I’d first like to be clear in that I am no bible scholar nor a theologian. I’m simply a believer who loves to dig deeper in the Word of God, especially when historical accounts seem all too familiar to the challenges I and others I personally know have faced, or is significant to what I wish to seek answers for.
I’ve had some time researching the story of Hagar, praying for fresh revelation as to the true message behind her story, and of course, digging in deeper. In my opinion, the story of Hagar is a remarkable story. Found in Genesis chapter 16, Hagar is first introduced where she is identified as an Egyptian servant to Sarai, wife of Abram, and was chosen to be a surrogate to bear children for Sarai. Both Sarai and Abram anticipated the conception of their promised son, which God previously revealed to Abram; however, the appointed time had not yet come.
At the time and in his old age, God’s word to Abram was that he would receive an heir from his own body in that that he and his wife, Sarai, would bear a son. Sarai had not been able to conceive with her husband, Abram. While there is certainly a multitude of topics I could address here, I want to just keep the focus on Hagar. I’ve found no specific detail on how Hagar ended up as a servant to Sarai. However, the speculation of Sarai’s acquiring Hagar derives from Genesis 12: 10-20 when Pharaoh offered a number of elaborate gifts to Abram with the expectation to gain Sarai as a wife.
Hagar is widely considered as the first single mother mentioned in the Bible and her story often leaves a few mixed reviews. What’s the message behind her story? To whom is her story most valuable? Sadly, I’ve found that many people believe today’s single parents are solely the result of poor decisions, unfortunate circumstances, and even more disturbing I’ve learned there are a number of people who strongly believe that all single mothers are living in sin and are deserving of consequences. Right here is where I now introduce to you what I’ve found to be a blessing behind the story of Hagar and the 5 things revealed that all single mothers should know.
1. GOD SEES
As a result of a divorce, I became a single parent. You can read more on my story here; but what’s your story? If not you, what about the women you know who are currently or have previously been a single mom? Whatever your story, God has His eye on you. Your life’s circumstance did not occur without God’s knowledge. He’s been watching.
When reading about her, clearly Hagar did not set her hopes and dreams on becoming a single mom, as many of us – She did not simply wake up one day and made the decision to become a single parent. In those days, her servanthood and loyalty were to her mistress, Sarai. It was common for servants to also serve as surrogates to their masters and Hagar’s compliance was no different. Sarai knew of God’s promise to Abram, however, she felt that perhaps the promised child could be granted by alternate means. She suggested that her husband, Abram, sleep with Hagar. Now – lets please just give a little bit of grace here. There was no such thing as artificial insemination. No medical or scientific means to make this occur. Give a woman some credit would ya! And as for Abram, let’s not get him off the hook! He agrees (happy wife, happy life.. right? Not quite). He sleeps with Hagar and thus their plan of conceiving a child has successfully occurred.
Of course today, we could all see what’s coming, right? As months went by and with the anticipation of this child, whom Sarai was unable to conceive with Abram, feelings got in the way. Hagar began to look down on Sarai. Sarai, feeling a bit of jealousy, started to mistreat Hagar. And Abram… he just wanted to stay out of it. Sarai’s mistreatment of Hagar was so harsh, Hagar reacted by running away.
“Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness.”
“He said, Hagar, Sarai’s maid, Where have you come from and where are you going?”
Now, to me, this is where it gets interesting and I’ll share with you why. Again, I’m just a believer digging deeper into God’s word. The angel of the LORD “found” her and not only “called” her by name, but also “knew” her position. God sovereignly arranged that. He knew what was happening. Further, I believe the question of “where have you come from and where are you going?” was giving Hagar the opportunity to reconsider her decision to flee. Did you know the Egyptian meaning of the name Hagar is flight? Hagar might have been an Egyptian but in my opinion, she was under some form of spiritual leadership or to the very least, have witnessed spiritual leadership in Abram’s home. She had to have observed both Abram and Sarai’s worship, prayer, and sacrifices to God.
But, why would God send His angel to her? This woman basically participated in adulterous acts and conceived a child out of wedlock with a man called by God! My belief is that God knew her heart – something no one can judge or measure a man by. The heart is essentially what’s hidden to man but no one can keep it hidden from God. Perhaps Hagar was going through a change in her heart. Perhaps she felt, things have gone too far and wanted to just give up. I believe God was speaking to her in that He would continue to work through her – she need only to have faith and rely on His strength. How many times have you been judged by your acts? Have you been called out for not being a “true” believer or not one at all? Know that your Father in heaven longs for you to know Him just as He knows you. He’s never said it was easy, but He assures it’s worth it!
