In this sermon, the Reverend Helen Franssell, preaches on the nature of our God – the story of Hagar from Genesis 16:1-16. Here are some excerpts:
…God’s purpose and grace are in all of it. The name Ishmael means “God hears”! – what a beautiful thing to realize that God hears the cries of misery from even the sinful, lowly, and abandoned – our cries, too! Hagar responds with awe of God’s omniscience and grace given to her personally. The angel encourages Hagar with assurance of God’s promise and mercy – forgiveness is possible, and so is comfort in her distress. He acknowledges her condition and the danger/risk she is in in this unsafe environment. All this mess does not mean God deals with her harshly; she will still bear this son, and He keeps His promise to her.
Hagar responds in faith and obedience, and returns to her mistress to bear Abram’s son. She responds as one who experienced God as a loving, gracious, forgiving presence, who helps in time of need. This experience was enough to enable her to… not only return to the place of her suffering, but to then bear it with grace and humility, apparently, in reverence to God. Of course, we know that was not the end of the mess; there was trouble for years to come, but Ishmael was named so he and Hagar would remember for the rest of their lives that The Lord has heard of her misery. Not just the misery that brought her there, but the misery yet to come – having to return to her abusive mistress and a master who is blind to her misery, and the contentious lives that he and his descendants live to this day.
And now, finally, we get to the part of the story that shows us who our God really is, in the name Hagar gives to the Lord and to the well in verse 13: She identifies The Lord with humble adoration as “the One Who sees me” – something that is deeply personal. And she goes further to say: “I have now seen the One Who sees me.” Hagar names the spring, which was made to be a well, v. 14, “the well of the living one who sees me”. It was kept as a lasting memorial of this event, where the God of glory manifested His presence to a poor, sinful woman in distress. This became a holy place.
We have access to the face of God at all times and in all circumstances; again, from the Psalms, “You see me even when I leave You.” We see not just the back of God as Moses did, in Exodus 33:23, we see His face,though for now, “we see in a mirror dimly – but then we shall see face to face.” We look to Him with eyes of faith, a holy interaction of the eyes. The expression of the eyes, as well as nonverbal body language, are the greatest communicators between people.
Again, from the Psalms – “Though the LORD is exalted, He looks kindly on the lowly; though lofty, He sees them from afar.” What a simple but powerful encouragement it is to be seen. And when you are seen by the Almighty God Himself how much more the power and encouragement to know you aren’t alone or abandoned.We may feel rejected and alienated from friends, family, and strangers, but God sees not only the face we present to the world, but all our secret fears and hopes and feelings, and even so, He loves us!
Let us go and be the earthly eyes of The Lord that see others with love, with hope, with forgiveness.