Sermon Excerpt: The God Who Cares
Rev. Edward Powell
In Genesis 16 we find a woman in crisis; a woman named Hagar.
In this crisis God revealed Himself to Hagar, and Hagar recognized an important attribute of God when she called Him “The God who sees me”. Let’s look together at the scripture passage and make some observations concerning what Hagar learned about God.
Abram and Sarai were childless and they were discouraged. They knew that God had promised them offspring, but there was no sign of any. Instead of waiting on the Lord, they took matters into their own hands (verses 1-5).
In these verses we see Abram and Sarai do things their way instead of God’s way. God had a plan, but Abram and Sarai would not wait for God’s plan. They did not trust the Lord. They sinned against God. Then we see how once Hagar was pregnant she made life miserable for Sarai who was barren. So Sarai blamed her husband for the problem.
After Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord, we read in v. 13: “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.” Scholars tell us that the phrase at the end of v. 13 can refer to what Hagar had seen or what Hagar had learned. In other words Hagar was saying “I have learned about the One who sees me.” What did Hagar learn? Hagar learned about God in her circumstances. Scripture shows us that God wants to reveal Himself to us in those difficult circumstances. It is when life is difficult that we can be most open to learning about the Lord and His plan for our lives.
Did you notice that God did not set up Hagar in a new land and give her a new status with Ishmael right away? Hagar first went through terribly difficult circumstances, but God gave Hagar something she did not have before. She had a new understanding of who God is. She had learned that God is personal and caring. She had learned that the Lord hears her and sees her. Sometimes God does not fix our difficult circumstances, but He meets us in the circumstances to give us guidance and strength.
Do you know what it means to know the God who sees? It means that God sees me and you now, today in our circumstances. That is our second observation. Hagar learned that God sees. Many who have read the Scriptures and have been going to church for years know that God sees. The theological term for this truth is that God is omniscient. That means that He sees everything. For Hagar this was more than a theological concept, it was reality. It was her experience. God knew the situation she was in. God knew that she was pregnant. God knew that she was going to be a single mom. God knew that she had been mistreated. God knew because He is the God who sees. The “Good News” is that the God who sees knows the situations we are in. God sees the problems you and I are having and the struggles you and I are facing. God sees when we are misunderstood or misrepresented or mistreated. He sees when we come to the end of our rope.
Not only did Hagar learn that God sees, she also learned that God hears. That’s our third observation from Genesis 16. The angel of the Lord told Hagar to name her son Ishmael. Ishmael means God hears. God heard the way Sarai had mistreated Hagar. God heard the way Abram abdicated his responsibility. God heard the cry of Hagar’s heart. God hears the things that crush us and break our hearts. God hears when we cry out to Him. In Psalm 86:7 we find these words: “In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” Are you experiencing trouble? You can call on the Lord.
As we consider the way God revealed Himself to Hagar we observe that Hagar learned about God in her circumstances. Hagar learned that God sees and Hagar learned that God hears. Hagar also learned that God cares. That’s our next observation. Remember who Hagar was. According to Genesis 16:1, Hagar was an Egyptian maid to Sarai. When you read the previous chapters you will learn how Abram and Sarai spent time in Egypt. It is likely that while in Egypt Abram employed her as a servant for his wife. Now according to the custom of the time, Hagar was considered property. So she was subject to the wishes or demands of Abram and Sarai. As a result of their decision, she became pregnant and as a result of their decision she was mistreated. So Hagar fled. I remind us of those things in order to help us to understand that Hagar was virtually a slave. She was a foreigner. She was a single mom. She had no particular status. She was far from her family, and she had run away from Abram and Sarai. Although she must have felt terribly isolated and alone, God cared about her. Please don’t miss this. God cares no matter who we are. God cares no matter where we are. In the New Testament, the ultimate evidence of God’s care is seen in the cross of Jesus Christ who gave himself for us.
As we consider how God cares we need to recognize that in Genesis 16 Sarai used and abused Hagar. Sarai used her to try to get a child. Sarai then abused her out of jealousy and resentment. Abram participated in Sarai’s activity and permitted the mistreatment. You know abuse can happen in all kinds of families. Spouse abuse and child abuse have no economic, educational, racial or religious boundaries. Does that surprise you? Perhaps you did not think that abuse could happen in a prominent family. Perhaps you did not think that abuse could happen in a family where the husband was known for his relationship with God. But it is here, in the Biblical record, it is here in the land of the Bible, it is here in Canada, it is here in New Brunswick, it is here in your own community.
So what is abuse? A simple definition could be this: abuse is the misuse of power and control. It is an attempt to coerce and control through emotional and/or, physical means. Physical abuse may involve hitting, choking, or sexual assault. But in some cases no physical assault is involved. Instead verbal attacks can be used to intimidate and control, such as excessive criticism or name-calling, or threats.
Physical abuse can result in wounds that are visible. Abuse can also result in wounds that are invisible to the human eye. The feeling of being powerless, the loss of freedom, the destruction of dignity, the sting of betrayal; all these are wounds that a victim can experience. These may not be visible to the human eye, but God sees, God hears, and God cares. God cared for Hagar. If we call ourselves the people of God we are obligated to care for the victims of abuse.
The name “the God who sees me” described for Hagar attributes or characteristics of the Lord. In her encounter with “the God who sees me” Hagar learned some lessons: She learned about God in her circumstances, she learned that God sees, she learned that God hears, and she learned that God cares. These truths about God are reminders that no detail of our lives escapes the Lord’s attention.
Rev. Edward Powell
Pastor of the Grand Bay, NB Baptist Church