After venting to the angel, Hagar was instructed to return to Sarai and resume her position as a servant (Genesis 16:9). Now, I want you to take a moment and close your eyes. Put yourself in Hagar’s shoes but keep intact the circumstances that lead to the breakdown in your own relationship. What do you believe your instructions would be if you were found by an angel of the Lord? Would you do it? Could you see yourself setting pride aside and allowing yourself to hear from God? That’s a tough one even for me to answer. Regardless of all involved, it is your independent behavior and response to a situation that matters. Verse 10 reads, “Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, ” I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” God promised her a reward for her obedience.
I find it very humbling and sincere of Hagar to be astonished that this God, whom she has only heard of being called by Abram and Sarai, would care enough to seek her out and ensure her well-being. According to vs. 13, Hagar – herself, “…then called the name of the LORD who spoke to her.” Never mind the message that was being given to her, Hagar couldn’t believe she was being spoken to and yet remained alive after seeing Him! What testimony in itself!
Not only does God sees, But He also causes you to see too! Jumping over to Genesis chapter 21 vs. 19, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” By this time, we are already 14 years out since Hagar’s last run away. If you go back a couple of verses you’ll see that Hagar, who had now known God and was calling Him by His name, prayed that she does not see her son suffer or die.
Now, this is just a side note — Hagar, an Egyptian and an outsider, began calling out the name of the LORD as EL ROI, the God who sees. At the time, She – not having ever prayed before – learned that it was the mere fact that God saw her whine in her affliction and subsequently sought her. He already knew the turmoil she was going through, which also meant He knew what she did on her own accord to instigate responses from Sarai.
Please hear me out — Hagar prayed as a result of already believing that God sees her; not because she felt God was taking a nap and she was summoning Him to pay attention! I’m not at all saying we shouldn’t pray. Of course, we should, that’s our communication mechanism! But I believe it’s worth acknowledging that if Hagar had any faith at all, it initiated when she simply knew that God sees.
In vs. 19, “Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” Remember what we read back in vs. 7, “Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water.” In taking a closer look at this, the well was a source of provision but, even when it was right there in her midst, Hagar was only able to see it when she allowed herself to hear from God. When trying to manage in our own efforts, we miss the things in plain sight. Even at the 11th hour, He shows up. God always provides exceedingly and abundantly over anything our minds could conceive of.
2. GOD HEARS
“God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from Heaven… Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.”
We find that by seeing, God also hears. Though in general, God hears the cry of his children, I want to emphasize particularly whom the angel mentions that God hears in this verse. God heard the child – his cries. This verse has given me so much comfort through the years. The most vulnerable in a breakdown of a family is the child. Their world has been shaken, their sense of stability and peace has been distorted. They, unfortunately, are the least thought about. But imagine if you will, just as you have emotional thoughts running through your mind from the pain and hurt of what brought you to live as a single mom, what about your children?
I use to walk in my kid’s room and just sit at the edge of their beds staring at them. Wondering what they were thinking and how they coped with adjustment. If they ever wondered seeing their father again. If they felt that anything was their fault. While I festered in my own grievance, theirs needed to be heard as well. The fact that God heard the cries of Ishmael gave comfort in knowing that He would also hear the cries of my children. If I lacked in sensitivity, God hears them and would most certainly cause me to be more patient with them. If I neglect to spend time with them, God would cause me to have more time. If I hurt their feelings in word or action, God would defend them in a quickness – and I’m Okay with that because He’s such a good good father.
3. GOD GREIVES
“And you shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.”
– Genesis 16:11
God wants only the best for all of His children – not what we conceive as best, what He infinitely knows and prepares as His best for us. So as we walk through life, stumbling and falling, of course, it breaks His heart to see us in difficult situations. Remember, God was already in the know before all had occurred. God seeing Hagar’s affliction, I believe, meant that God noticed her struggle.
