She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” Genesis 16:13
This passage of scripture is the end of a story about a meeting between God and a woman who is not part of God’s chosen people. The woman’s name is Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. This woman who is a slave is chosen to have an encounter with God. That God chose to reveal himself to a slave woman who is not an Israelite is enough to remind us that we serve a merciful God. Except that there is more. Through this story God reveals another dimension of the type of relationship we can have with Him. Hagar gives a new name to God: El Roi. It is Hebrew for the God who sees.
Hagar is Sarah’s Egyptian maidservant. Sarah is still barren and in an attempt to fix this situation on her own, she tells Abraham to sleep with Hagar so Sarah can have a child. Abraham agrees and Hagar becomes pregnant. Instead of being happy, Sarah is now upset that Hagar is going to have Abraham’s child so she treats Hagar horribly. Hagar runs away.
Let’s view things from Hagar’s eyes. We don’t really know how Hagar came to be a slave of Abraham and Sarah. There is some thought that maybe Hagar was given to them along with other accumulated wealth when they left Egypt. You can read all about the story of Abraham and Sarah in Egypt in Genesis 12. It is specified that Hagar is Egyptian. So she is not part of the Israelites and probably does not believe in the Israelite God. Everything about the Israelites would be strange and unknown to her as far as traditions and customs were concerned. She is taken from her homeland and living with a nomadic tribe. This would be quite an adjustment. It was customary for barren women to give their maidservants to their husbands to conceive an heir. Now to top off everything in her circumstance she is given to Abraham to perform the duty of a wife because Sarah, her master is barren. Hagar does indeed become pregnant with an heir. The relationship between Sarah and Hagar falls apart as Hagar despises Sarah and Sarah mistreats Hagar. We could all see this coming right? There is really nothing good that can come from giving another woman to your husband for the purpose of conceiving a child. In Hagar’s mind she must be superior to Sarah now that she is pregnant with Abraham’s only child. The human reaction would be pride in an accomplishment of achieving something that someone so far above her in station could not achieve. Or perhaps she saw this as a chance to be “promoted.” Often when maidservants were given to the husband for the purpose of having a child, they became the man’s second wife and no longer a slave. That could be considered a promotion and maybe certain advantages would come to her that she did not have before. Despising Sarah is not going to help Hagar in her situation. Sarah is Hagar’s master and can do with her what she wants. It would not be a far stretch to think that Hagar might have feared for her and her unborn child’s life. Running away was a means of survival.
Hagar runs away and stops for a rest near water in the desert and this is where she meets God. God instructs her to return to Sarah and gives her a promise that her descendants will be many. Her response is, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me. “ She returns and has a son named Ishmael.
Isn’t it interesting that Hagar’s response to all that God tells her is, “You are the God who sees me?” Maybe Hagar was finally feeling some validation. She is a real person and not an object to be used and mistreated. A slave girl who has not been noticed by anyone except for what they can get out of her and now God notices her. Somebody who has lived as a nobody for so long is now a somebody to God.
It is the same for you. God notices you. He sees you. When you feel like you are a nobody you are a somebody to God. He sees you. Just like Hagar had a role to play in God’s story and He needed her, you have a role to play in God’s story and he needs and wants you. He sees you.