Summary: A young woman is being abused by the person she is living with. She feels powerless and no longer in control of her life. Oh, she has not been physically assaulted, nevertheless she feels hurt, scared and humiliated.
Part 2 - Genesis 16:1-16 - I KEEP COMING BACK!
A young woman is being abused by the person she is living with. She feels powerless and no longer in control of her life. Oh, she has not been physically assaulted, nevertheless she feels hurt, scared and humiliated. She is being threatened and bullied and harassed. She is constantly put-down and treated as worthless.
She has been involved in an adulterous relationship, but now he is ignoring her. She was manipulated and forced into this situation and now she has been rejected. All she gets are dirty looks and put-downs. AND NOW SHE IS PREGNANT. What will she do?
SHE DECIDES TO RUN AWAY. She feels so unwelcome in her own home. She has no money of her own. She finds herself alone, pregnant and homeless on the street.
Abuse can destroy lives and hurt people. Unfortunately it is part of our everyday lives. We see it on the news, in the movies, or on TV. We read about it in the newspapers and magazines and we all suffer the consequences of it.
In Genesis 16:7 a young woman named Hagar finds herself in the situation I have just described. She is a servant to Abram and Sarai. Sarai can't have children and in a twisted turn of events Sarai has manipulated her into an adulterous relationship with her husband so that she can produce a surrogate child for them. Hagar gets pregnant but despises Sarai and it shows. SARAI TREATS HAGAR SO BADLY THAT HAGAR RUNS AWAY.
One article I read on abuse asked some good questions which would have been good for Sarai to consider. Good for all of us actually. It said, "Do you want relationships where people feel respected, or where they feel scared? Do you want people to be with you because they love and respect you, or stay because of fear? Do you want people to feel scared of you, or to feel safe and able to speak their mind? Do you want a life where you are under the influence of your temper or one where you are in charge of yourself? Do you want relationships where people move away from you to keep themselves safe or are you looking for ways to bring them closer?"
Hagar runs away. She meets an angel in the wilderness. The counselling technique of this angel is a little unusual. He addresses her as "Hagar, Sarai's servant," like he is trying to make a point. He is not backing away from the fact that HAGAR IS UNDER AUTHORITY.
To his credit he asks her in effect "WHAT'S HAPPENING?" - a good question for a runnaway. He encourages her to speak about her feelings and worries. She tells him the story. I can ask this simple question and give someone the opportunity to speak about their lives. God is interested in listening to me. I would do well to ask this question when I am speaking to others.
Now if it was me, I'd want an angel to be on my side, but not this angel. He says in effect, "Go back to where you can be abused further by Sarai" - "Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority." (Genesis 16:9) - not the normal abuse counselling technique we would advocate today.
Counsellors today would want to give Hagar the choice, or send her to a safe house, or try reconciliation counselling with Sarai. We would tell Hagar to get in touch with the Domestic Violence Helpline, or Crisis Care or just call the Police on 000 (in Australia). He doesn't doesn't tell Hagar that Sarai was wrong for bullying her. HE TELLS HER TO GO BACK.
There's a song out at the moment called "I keep coming back", and sometimes coming back is the worst thing you can do. What is this angel thinking? I think he knows exactly what is best for Hagar and he addresses her deepest need. The angel gives her some reassurance for her future - she will have a son called Ishmael, which by the way means "God hears". He says "for the Lord has heard your cry of distress." How reassuring would it be to Hagar to hear that at this time. God hears me even in the runaway situations of my life. She is promised more descendants than she can count. He says "This son of yours will be a wild man, ...and... he will live in open hostility against all his relatives." (Genesis 16:12). Now being told that your son is going to be a rebel isn't all that nice but she is thrilled. She wasn't all that happy with her relatives at the moment anyway, so it probably seemed pretty good to her.
What Hagar really needs however is to know that God has seen her situation and this reassurance makes her invent a new name for God which means "You are the God who sees me." (Genesis 16:13). She recognises that this angel speaks on behalf of God. She even named a well nearby "Beer-lahai-roi (which means "well of the Living One who sees me")." Hagars response to accepting God's purposes for her life was WORSHIP - always the best response of all. Then she did something just as good - SHE OBEYED GOD. WORSHIP AND OBEDIENCE ALWAYS GO TOGETHER.