Friday, March 25, 2011

The God Who Sees Me

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.  


Thursday, March 17, 2011


"What's in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other would smell as sweet."  This line comes from Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet as Juliet tries to downplay the importance of her family name.  Yet we know that as much as she doesn't want it to, her name identifies her as belonging to the family that is the enemy of  Romeo's family.  Names identify who we are.  It is the same with God, He has many names and those names communicate to us that He is everything we need.

One of the names that the Israelites used to identify God was LORD.  You will find this word in the Bible written in all capital letters to signify a difference between the usage of Lord and LORD.  LORD is the Hebrew name for God.  It is often referred to as the personal name of God.  Writing LORD is simply the best way that those translating the Bible to English could come up with to signify the Hebrew name YHWH.  It is often translated Jehovah.  Lord is used to signify a title of respect such as sir or master.  Exodus 3 is where God first reveals His name to the Israelites.  Moses asks God who he is supposed to say sent him.  "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I am has set me to you."  The definition of this name given in Easton's Bible Dictionary is: "the unchanging, eternal, self-existent God, the 'I am that I am,' a covenant-keeping God."  These names LORD and I AM Who I AM are supposed to be interchangeable.

If we go back to the situation in Exodus where the Israelites are enslaved, we begin to understand why this name means so much to them.  They have been in Egypt for hundreds of years and have begun to forget their calling as God's chosen people.  He reveals His true name and nature to remind them what kind of God they serve and to Whom they belong.  The reminder to the Israelites of His name stirs a longing in them to return to their true identity.  They are God's chosen people.

In John Wesley's Notes on the Bible Commentary, he explains this name LORD.  First, this name defines God as self-existent.  He always was and is and always will be.  There is not starting point or ending point for God.  What does that mean for us?  That means that He knows all about what went on before we were born, while we are living, and after we die.

The second meaning of the name I AM WHO I AM is "He is eternal and unchangeable, always the same, yesterday, today, and forever: He will be what He will be, and what He is."  Our world is constantly changing and change seems to be coming at us faster.  Thinking about an unchanging God gives me peace.  Everything around me can be turning upside down, but not God.  He is still the same.  Nothing else in my life may be consistent but He is.  That makes me breathe a big sigh of relief.

The third and final aspect of LORD that Wesley examines is that "He is faithful and true to all His promises, unchangeable in His word as well as in His nature, and not a man that He should lie."  People are fallen and repeatedly make mistakes.  Not God.  This name signifies that.  We can know in our relationship with God that He truly is I AM WHO I AM.  We don't have to second guess His motives or wonder if He will say one thing one day and something different the next.  This wonderful name describes an amazing God who is timeless, unchangeable, and faithful.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Too Busy to Rest

Rest. Relax. Take a day off.  Why does there seem to be little time for this?  We feel so busy, with seemingly less and less time for rest.  Where does that get us?  Are we more productive?  Making more money? Happier? More content?  Rest is imperative.  God gave us an example of rest in the Old Testament and then Jesus was an example of rest in the New Testament.

Rest is a command give by God to the Israelites.  In fact it's one of the original commands.  "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Work six days and do everything you need to do.  For in six days God made Heaven, Earth, and Sea, and everything in them; he rested on the seventh day." (Exodus 20:8-11 MSG)  God created everything and then rested.  When He commands the Israelites to rest, He refers to His own example of rest when He created everything.  I don't think it is because God gets tired.  I think it's because He knew we needed the example of rest.

Jesus made time for his disciples to rest.  "Then because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, He said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.'" (Mark 6:31 MSG)  Jesus knew that as humans we physically and mentally need downtime.

When we are tired we are not on top of our game.  The enemy, Satan, knows that if you are running on empty, you are most vulnerable.  Even Jesus was tempted after fasting in the desert for 40 days.  Satan targets Jesus when he was in a weakened physical state.  If Jesus is susceptible to temptation, how much more will Satan wage war on you during your exhausted, stressed, and busy state?  We are so busy with work, kids, households responsibilities that we run on empty.  Ironically, we often, feel guilty because we are not doing more.  I heard author Beth Moore call it the, "captivity of activity".

How can we implement this practice of rest in our lives?  First, we must reject the lie that we can do it all.  Set aside time with your spouse to determine your family's priorities and decide what activities best fulfill that purpose. 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen Covey can help.

Next focus only on the things that fit your family's purpose.  Don't allow other things distract you from your goal and don't feel guilty about saying no.  Are there lots of good things out there to do?  Yes, but they aren't necessarily for you to do.  Do your children need to be in every activity ever offered to them? Do you need to volunteer in every ministry of the church?  Do you need to do every community service event?  Be discerning, and only do what fits your family purpose.

Finally, set aside purposeful rest time.  Designate time in your schedule to rest.  Tell yourself this time is for enjoying your family, working on a hobby, or spending time with the Lord.  Don't allow guilt to rob you.  Don't spend the time thinking of all the things you need to do.  Clear your mind of those things.

Be still. Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God."  How can you hear what God is trying to say to you if you don't take the time to listen?  Slow down. Allow Him to use this time to refuel you so that you can be even more effective in His kingdom.  We are here to serve Him, not ourselves, and not society.  He loves you. Get some rest.