Updated: Feb 8
As I write this post today, my heart is full. Hummingbird Circle just finished our second in-person women's retreat, with the first, "Because You Matter" theme. We learned a lot, laughed a lot, cried some tears, were challenged, encouraged and most importantly, met with Jesus and made some new friends - sisters in heart through the family of God. Thanks to Jodi Kozan (www.jodizan.com) for believing in the vision enough to put her weight behind it in serving and as our hostess and MC! To Lynn Appelt, Marian Been, Charity Allen and my husband, Larry Thomas, you pulled details together and served so selflessly! You all do truly matter and your presence made SUCH a difference - you are Team Arrow and you hit the mark!
Today's post is meant to finish, at least for now, the story of Hagar, sometimes The Horrible, often the slave, but always the princess; princess of Egypt, matriarch of the Arab world, and
princess in the King of Kings' Kingdom.
As I write this, I am struck that our earthly wanderings do not always reflect, at least to human eyes, our value in The Kingdom of God. Hagar was a slave, for at least fourteen years. It is thought that she was a princess of Egypt, perhaps a lesser daughter of Pharaoh, or maybe a niece or some other close relative. As was often the case in that time, she was a gift to someone highly respected by Pharaoh's court, given to Sarai, who had been wrongfully taken into Pharaoh's harem. Often the gift of a daughter or woman under a great one's care, ensured there would be peace between households or nations, a type of Peace Child. Whatever the circumstances surrounding this exchange, it brought her into contact with a Covenant Keeping God and a family line that would be blessed for all generations. El Rohi, the God who saw and heard her in her captivity and distress, would be faithful to her, even when her husband (Abraham) discarded her at her mistress, Sarah's command.
Her story picks up from where we last left off (see post 2 in this series) in Genesis 21:8-21. When Isaac grew up and was about to be weaned, Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate the occasion. 9 But Sarah saw Ishmael—the son of Abraham and her Egyptian servant Hagar—making fun of her son, Isaac.10 So she turned to Abraham and demanded, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. He is not going to share the inheritance with my son, Isaac. I won’t have it!” 11 This upset Abraham very much because Ishmael was his son. 12 But God told Abraham, “Do not be upset over the boy and your servant. Do whatever Sarah tells you, for Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted. 13 But I will also make a nation of the descendants of Hagar’s son because he is your son, too.”
14 So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar’s shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba.
15 When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16 Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards[b] away. “I don’t want to watch the boy die,” she said, as she burst into tears.
17 But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18 Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.”
19 Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink.
20 And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, 21 and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.
"How could God have been so cruel as to agree with Sarah" one might ask? This is a great question. We can see how devastated Hagar must have been as the scripture says, "she wandered aimlessly." This time she had no place to go, no plans to return home, back to Egypt. To be dismissed as a concubine was a much greater disgrace than to be simply expelled as a lady's maid. Added to that was the fact that she had given birth to her husband's firstborn son which had allowed her a degree of status as the boy's mother as well as the second wife of a very rich and respected man. Now that was all lost, she was for all intents and purposes, divorced or at least in a legal separation, not by choice. How could she return with any degree of dignity to her people after she had been stripped of so much? Would they have held her at fault? Would she be left out on the street in Egypt too, humiliated yet again? Or would the Egyptians rise in anger that one of their mothers and son had been discarded so easily? Would they try to kill the boy's father if she went back?
The pain of divorce or separation is said to be worse than death, because there is no closure, especially when there are children involved. What was God thinking?
It is here, in this unspeakably awful situation that another silver line of redemption is found in the story of Hagar and Ishmael. Remember that God was not the one who had initiated Hagar's being given to Sarah as a slave, or of her becoming Abraham's concubine, a bride without a dowry or prenuptial rights. But Yahweh, in His mercy and compassion, saw her as the princess turned slave turned concubine and then abandoned the first time, and showed up in the moment of her distress, with a promise to make her unborn baby into a great nation. He then asked Hagar to return to the protection of Abraham's tents, ensuring that her son would grow up with the love and guidance of a father. God, with the ability to look into the future, also saw Ishmael's character before it was fully formed. He also saw Isaac, the son promised to Sarah, had been designated as the heir of an inheritance which was now held in trust by God, for from Isaac's line would come the promised Deliverer and Messiah, who would deliver not just his own people, but Ishmael's and all the peoples of the earth!
