January 27, 2013

I still like desert stories.

 

I study God's word through an international organization called  Bible Study Fellowship, of which there are a few groups here in Atlanta. We're working through Genesis this year, hence the Abraham/Sarah post earlier.

The Bible scene is set: the important-name characters are doin' their thing, walking through their faith, and God nudges me to look over at the side story.

Hagar.

Maybe it's because my heart recently found out about and now bleeds over the 27 million human beings trapped in slavery today. 200,000 in my so-called civil and just country. Many woman. Many trafficked for their bodies.

Used for sex.

So here we are in BSF, my faith being rocked with the whole Abraham storyline when I re-meet Hagar.

Can't you just see her? Dark eyes, dark skin. This Egyptian slave, probably part of the wealth Pharaoh granted Abraham to get the heck out of Egypt in Genesis 12:16. A pagan slave. From a very advanced, sophisticated country. Probably treated well, but at the end of the day, Hagar was about a month's journey of 250 miles from home. This elderly couple was not her family. They worshiped a God that her nation didn't include in their line up of nine gods. Hagar's very name means "stranger."
 

In his understandable desperation to have the child God promised him, Abraham pulls the ole I'll-solve-it-myself trick. And I'm a big fan of being REAL when we talk about scripture: Sarah pulls in the slave girl. Hagar sits on Sarah's lap while Abraham impregnates her. Because that's how the law said to solve the problem of no-heir. Hagar never had a voice. And as we need to be very, very cautious when reading the Bible not to make guesses, know I'm careful not to add to scripture in the words below. Some scholars think a slave woman would jump at the opportunity to socially climb. Maybe she did. We do not know.

But I'm a woman. And I know how God put it in our hearts to have a family. And my soul can't rest thinking that this is what she had planned when she was a little girl growing up in Egypt.

Can you imagine what she felt like. I mean, can you imagine ...

Obviously, things go south. Hagar flees to the desert. Super welcoming spot when you're lonely and pregnant, I bet. Morning sickness was probably only matched with the dizzying nausea that comes from feeling totally used. She's tired. She's alone. Can we see a bit of ourselves in her, sister?

But then something unparalleled in scripture happens.

The Lord meets her. Looks in her bloodshot (just surmising) dark eyes and asks "where have you come from, and where are you going?" He continues, "I will give you more children than you can count. You will give birth to a son and name him Ishmael." (Ishmael means 'God hears.') And this broken, exhausted, alien woman looks at Him and gives the Lord a name: "You are the God who sees me ... 'I have now seen 'the One Who Sees Me.'"

El Roi. 
The One Who Sees Me.

It's unparalleled: no other Sunday School felt board character in the Old Testament looks at God and gives him a name. But do you know who does? The peculiar, broken Egyptian maidservant runaway.

Because that's how He works. We learn lessons in the desert (Hosea 2:14). He takes dirty hands and cleans them. "He turns lullabies into anthems." He sees us where we are. Meets us there.

I just really like that story.

52 comments:

  1. I just love how you are using your voice to spread the word of God. I'm a responder to when the scripture is made real and I can feel it from my perspective even while I'm sitting at my desk in Nashville making plans for a sorority leadership retreat. Thank you!

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  3. Beautiful. Thank you once again for an insightful post. I had no idea that Hagar is the only person who encountered the living God and named Him. I will ponder that for a long time.
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