The God Who Sees
When I do pre-marriage counseling, on the very first session I typically ask the anxious couple: “Tell me about your last fight, and how you resolved it.” I do this because I want to see how they are at conflict resolution, and how far they are from establishing a rhythm of confession-repentance-forgiveness-restoration. When I ask couples about their most recent squabble, it’s not uncommon for me to hear, “Our last fight? It was on the way over here to meet with you.” Such is the case when two sinners enter into relationship with one another. Conflict is inevitable.
In Genesis 16, we read about one of the earliest and most interesting marital spats in history. In a moment of extreme frustration and anger, Sarai, Abram’s wife, tells her husband to “go be with” another woman, her servant Hagar. And the text tells us: “And Abraham listened to the voice of his wife Sarai.” (Genesis 16:2).
Well, not surprisingly, Hagar becomes pregnant. And this causes Sarai to become enraged. The latter says to Abram, in essence, “How could you do this to me? You got another woman pregnant! Now my servant thinks she is better than I am. May the wrong done to me be on you!” Her jealousy leads to vitriol and accusation (and shock?). Old Testament scholar Gordon Wenham comments on this; he says, “Her anger roused, Sarai again takes the initiative and blames Abram for the fairly predictable outcome of her scheme.”
This was her idea, remember. What else did she think was going to happen? She demanded that those two to get together and even get married, and now she’s furious with the results. Well, her fear and loathing came out in her actions. And Abram responds with unabashed timidity. He says to Sarai, concerning his new wife and the mother of his unborn child, “Take her and do what you want.” This is the perfect example of how NOT to lead.
Even though it was an ill-conceived and decidedly ungodly plan, Abram is still the father of this child and is called to protect the baby and the baby’s mother, who is his wife. And it gets worse, of course. Because of Sarai’s mistreatment of Hagar, Hagar bolts into the wilderness. The whole scene is a disaster. Hagar has lost her home. And Abram has seen his second wife and pre-born child disappear into the wooded abyss.
But that’s where God would intervene. This is where God turns chaos into something beautiful.
The Scriptures inform us: “The angel of the Lord found Hagar 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.’ The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Return to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel of the Lord also said to her, ‘I will surely multiply your offspring so that they cannot be numbered for multitude.’ 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.’”
How rich is God’s mercy! In Hagar’s distress, God comes to her and says, “I have never taken my eyes off of you. I will protect you and provide for you.” In the Bible, when God sees something it typically implies his tender care. His gracious pursuit. Hagar concludes: “Truly here I have seen the one who looks after me.”
R.S. Candlish, the great 19th-century theologian, paraphrases Hagar’s response this way: “Was I looking for him? Or did his gracious providence surprise me, and His gracious eye almost startle me, when he sought out one, alas! too far gone in hardness of heart ever to have thought of seeking Him?”
No one cared about Hagar. A pregnant woman, unmarried, with no husband or master. She was worthless to everyone around her. She was a stain on the landscape of ancient Israel. But not to God. God cared. He set his sights on her. And he went and found her.
Isn’t this the theme of the entire Bible? The Scriptures tell the story of a God of grace, who loves those who don’t deserve to be loved and pursues those who don’t deserve to be pursued, determining to give good things to those who are bad. In fact, the first thing we see in the whole Bible is God’s movement toward us. We see it in creation. We see it everywhere in Genesis. We see it in our own lives as well.
We wander and God persistently comes after us, pursuing us with tenderness, and proving to us that he is indeed a God who sees.
I’m not sure what you might be going through at this moment, but you can be sure of this: you are not alone. If you are in Christ, you belong to the God of the universe. His love for you is as steady and unrelenting as the desert sun (not my best ever metaphor, but you get the picture!). In your distress and uncertainty, God has his eye on you. He sees you. On your side is the One with whom “there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption” (Psalm 130:7).
For your joy,
The rest of NP News for 9.21.2017 can be found on the “This Week” page at https://www.northpointcorona.org/this-week/