A lesson by Patrick Mead and our weekly reading assignments at our church have got me thinking about Hagar lately. Hagar gets kind of a bad rap. She was the one that Abraham got pregnant (at the request of his own wife). She gave birth to Ishmael who has traditionally been regarded as the father of the Arabs. Muslims trace the history of their faith back to him. The descendants of Ishmael were violent, aggressive, and territorial. And to this day, many blame much of the unrest in the Middle East on this one son of a slave woman.

Disclaimer: I have no references for the above statements. I have not done the historical research. I am simply passing along what I have been taught, whether true or not.

Regardless of the historical implications of this…subsitutionary impregnation…the story of Hagar is both tragic and beautiful.

Hagar was an Egyptian woman. Kind of. She may not have been Egyptian in nationality, but she was probably one of the “gifts” given to Abraham and Sarah by Pharaoh. In an attempt to speed up the fulfillment of God’s promises to them, Sarah got the bright idea for Abraham to sleep with Hagar. That should have been the first red flag.

And then after Hagar conceives, Sarah gets jealous of Hagar and starts mistreating her. Couldn’t see that one coming. This is beginning to sound like a bad reality show.

Sarah’s hazing becomes so over the top that Hagar runs away. She’s gone. Done. Finished. But where would she go? She has no family, no friends, no support system, no home. Sarah doesn’t chase after her. Abraham doesn’t go searching. But God does.

   The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”
   “I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.
   Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”
 (Genesis 16:7-10)

God went looking for her. Wow. God was concerned for her. God showed her love. God wasn’t interested in using her. For the first time in her life, someone wanted Hagar for her – not for what she could do for him. And what’s more, God made a covenant with her in the same vein as the covenant with Abraham – her descendants would be too numerous to count.
Now he doesn’t sugarcoat anything with her, either. He tells her straight up that Ishmael is gonna be a violent dude. It’s going to be him against the world. It’s not going to be an easy life for them. But God will hear them.
And then Hagar gives God one of the coolest names in all of Scripture:

   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 16:13)

All her life people saw her as a slave, a piece of property, a sex-thing. But God saw her. That’s a beautiful love story.
But it doesn’t end there. Hagar returns to her masters. She gives birth to Ishmael, and all was well….Until Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Ishmael, living up to God’s predictions about him, began mocking, insulting, and picking on his younger half-brother. So Sarah, instead of acting rationally and thoughtfully, assumed the mama-bear role of protecting her young at all costs.
She cut off Ishmael from any inheritance and sent Hagar and her son packing with just a jug of water and some food. I would not want to be on Sarah’s bad side. Like ever. I can see why Abraham was such a pushover…
Again, Hagar finds herself alone with nowhere to go. She and her son are wandering in the desert with just one jug of water between them. They didn’t make it very long.

When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And as she sat there, she began to sob. (Genesis 21:15-16)

No parent should have to be put in this situation. I can’t imagine the helplessness Hagar felt at that moment. I can’t imagine having an utter lack of hope.
But the God who see her and the God who hears her son shows up yet again.

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
   Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.
   God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer. While he was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt.
 (Genesis 21:17-21)

God is the husband Hagar never had. God is the lover Hagar had always desired. God was more tender, compassionate, and loving toward Hagar than he ever was toward Sarah. God was the only one who ever gave something to Hagar without wanting something in return. He never made demands of her, never used her for anything. God loved her, pure and simple.
God hears those who no one else will listen to. God sees those who are invisible to others.
And that is a beautiful love story.