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Join us as we dig deeper into the story of Hagar and how this incredibly mistreated woman, an outsider and a victim, teaches us something fundamental about the heart of God.

‘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 NIV

In Genesis 16:13, Hagar, a woman who was cast out and unseen by society, encounters God and proclaims, “You are the God who sees me.” This powerful verse serves as a reminder of our mission as a Church to see and love all, just as God sees and loves each and every one of us.

But why are some people ‘unseen’?

Why do some people feel they are invisible to others? And what can Genesis 16:13 tell us about this? We want to dig into the story in Genesis to see what is going on, and what important things does it teach us about God, ourselves, and how we live out our faith today.

This verse happens in the wider context of the life of Abram, Sarai, and their fairly large household. It is no exaggeration to say that they were well off; in Genesis 13 Abrams’ and his cousin Lots’ households are so vast that they have to split up as there isn’t enough grazing land for all their animals, and Abram is regularly keeping company with local kings and rulers. Yet they don’t have the one thing that was valued above all else in their time and place; children. However, they have been promised that Abram’s offspring will be like the dust of the earth, or the stars in the sky, and so they begin to plot and plan. If their offspring will be so numerous, there has to be a child to start the line off, and so they come up with a scheme to make sure there is a child; Abram will sleep with Sarai’s slave, Hagar.

Once Hagar becomes pregnant though, Sarai’s bitterness becomes directed towards her, and in a move of callousness, Sarai mistreats Hagar so much that Hagar flees into in the direction of Shur, possibly with some vague plan about returning to her home in Egypt.

Pause the story here and look back at what has happened to Hagar; She is a slave of these extremely wealthy people and is at their beck and call and her agency is stolen from her further when her body is used by the couple to have a child.

Despite having no choice in any of this, she is then mistreated and abused by her mistress for becoming pregnant. Is it any wonder she feels invisible?

Abram and Sarai don’t see a person when they look at her, but instead see their goal and how they can use Hagar to achieve that.

But then God appears. He sees Hagar, speaks to her, reassures her, and shows her a glimpse of her sons’ future. Who has God appeared to and spoken to before this? Since the narrative of the Flood, she is the third recorded person to whom God has spoken to directly, and the first person who names God.

She makes sense of who God is through what He has done for her.

It would be great to have read that everything goes smoothly for Hagar after this, but sadly Abram and Sarai do not suddenly learn to treat her differently. Eventually she is permanently cast out of their camp and sent to wander in the wilderness with a little bread and a waterskin, but God sees her and cares for her in the wilderness, so that she and her son Ishmael survive and thrive.

Even though Hagar was outside of the promise to Abram, God sees her, not for what she can do, but for who she is; a cherished, loved, image bearer of our Creator, who is valuable for no other reason than her existence.

I wonder how many of us could say that we see people in the same way? How many of us can put aside our own desires and ambitions and see the people around us as valuable in themselves, not what they can do?

Can we be challenged by Hagar’s story, so it shapes our behaviour?

This moment in the Bible, of Hagar, the slave who named God, certainly motivates us at Church Army in our aim to love and serve those who others don’t see as valuable. We share with them, through word and action, that they are cherished, loved, image bearers of the Father, who are loved because God chose them to be here.

How will you let Hagar’s story shape how you see?

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