Grace Words

A Daily Bible Reader's Blog

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Experiencing the Love of God

She [Hagar] 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).

In a series of lessons on “Loving the Lord’s Way” I recently told the story of Hagar to illustrate God’s love. Hagar is significant.  Though a slave in the household of Abraham, she nonetheless is the only person in the Old Testament to give God a name — and she does it on the basis of her experience with God’s love.

My first point  was that before the Bible ever uses the term “love” to refer to something God does, God acts in a loving way. He does it by seeing people in their distress taking note of it, and acting in caring ways toward them to relieve their pain. Notice that Hagar was not of God’s family. She was an Egyptian, and a slave. But God had his eye on her and showed love to her. It was but the merest foretaste of His love to come.

The second point was that if God calls us to love others as He has loved us – and He has – we must begin with His example: to see people in their distress, take note of it, and act as we can to relieve their suffering.

But there is a third point.

People come to know God’s love by seeing it in us first. It will do no good to talk about God’s love if we will not show it. Until then, it’s just talk.  The talk becomes real to others in our actions.

Sunday, January 5. Genesis 14-17

“Perhaps that’s how God is going to make it happen.”

Such is often the excuse of the frantic faithless when, despairing of God’s blessing, they seek to work things out for themselves.

Though the notion of a “surrogate” mother and the practice of polygamy in the ancient world was not unknown, the Israel of the Exodus, reading this story for the first time, had to be more than a little chagrined at Sara’s plan to force to fruition God’s promises.

But it is not the only embarrassing moment of the story.

Like Adam before him, Abraham is silently complicit in Sara’s plan. In each story, the man “listened to his wife” (3:17; 16:2). Hagar, blessed to be in the company of a God blessed family, turns on the very person who has chosen her, acts disgracefully, and ends up, as Israel has, in the “desert.” Sara, now jealous and regretting her actions mistreats the helpless girl she has oppressed (much as Egypt oppressed Israel). Then, she blames her husband for the result and mistreats Hagar. Some folks simply find it impossible to accept responsibility for their own sins.

Hagar runs away, but God follows. He knows the inequities. Though God promises Hagar (as he did Abraham) that her descendants will be too numerous to count, he commands her to go back to the house of her oppression. Blessing, it would seem, is tied inseparably to the people of God.

Life is messy. It can be so simple when people simply trust God and follow His way. But it gets complicated and messed up quickly when people play God themselves. Sometimes, Christians, weary of the hijinks of the Church, seek to find blessing in separation and on their own. The result is always a desert. You have to go back, live as you should, and trust God to make everything as He intends it to be. That’s when promises come true and blessings flow.