael would become a great nation! That was the
same promise God had told Abraham. I didn’t understand these promises. But I did as I was told and as I lifted Ishmael up, amazingly, right there before my eyes I saw a well of water. I gave Ishmael a drink and he was strengthened. God once again heard and saw our condition and provided for us.
I felt like a nobody. Ishmael and I were unwanted by the world, but God wanted us. Our own family rejected us, but God chose us. When we were all alone – we were not alone. When we thrown away, we were tossed right into the arms of a loving, compassionate God. God was more present with us then than any human being could have been. He appeared to us, he spoke to us, he guided us, he provided everything we needed to survive. We would have perished if it were not for God.
And from that day forward, God was always with us. Ishmael thrived in the desert. He grew healthy and strong and he became a master archer. He would proudly bring in meat for us to cook and eat. And he was able to protect us. We were never for want in that desert place. The desert became a place of solace; a place rich with the presence of God; it became a place of belonging. We were surely tossed into the arms of God.
Go forth, knowing that the God who hears you and sees you, goes before you, behind you and beside you. As life tosses you about, be tossed into the arms of God who leads you, sometimes gently pushes you, and who is a loving companion on the journey. Amen.