Summary: Hagar is property! You can imagine how difficult and disappointing her life was? When the master and the mistress of the household decide that Hagar can be used to bear them an heir, Hagar is not consulted. She is simply told what her role will be.
February 21, 2016
Title: A Slave’s Life Matters
Scripture Reading: Philippians 3:13-16
Today I want to tell you about a woman who was abused, rejected, and almost died. She is in the Bible, but you probably don’t recall much about her. Her story is not well-known, even to people who have read the Bible all their lives. Her name is Hagar. All we know about her comes from the Bible. So, let’s look into God’s Word for the answer to the question, “who is Hagar.”
Who is Hagar? First of all, she is a woman. In the world in which she lives that means she is of no-account; a worthless, good-for-nothing person with little status, little power, and little hope.
Who is Hagar? She is a foreigner, an Egyptian separated against her will from her homeland and her family.
Who is Hagar? She is a slave, maid to her mistress Sarah, who is the wife of Abraham. As a slave, Hagar cannot come or go as she chooses. Her needs, her wishes, are not given serious consideration. Hagar will do as she is told, like it or not.
Who is Hagar? She is an outsider in terms of social position, gender, race, and age. She is one of the oppressed. She is a victim.
Hagar's story begins with a promise. Not a promise made to her, because she is a woman, a slave, a foreigner; but a promise to a man named Abraham. God makes the promise to Abraham that he will be the father of a great nation, with descendants as plentiful as the dust of the earth, as the stars in the heavens (cf. Genesis 12:2, Genesis 13:16, Genesis 15:5). Yet, after the promise is made, time passes, and still Abraham and his wife Sarah have no child born to them. Here's what the Bible says happened next. (Genesis 16:1-6)
Hagar is property! You can imagine how difficult and disappointing her life was? When the master and the mistress of the household decide that Hagar can be used to bear them an heir, Hagar is not consulted. She is simply told what her role will be. She has nothing to say in the matter; she can only obey.
When you hear Hagar's story, you may shake your head, for we suppose she did not have an easy time of it, but things were different then. Maybe it wasn't all that rough on her because as a slave, she would have expected to do what she was told. She knew her place, and it was the same as Abraham’s cattle and sheep—she existed to serve her master.
It is one thing to hear a story like Hagar's; it is a different thing to experience it ourselves. To that end, I ask you now not only to listen to Hagar's story but to imagine that you are Hagar. You are Hagar and this is your story.
Your mistress, Sarah, calls you into her tent. "Hagar," she says to you, "the master and I have decided that he will father a child with you. When the child is born, the child will be our heir, Abraham's and mine." She pauses for a moment, and you wonder if she is waiting for you to answer. Does she expect you to complain that you are very young, little more than a girl, and your master is an old man, eighty-five years old, and you had hoped to marry a young man? You want to object that you have never been with a man and that you surely aren't ready to be a mother. And you think what a heartache it will be to have the child of your body be treated by this old woman as her child. But you say nothing because you know it will do no good. Your mistress isn't interested in your feelings. Nor will it do any good to appeal to her husband, your master. You know well enough that he has agreed to go along with his wife's decision. In such matters, she runs the show. "Go to Abraham's tent," your mistress says to you. "He is waiting for you." And so you go, not because you want to but because you must. What should be an act of love will be instead a detestable duty. You go to him until, one day, suddenly and surprisingly, you know that a new life has entered your womb. You are pregnant. And Sarah knows it almost as soon as you do. How does she know? Can she read your mind?
A few more days go by and then you overhear a conversation between your master and your mistress. She is furious. "Abraham, I simply will not stand for it! That girl, that slave, dares to lord it over me. She flaunts her pregnancy. She will bear the child that I wanted to bear. And she laughs at me because of it. I won't be treated with contempt. I will not! I am your wife! Do something about it." Is it true? you ask yourself. Have I really been letting my feelings for the old witch come through? I haven't said a word, but no doubt I have betrayed my contempt for her with a look, a gesture. You listen breathlessly for Abraham's answer. Will he stand up to his wife? “Sarah," you hear him say. "Do whatever you want to her. Leave me out of it."