With such a great promise to come from Isaac, it was important that Ishmael not supplant Isaac, or steal Isaac's inheritance away. It would appear from the angel's description of Ishmael (He will be a wild donkey of a man, and his hand will be against every man. Genesis 16:12) that this is exactly what Ishmael would try to do - lash out against anyone seen as a threat or adversary. The fact that he did so when Isaac was still a toddler shows the wisdom of God in agreeing with Sarah's wisdom in having Abraham send Ishmael away, as painful as it was for the father, mother and son.
The description of Ishmael's character was not meant to trap Ishmael into a perpetual cycle of meanness, but in depicting what his strengths and weaknesses would be, this prophecy was meant to bring comfort to Hagar, not just in that moment, but in the future; in spite of Ishmael's faults and the consequences that would follow, God was still going to do something really special with Ishmael.
Although it broke Abraham's heart to separate the boys (we can assume he must have had some kind of affectionate feelings for Hagar too as the angel included her in his do not be distressed speech) he was obedient to the Lord and sent Hagar and Ishmael away with some provision under the care of Yahweh. This is really important to note. Abraham never took the word of the Lord lightly and was known for his radical obedience. When God said He would be with Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham knew it was a promise he could depend on with his life, such was his great faith in Yahweh(except when the Lord told him Sarah would bear a child at around 90 years old, which prompted a hysterical laughing fit!).
Sure enough, God accompanied Hagar into the desert and made her son into a nation of twelve tribes. Hagar became the great matriarch of this nation. Interestingly, although the Scripture does not fill in any details, there is a reunion recorded in Genesis 25 on occasion of Abraham's death. In the verses leading up to it, we learn that Abraham had taken another wife, after Sarah's death, her name being Keturah, (incense) and she bore him another six sons. Rabbi Rashi believes Keturah to be one and the same as Hagar, Keturah being her name and Hagar (stranger) being her status in the context of Sarah's household. The biblical text is unclear as in verse 6 it states: But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. Were these sons the sons of a Keturah and a Hagar, or did Abraham take Hagar back and did she also share her maids with him? Eiyiyi! It's messy, no matter how a modern reader interprets it!
In any case, it would seem that Abraham made sure all his sons were taken care of, and we can assume some sort of understanding was wrought between Ishmael and Isaac as the two came together to bury their mutual father, Abraham. Isaac was mentioned first, which according to the Midrash, hints that Ishmael had engaged in some sort of repentance towards Isaac, gesturing him to lead the way. (Gen. Rabbah 30:4. 38:12 and BT Bava Batra 16b)
Sometimes we do not understand the circumstances we find ourselves in. They make no sense at all in our limited time and space, where the greater unfolding of the future is closed to us. But make no mistake: the God who calls us into covenant relationship with Himself also promises to never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:8). This truly is our silver lining, the redemptive thread we can always count on being woven through our stories. Romans 8:28 says, All things work together for good to those who love God, who are the called, according to His riches in Christ Jesus. Imagine, ACCORDING TO HIS RICHES! Those are silver linings of the best quality! In true form, Hagar and Ishmael were elevated to a position they never dreamed possible, a position on par in many ways with Isaac. They could boast that they too were called and chosen, in spite of the fact that their association with Abraham and Sarah came as a result of someone else's sin. On this side of the Fall of Man, God's first plan is always Redemption, the silver lining He wants to weave through all of our stories, no matter where we came from or how we got here. Beloved, let's rejoice and rest in the knowledge that we can trust your stories with Him! He has made all things beautiful in time! Ecclesiastes 3:11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ4yNYY1hHM
All my love,