Tucked away in Genesis chapter 16 is a story of a slave girl named Hagar. She is not necessarily one of the key players in Genesis that you hear of. You may or may not know her name right off the bat. Hagar was a slave girl to Sarai. You probably know who Sarai is, she became Sarah and was married to Abram who became Abraham. Well Abram and Sarai had already been promised by God that they would have children but years had already passed and nothing had happened so Sarai decided to take matters into her own hands.
Sarai decided that since she had not conceived she would give her servant girl, Hagar to her husband and that she would have children through her. Boy that sounds like a good plan doesn’t it? And Abram agrees. So Abram goes in to Hagar and she does conceive. Now realize Hagar was in no position to say no. This was a practice that back in that time would have been totally acceptable. Abram could have stood up and been the spiritual leader of His home and said no. He could have recognized this as a bad plan. But he and Sarai had both lost sight of God’s ability to provide the promise. They had become discouraged with the passing of time and this shows it. They were both acting on their own rather than trusting God to fulfill the promise He had already made to them.
Now even though Hagar was in no position to say no, we have to remember she was human. She became pregnant and when she did she became haughty and looked on Sarai with contempt. Sarai in turn, possibly out of jealousy, maybe out of her own feelings of “what have I done” dealt harshly with Hagar. So Hagar ran away. Then the most incredible thing happens.
“The angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from my mistress Sarai.” Genesis 16:7-8
As Hagar was running away, she was found by the angel of the LORD. The assumption is this was a pre-incarnate presence of Jesus. We know from scripture that no one has ever seen God face to face. So when we see places in the Old Testament and we know that Jesus was with God in the beginning it can make sense that this is Jesus. It’s a lot to take in, I know.
This angel of the LORD finds her, He comforts her and asks her where she is going. Hagar doesn’t know where she is going, she is a slave girl and probably has no where to go when you think about it. Her response is “I am fleeing from my mistress, Sarai.” Now the Angel of the LORD tells her to return to her mistress, to these circumstances and submit to her. Abram and Sarai had sure made a mess of things with all of this. And I am sure that Hagar was not super excited about this advice. But the angel of the LORD also made her a promise.
“The angel of the LORD also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’” Genesis 16:10
Hagar realizes as she is getting this counsel from the angel of the LORD, actually from Jesus that if He can find her in the wilderness, then He can see her through these difficult circumstances. The next verse records Hagar’s response and it is so sweet and so tender.
“So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God of seeing,’ for she said, ‘Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.’” Genesis 16:13
Hagar knew this was not just an angel she had had an encounter with. She had just had an encounter with God, with the pre-incarnate Jesus and He saw her. El Roi is Hebrew for “the God who sees me”. This was what Hagar says as she has received this word from Him, this comfort. She knew that God had found her where she was and He saw her. Even in the mess she was in, He saw her. Also, I found that Ishmael means “God hears”. She was instructed to name her child Ishmael which would be a reminder to her every time she called his name that God had met her in the wilderness and heard her cry. He saw her in her despair, just like He sees you and me when we are in a difficult situation that may be born out of our own impatience and/or poor choices or may be someone elses. We have El Roi who sees us. Oh what a comfort that is!