The story of Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian slave, is familiar to many of us. Likely we prefer to quickly read through the verses about Abram and Sarai’s mistreatment of Hagar in favor of getting to God’s prophecy fulfilled in the birth of Isaac. This time, however, I invite you to pause and consider Hagar’s first encounter with God.
Hagar’s story has a tough beginning to be sure; after a pregnant Hagar treats the barren Sarai with contempt, “Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away” (Gen. 16:6, NLT). The following verse says, “the angel of the LORD found Hagar beside a spring of water in the wilderness,” and spoke to her by name. The angel told her, “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’) for the LORD has heard your cry of distress (Gen. 16:11).
Wow! God saw Hagar’s anguish and sought her out in the wilderness to comfort her and reassure her that He heard her cries. “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said ‘You are the God who sees me (El Roi).’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” (Gen. 16:13). Hagar is the first person in the Bible to give God a name, and it occurs when she encounters God personally during her greatest trial. The angel of the LORD shows up for Hagar and affirms that God sees her, knows her name, and hears her cries of distress.
We all want to be seen and noticed by God and by those around us. We want to feel significant, loved, and cared about. My challenge to you is to take this story of Hagar’s encounter with “the God who sees me” and make it personal for others needing encouragement.
How can you demonstrate the loving presence of the God who sees them and cares about them today, this week, and this month? In her sermon on January 22, Mary Butkevich challenged us to be alert to God’s timing and assignment for us; if we are obedient, God will use us! We’ve all had moments of missed opportunities, when we felt that gentle nudge of the Holy Spirit but didn’t follow through.
Praise God that He gives us multiple chances! As Mary said, God shows up when He is ready and invites us to partner with Him to accomplish his purposes, so let’s be on the lookout for opportunities to reveal El Roi to those around us. Perhaps it’s inviting a friend out for coffee; praying with someone who appears to be having a hard day; providing a meal or a restaurant gift card; sending a text that you’re thinking of and praying for them; helping to pay the grocery bill of the person who has come up short ahead of you; or sending your pastor a card (Gary’s birthday is February 5!). There are endless ways to lend a helping hand, and God can use your humble act of service and multiply its impact.
Truly, we don’t know the full effect of an encouraging card, coffee, or prayer in the life of someone struggling to believe that God sees them. So be alert to God’s prompting, and make the most of every opportunity to be a blessing. If we are willing to step out of our routine and a preoccupied focus on our priorities, God can show us His priorities and how we can partner with Him to show others El Roi: the God who sees them.