Read Genesis 16:7-16
I was just six years old and it was the first day of school. My mother put me on the bus and I rode in with my fellow students to our elementary school on Laramie Avenue in Midlothian, Illinois, almost one mile from my house.
To this day I’m not sure what got into me, but just a few minutes after arriving, I decided to run away from school. I walked North on Laramie Avenue to 149th Street, turned right, and walked down 149th all the way to South Cicero Avenue which was and is to this day a dangerous four lane highway with heavy traffic and no crosswalk at the intersection. But in spite of all that I somehow managed to cross South Cicero and continued to South Kenton Avenue where I turned again and walked to my house.
I ran away from school.
Boy, was mom surprised to see me!
The first thing she thought about of course was me, a six year old, by myself, crossing South Cicero Avenue.
I didn’t want to be at school but God had other plans for me. My mother took me back and made it clear that I would be going to school, whether I felt like it or not.
So I obeyed, returned, and submitted.
In this post we’ll take a look at the story of Hagar and how she ran away, but first let’s set the scene.
In the last post we saw that Sarai fell prey to disbelief and decided to take matters into her own hands. Feeling that God wasn’t coming through on His promise to bless Abram with a multitude of descendants, Sarai decided to go with a plan that was not uncommon among barren women of Babylon and Ur at that time, she decided to offer up her handmaiden, her slave, Hagar, to Abram with the idea that she could build a family through her.
Abram, to his discredit, agreed, and Hagar became pregnant. Before Hagar was given to Abram to be his wife, Sarai held all the cards. Sarai was Hagar’s master or mistress, Hagar had nothing but her service to Sarai if she wanted to eat. After Sarai gave Hagar to Abram she, Hagar, was elevated in status, in that she was now one of Abram’s wives and she was now with Abram’s child to boot. Compound that with the infusion of hormones that my wife and daughters tell me women experience while they’re pregnant and boom — Hagar’s attitude took a dive and she despised her mistress Sarai.
The drama meter gets ramped up even more as Sarai responds to Hagar’s change in attitude by blaming Abram for the new found family strife, even though it was Sarai’s idea for Abram to take Hagar in the first place.
Abram throws up his hands, so to speak, and tells Sarai, hey, she’s your slave, do whatever you like with her.
At that point Sarai begins to mistreat Hagar, so Hagar flees the scene and that’s where we pick up our story today.
Deep breath! I’m amazed at all the drama. Someone should make a movie about this passage of scripture.
So when Hagar flees she finds herself near a spring in the desert that is beside the road to Shur. It’s interesting that the name Shur essentially means a point of observation. As Matthew Henry says, “God brings us into a wilderness, and there meets us.” (Hosea 2:14) He observes from His elevated perspective as we stray off the path He has in mind for us. He very often allows the issue to ripen before He reveals Himself to us. He knows when and where we’re most likely to respond to Him. So it was with Hagar.
So the angel of the Lord engages Hagar near the spring in the desert that’s beside the road to Shur. It’s here that we see the first mention in the Bible of the angel of the Lord. This angel of the Lord is unique in that throughout scripture all other angels steadfastly refuse to be worshiped whenever a man or a woman attempts to do so. But that’s not the case with the angel of the Lord. His acceptance of worship is an obvious indication that He is deity. I believe that the angel of the Lord is, most likely, the name used in the Old Testament for the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.
And look who He appears to first, a slave woman who has run away from her master. Jesus, the one with a heart to leave the ninety-nine to rescue the one, finds one lonely slave woman alone in the desert, in rebellion, and, as we’ll soon see, He gently guides her back on course.
The angel of the Lord starts his encounter with Hagar by leading her to humility. He doesn’t address her with the words, “Hagar, wife of Abram,” or “Hagar, mother of Abram’s child,” but, rather, He gently humbles Hagar by addressing her as Hagar, slave of Sarai. (v.8)
Then He asks her, “…where have you come from, and where are you going?” (v.8)
Hagar answers, “I’m running away from my mistress.” (v.8)
The angel of the Lord provides her with instruction, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” (v.9)
I suppose I’m like most people in the way that I struggle with this scripture. If I’m not being treated well by someone in authority over me, I do not want to submit. But God tells us that rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. (Romans 13:3-4)
The angel of the Lord, knowing that she would obey, blesses Hagar, telling her, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.” (v.10)
He prophecies that Hagar will give birth to a son and instructs her to name him Ishmael.
The angel of the Lord further prophecies that Ishmael will be a “wild donkey of a man;” and that “…his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.” (v.11-12)
Of course these prophecies have come to pass. Ishmael’s descendants are the people of the Arab nations who are very numerous.
Sadly, the second part of the prophecy has also come to pass. The descendants of Ishmael, the Arab nations, are in constant conflict with each other and others. Ishmael’s descendants are particularly hostile toward Ishmael’s brother Israel. The Palestinians have a public agenda to wipe Israel off the map. In fact in their education curriculum, their maps don’t even include the nation of Israel, so, from a very young age, Palestinian children are indoctrinated with the idea that Israel doesn’t have a right to exist. And Palestine is supported by all the Arab nations of the Middle East.
Hostile against his brother Israel, indeed he is.
Hagar, even though she’s been directed to return to her mistress and submit, even though she’s received prophetic promises of blessing but also of hostility and strife, Hagar responds to the angel of the Lord with gratitude.
Hagar recognizes that God saw her in her trial and drew near to her. She says, “You are the God who sees me,” and she names a nearby well Beer Lahai Roi which means, well of the living one seeing me. (v.13-14)
Hagar ran but in the end she obeyed, returned, and submitted. She bore Abram’s son and Abram named him Ishmael in accordance with God’s command.
There are all kinds of ways to run. Hagar ran away to a different geographical location. Sometimes people run from their marriage problems to another lover. Others run from their problems to alcohol or drugs. Some run from their financial responsibilities by borrowing money. There’s even a thing called displacement activity where people run from their problems by focusing their time and energy on some benign hobby or activity instead of working on solving their problems.
You may have noticed that Charlie Sheen has been in the news quite a bit in the last eight or nine months or so. He’s trying to run. He’s run from his marriages to other women. He’s run from his problems to drugs and alcohol. He’s said that he’s different and that he can handle a life of running. “I have a different constitution,” Charlie has said. “I have a different brain; I have a different heart; I got tiger blood, man.”
Sadly, I think poor Charlie’s on a course with a big day of reckoning.
Perhaps you’re in a situation where you’re tempted to run: toward some benign but unconstructive activity, or toward alcohol and drugs, or toward divorce, or toward a different physical location like Hagar.
Perhaps this is a word from the Lord for you.
Sarai and Abram just went with their plan without seeking the Lord, without praying to the Lord. Hagar just split from Sarai without seeking the Lord. Prayer is so important. It’s not a matter of what to pray about because God’s word says to pray without ceasing so we’re to pray about everything. (1 Thessalonians 5:17) It’s only a matter of how much prayer we should devote to a given decision or issue.
If you’re in a situation where you feel tempted to run, pray! Pray through your problem. Pray through it. See what God would have you do.
Don’t be surprised if, like Hagar, God wants you to obey Him, return, and submit.
The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
Then the angel of the LORD told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
The angel of the LORD also said to her:
“You are now pregnant
and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
for the LORD has heard of your misery.
He will be a wild donkey of a man;
his hand will be against everyone
and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
toward all his brothers.”
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.” That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered.
So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.