God Who Sees Me
I love teaching the Old Testament.
For the last few years, I’ve taught Introduction to Biblical Literature and Pentateuch courses at Life Pacific College and recently became an adjunct professor of an OT Survey Course in my denomination’s SoCal U, an incredible ministry training institute.
One of the stories that students often overlook in Scripture is the story of Hagar. As part of their homework, I invite students to survey the Book of Genesis, make observations, write down comments, and ask questions about what they see.
More often than not, students fail to mention what I think is the most critical verses in Genesis. In Chapter 16 of Genesis, we see a challenging yet beautiful story. A man uses his position and power to sleep with his wife’s servant. The servant gets pregnant and, after some blame shifting, the servant is sent out into the wilderness. Hagar, this helpless pregnant woman, is cast out of the safety and protection of her clan and begins to wander the desert.
As I read this story, I begin to weep.
Hagar is sent out. Away from safety and protection and security is met by YHWH. The Lord meets her with repeated phrase, “Hagar, Servant of Sarai” (6). God sees Hagar and calls Hagar by her name. Hagar is seen. She is known. She is found.
In the midst of the underserved and sometimes harsh treatment you endure, God sees you, and God knows your name.
After a brief conversation, YHWH speaks over Hagar what is now known as the Abrahamic blessing. Hagar will have many children, Hagar will have a future in her son, the Lord hears Hagar’s pain.
Hagar then turns to the Lord and says, “God who sees me” (13).
Time and time again this passage is glanced over (often because of odd translations of the text).
In Genesis 16.13 we encounter the first theologian in the Bible. A pregnant-out-of-wedlock slave girl cast away due to harsh treatment is the first person in Scripture to give God a name.
There has been an awful lot of hateful speech in the media in the recent weeks, particularly toward women who have endured violence against men. I am thankful for the brave women who are speaking up, having the courage to share their stories and offer hope to other women and men who have been treated harshly and feel as though they must flee their communities for the fear or reality of harsh treatment. Thank you for reliving your pain to offer hope to ‘othered’ in the midst of their pain.
Hagar is, in some ways, a matriarch of the faith. Later in the book, Abraham will look to Hagar’s theology to come up with the YHWH Yireh, God Will See. I think it is interesting that when we look for spiritual leaders, we often swoon to the people in power, or have the grandest titles, or shout the loudest.
What if YHWH is trying to speak to us through the stories of bruised, beaten, mistreated, and violated women?
If you have a story to share, I will listen. I will do better. I must do better. I want my theology and my practice to be informed by the women who have seen God and whom YHWH sees.