Nowhere to Run to, Baby!

Ever been in a situation that is so bad you just wanted out?

Did you ever think your only option to the trouble you were in was to runaway, even if you had no where to run?

God is a friend of those who run but not those who try to hide.

Abraham and Sarah are the great mother and father of the Christian faith. They hold this role in the Jewish faith, as well. But there was a moment in their years of waiting for God to fulfill His promise that their humanness broke through their holiness and created a giant mess.
Sarah was about eighty-five years old and childless when she decided God must need her help to fulfill His promise that Abraham would be the father to many. I am far more like Sarah in that moment than in any of her moments of great faith. She chose one of her slave women, Hagar, to act as a surrogate and before you can say “are you sure about this idea?” Hagar is ripe with Abraham’s child.

What incredible pain this must have caused Sarah. She thought God’s promise would be fulfilled through her womb, and yet, in the face of Hagar’s pregnancy, Sarah must have felt unchosen, rejected, and left out of God’s plan.

Hagar, unaccustomed to being better than anyone at anything, began to flaunt her condition and in response, Sarah treated her so badly (with Abraham’s “couldn’t be bothered” blessing) that Hagar ran away.This was a supreme act of foolishness and desperation on Hagar’s part.

Because Hagar was no one.

She was probably sold into slavery by her own parents. She was given to Sarah as a gift like a piece of cloth or a hair comb when Sarah was in Pharaoh’s house in Egypt and then taken from the only land she knew. A slave woman, alone, pregnant in a foreign land full of robbers and men with their own rules. She would have no resources, no job options, no source of food or protection. Modern women cannot even imagine the state of alone in which Hagar existed.

But as she stopped by a well on the road back to her homeland, the angel of the LORD spoke with her – summarizing her crazy situation with a question “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?”

Obviously, Abraham’s God knows her. He knows her name. He knows where she belongs. He knew exactly where to find her. How can this be that she should appear on the radar of the supreme being?

Her total plan for the future is summed up in her answer, “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai.”

That’s it. She may as well have said “I have no plan. I don’t know where I’m going except that I don’t want to be where I was.” Ever been there?

The message she receives from the Lord is simple, direct, and probably not what she wanted to hear – Go back.

“Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” He tells her.

Have you ever noticed that God is never a fan of NOT facing our problems.

You see, if Hagar runs away, not only does SHE not face her problem but Sarah and Abraham no longer have to face the one they created when they involved Hagar in their situation. She is carrying the child of their impatience, not the child of promise. They made one terribly wrong decision in ancient Mesopotamia and in 2011 we receive nightly news reports that continue to result from that mistake.

The child Hagar carried became the father of twelve nations and their descendents inhabit the Mid-East, often in conflict with the descendents of Isaac, the son Sarah would bear for Abraham thirteen years later.

God says, “Go back.”

That was probably not what Hagar would have wanted to hear but she doesn’t seem put off by the plan.

Why not?

You see, Hagar was struck by one thing and one thing alone – the God of the Universe knew who she was.

Hagar lived in a land of idols where people worshipped statues with no arms or legs. Or they worshipped the god of the Nile or the sun god or the god of the frogs. She was surrounded by impersonal gods who needed to be carried around and sheltered from the elements and whose ways were unpredictable and merciless.

Here, alone by a well in a desert, Hagar encounters a living God who sees her. He tells her to name her child “Ishmael” which means “God hears” and Hagar names the well “Beer Lahai Roi” meaning “well of the Living One who sees me.”

I imagine that Hagar had spent her life being invisible to those around her. She was a female servant, less likely to be noticed than a sheep or a mule in her master’s household. Even now that she carries his child, Abraham could not be bothered to protect her from Sarah’s anger.

But the Almighty God of Abraham sees her, hears her, knows her, has a message for her and a promise for her child.

God does not clean up Sarah and Abraham’s or Hagar’s mess. That’s not always the answer to our troubles, though we think it is and hammer God’s door demanding reversals of our own poor decisions. No, His answer wasn’t to erase the problem but to appear and to act in the midst of the problem.

Hagar returns to camp. Her child now bears a promise (though a mixed one to be sure). I don’t know if Sarah treated her any better or if Abraham ever even noticed her but Hagar returned with the assurance that Abraham’s God is a God who lives, who sees, who hears.

He is a God who doesn’t just make promises to Patriarchs but He appears to runaway no bodies wandering alone in the desert.

God saw Hagar

And that was enough for her to stop running. What are you running from? What will it take to get you to turn around and go back?

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    The Conversation

  1. I love this story, from the “Hagar, What ails you?–besides being alone, abandoned and ready to die–to the recognition of the Living One Who Sees Me.What a reminder in times of desperation–He not only is God, but He sees me and He cares.(Although that part about “buckle up and face the problem isn’t what we like to hear!)

  2. krex_1 says:

    I love your comment that God does not clean up our messes, even though we demand reversals of our own poor decisions – we do that all the time.

  3. gailcav says:

    I agree. there were many a time when I wanted my mess cleaned up, but God had the perfect solution to the problem. It taught me a lesson that I had to go to him before i made any decisions. Then he would tell me how to proceed.