Have you ever been hurt by someone? Maybe their words still haunt you, even today, many years later? To be under someone’s constant oppression is quite miserable. I understand. Most likely we have all experienced this type of struggle at one time or another. I think the most painful of all, is when the hurtful words come from a dear friend, a brother or sister in Christ, or even a Spiritual Leader. When the household of God turns on one another, this, indeed, is hardest to get over. You feel alone; you want to retreat. You have lost trust. You can’t see the benefit of the church anymore.
A young Arab woman understood this. Her story is heartbreaking. She was a slave of a righteous woman of faith, Sarai. Her name was Hagar. She lived in a good community. Quite possibly she was rescued by Sarai’s husband; during the battle that raged against Sodom and Gomorrah, Abram saved her and gave her a home; in return, she would work for Sarai. (Genesis 14:1-16).
But unfortunately, Hagar fell victim of another battle; Sarai and Abram’s moment of weak faith. In their doubting, she suffered most. If you missed my previous post about this story, you can catch up here. In today’s post, we find Hagar, pregnant with Abram’s child, being taunted by her jealous mistress, and running from the oppression.
Dropping in the middle of this righteous couple’s heated discussion we read…
“Abram replied to Sarai, ‘Here, your slave is in your hands; do whatever you want with her.’ Then Sarai mistreated Hagar so much that she ran away from her.
The Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?’
She replied, ‘I’m running away from my mistress Sarai.’
Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, ‘You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.’
The Angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will greatly multiply your offspring, and they will be too many to count’” (Genesis 16:6-10).
We would expect more from Sarai and Abram. They were chosen by God to reflect His glory. They knew better than to mistreat Hagar. Hagar was at their mercy. Sarai took her disappointment, doubt in God, and anger at her lot in life out on the innocent. Her mistreatment of Hagar should have never happened.
But it did.
Notice who visited Hagar – The Angel of the Lord. This is Jesus. When you see the word “the” before Angel of the Lord, you see Jesus in the Old Testament. In her misery, Jesus comes to her aid. The mistreatment of Sarai has not gone unnoticed by God. He sees all. And the timing of His vindication will come. But for now, Hagar needed to return to her mistress. Not because Hagar was wrong, but because her son needed a relationship with his father for a time.
Sometimes, the right thing to do in a season of mistreatment is to endure the suffering. It’s not forever. Peter encourages, “though now for a short time you have had to be distressed by various trials so that the genuineness of your faith…may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:6-7). God used this suffering for Hagar’s good. Notice what The Angel of the Lord reveals 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.” (Genesis 16:11-13).
Did you know that the name, Ishmael means “the Lord hears?” The Lord heard Hagar’s cry, and He revealed His most intimate care for her. He promised her His constant presence. The Lord never left her; during the mistreatment, He was there. He vindicated her with a son who had a promise to be great; wild as a donkey, yes, but great nations would come from him. Her son had a purpose. I could say more about Ishmael’s purpose, but for today, our focus is Hagar, his mother.
The mistreatment you have endured should have never happened. Hateful and disappointing words should never come from a trusted friend; or worse, from one assigned to your spiritual development.
But you have.
And now, you have a choice.
You could be bitter, spread gossip, and cause division. Or do as God directed Hagar; if He wills, for a time go back and submit to the mistreatment; doing so gives glory to our Father in heaven. If He has released you from the harm, don’t give into the gossip and disunity that often tempts us in situations like this.
The time for your vindication is at hand. You are not in charge of its timing. You are responsible for obeying God and bringing Him glory. Even in the rubble of your mess, God has given it purpose in your life. Like Hagar, God sees your misery, and His presence is with you.
So, “when the fiery ordeal arises among you to test you, don’t be surprised by it, as if something unusual were happening to you. Instead, as you share in the sufferings of the Messiah rejoice, so that you may also rejoice with great joy at the revelation of His glory. If you are ridiculed for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you” (1 Peter 4:12-14).