After my divorce, my former spouse would constantly say things to me like, “We’re divorced, figure things out yourself” or “No man is going to want you with all those kids.” There were times his words weren’t even needed to leave a scar, simply his actions were enough. I had a tumultuous start as a single mom. Everything was chaotic and unstable. Through those struggles, I cried, I was angry, I reacted out of emotions – I was just acting ugly! God saw my afflictions from betrayal in my marriage, rejection as a wife, abandonment as a mother, as well as the emotional abuse. I never sought out to be a single mom. I married a man who promised me and my family “till death do us part” he’d be responsible for me as his better half. Much like Hagar, God saw my afflictions, He heard my cries, and He felt my pain. There was never a time, even at the 11th hour, that God did not show up in my time of need.
God sees your affliction too. He knows the mess you’re involved in and wants to make it a message – for your good, for His glory. He knows the test you’re going through and wants to make it your testimony. Would you let Him? Would you heed to His call and surrender? It only gets better from there, take it from me.
4. GOD STORES UP PROVISION
God will make a way out of no way. He will cause people to come alongside you to help you and lift you up to where you need be, whether for a temporary moment or permanent. Hagar did eventually return to Sarai and Abrams home and gave birth to Ishmael. Let examine this, shall we? We don’t hear about Hagar and Sarai’s interaction again till Chapter 21 and by that time, Ishmael was about 14 years old. I like to look at the bright side of things so, from my point of view, Hagar technically had not experienced being a single mom during that time. Ishmael grew up with his father, Abram, who loved him very much. Additionally, Hagar remained gainfully employed as she continued servant work for Sarai. I also believe Hagar’s exposure to God increased throughout the years and also Ishmael now under the spiritual leadership of his father.
In Chapter 21, Isaac, the promised child of Abraham (changed from Abram back in Chapter 17) and Sarah (changed from Sarai back in Chapter 17), was now born and the relationship between Hagar and Sarah sparked yet again. Sarah was not pleased with Ishmael and did not want him to benefit from any portion of Isaac’s inheritance. She demanded that Abraham remove Hagar and Ishmael out of their home. Abraham felt torn by this but God informed Abraham of the promises he once told Hagar that awaited Ishmael. Because Ishmael was also a son of Abraham, he too would be blessed and would be made a great nation; the only thing is, he was not the promised son of Abraham that would establish the covenant after the death of Abraham.
Are you following me here? Despite the result of their failed effort and impatience in waiting on God, God still provided for them… all of them. Take a minute to insert your own story here. You see the message? You see the grace of God? You shall not be in lack when you place your burden in God’s hand. His grace is sufficient enough.
5. GOD HAS PURPOSE
Perhaps it’s not clear and you missed it, but what do you think Hagar’s purpose was? It is in my opinion that Hagar was already purposed to live a life of servitude. She started as an Egyptian slave and later became a servant to the wife of a man chosen by God. I believe that Hagar was also destined to be free from under Egyptian rule. On both attempts to abscond from Sarai, she never did return to Egypt – but for years later when she sought a wife for Ishmael. Whether significant or minimal, God sets out His purpose for us all to bring out results for His glory, not of our own.
For me, I found my purpose in encouragement through engaging, speaking and writing. I’ve seen God’s grace over my life, especially as a single mom. I see His strength upon me when I’m so close to giving up. I see the jobs he’s allowed me to have which further gives me the background in knowledge and the platform I needed for speaking, and the influence as well as credibility I gained with my audience.
Your pain becomes your platform – be it single parenting, domestic violence, a widow, barrenness, dumb decisions, whatever the junk! Surrender it to Him and watch Him work!
[Bonus] GOD RESTORES
Whether you’ve lost your identity, your home, your position, your health, your sanity, your ability to love again, functionality, whatever it is – Trust and believe that it is God’s desire to restore you! Countless stories in the Bible gives confirmation to this. Including our own story as His children. God’s plan ultimately restores our position with Him. Be encouraged and let His grace be sufficient enough for you.
Father, thank You for being Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. As Jehevoah El Roi, You’ve seen my suffering and heeded to my affliction. I’m thankful for this moment, having opening my eyes to see that my identity is not lost in my mistakes nor my past. Hagar, a foreigner who herself participated in sin, experienced jealousy and mistreatment, yet You saw her and had provisions for her and her child. Lord, I know You have a plan for my life and the lives of my child(ren). Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me. Holy Spirit, help me detox from the negative thoughts invading my mind and from the lies spoke against me from my past. I stand here now surrendering all, willing to submit to Your will in what You have called me to be. Let me not be too inflexible and too proud to walk the path you’ve set for me. Help me remain in obedience to you.
In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.