Lessons from the life of Hagar

 

Lessons from the life of Hagar
Lessons from the life of Hagar


Lessons from the life of Hagar is all about the usual piece of Practical wisdom acquired from the life of Hagar.
A lonely, abused, single mother and slave girl who encounters God so intimately that she is the only person in the entire Bible who gives God a name – that is the legacy of the incredible woman we learn about in Genesis: Hagar.

Hagar was Sarah’s slave, and the mother of Abraham’s first son because Sarah could not conceive. Although she experiences torment and abuse from her mistress and her circumstances, God is faithful to her and blesses her despite it all.

Hagar is a woman who experiences God’s goodness firsthand and trusts him fully. We can learn so much from her boldness and the blessings God provides for her throughout her entire life.

Here is a brief summary of who Hagar is and four meaningful lessons we can learn from her life:

 

Lessons From The Life Of Nehemiah



Who Is Hagar?

The first time the Bible mentions Hagar is in Genesis 16:1: “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, ‘The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.’”

Hagar had no choice in this matter, but she does become pregnant with Abraham’s first child. Maybe it was because she resented this situation that Sarah had forced her into, or because she knew she had more social clout now that she was pregnant with the patriarch’s offspring, but Hagar began treating Sarah with contempt. So Sarah retaliated by treating Hagar so harshly that Hagar fled to the desert.

But God saw the whole thing and had compassion on Hagar. While she is in the desert beside a spring of water, the angel of the Lord appears to her and talks to her. She tells him that she is running away from her mistress, to which he replies:

“‘Go back to your mistress and submit to her.’ The angel added, ‘I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count… You are now pregnant and you will give birth to a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man…’” (see Genesis 16:9-12).

Although returning to her mistress was probably the last thing that Hagar wanted to do, and the last thing she wanted to hear as a command from the Lord, she does not fight it. She knows that something spectacular has just happened to her, and she has great faith in 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).

So Hagar returns to her mistress and bears Abraham’s son, and he was named Ishmael.

If we fast forward a few chapters, we see Hagar again in Genesis 21. Isaac has been born to Abraham, and Abraham prepared a huge feast to celebrate Isaac being weaned. But when Sarah saw that Ishmael was either mocking or playing with Isaac (the Hebrew word “צָחַק” could mean either) Sarah became afraid that Ishmael could take Isaac’s inheritance, so she demands that Abraham get rid of Hagar and Ishmael.

Once again, Hagar finds herself in the desert, with only some food and water strapped to her back. She wanders aimlessly, and when they ran out of water, she sets Ishmael under a bush and steps away from him, because she doesn’t want to watch her son die.

But once again, God steps in.

“God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, ‘What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up” (Genesis 21:17-20).

God reaffirms his promise to Hagar that Ishmael is going to be the father of a great nation. He remains faithful to them, and Hagar even arranges for Ishmael to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.

God remains so faithful to Hagar through her entire life. She deserves credit for trusting him to do so, too! Let’s glean all we can from her amazing story.

 

Characteristics of Isaac in the bible



1. God Hears and Sees Us

We all are born into this world with a relational need to have our caregiver hear and see us; to be in tune with us, our needs, and what we are experiencing. It is so beautiful and powerful to see this kind of language be attributed to God throughout this story.

Ishmael means “God hears.” Genesis 16:11 tells us that God commanded “You shall name him Ishmael, for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

Later, when Ishmael was put under the bush and left to die, God again reassures Hagar “Do not be afraid. God has heard the boy crying…” (Genesis 21:17).

And, of course, Hagar sees this aspect of God so clearly and of such high importance that she names him El Roi, “the God who sees me.”

Hagar was just a lonely slave girl. She had been forced from her home, forced to sleep with Abraham without her consent, forced to bear his child without her consent, and abused so harshly by Sarah that she needed to run away to escape.

In that time, she would have been seen as a “womb slave” – essentially a womb with legs, not even considered her own person. Her humanity was questioned in so many ways.

And yet, God saw her.

He saw her misery; he heard her cries for help. He wanted so badly for Hagar to know that this is who he is that he named Ishmael “God hears” to be this constant reminder.

And God didn’t just hear her or see her and do nothing. He kept his promises, made Ishmael a great nation, and provided a way for Hagar to escape her oppressors. And he does the same for us.


How to say thank you in a Godly way

 


2. God Provides

The first time that Hagar encounters the angel of the Lord in the desert, she is by a spring of water. But the second time she is in the desert, to her knowledge, there is no water to be found.

When she has already given up, the angel of the Lord appears. Genesis 21:19 tells us that God opened her eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She was able to keep herself and her son alive, and they continued on to live a fulfilling life.

It is true that sometimes God waits on our faith to work in our lives. But he is a good father. He saw that Hagar had given up and was completely destitute – so he stepped in and provided exactly what she needed, seemingly out of thin air.

There is nothing that you could need more in a desert than water, and no sight more welcome than a well full of it, right by where you are. God made the impossible happen for Hagar out of his great love for her.

How many times has this happened in our lives? We give up hope on something, but all of a sudden we get an unexpected check in the mail, or the phone call we’ve desperately needed, or a loving meal at just the right time. It would benefit us all greatly to remember all the ways that God shows up for us, the same way he did for Hagar.



3. God Is Faithful to the Outcast

Hagar had so many things going against her. She was a slave, a foreigner, and hated by a woman in power. Her son was in fact the patriarch’s first son, but, even by God’s account, was not the son chosen to carry on God’s covenant.

She was an outsider in every way. And yet, God treats her with so much favor and kindness. So much so that she gets the privilege of being the only person in the Bible who gets to name God, even though she isn’t even a Jew!

Abraham loves Hagar’s son even though he is not the son that God originally intended for Abraham to have. God frees Hagar and her son from slavery. And God blesses Ishmael innumerably through his many descendants, like Genesis 17:20 confirms yet again:

“And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.”

Ishmael is believed by the Jews to be the father of many Bedouin peoples dwelling in southern Palestine. Muhammad, the founder of Islam, is also believed to be a descendent of Ishmael. This demonstrates God’s faithfulness to his promise to make Ishmael into a great nation.

Many make the connection that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we see in the Middle East today goes all the way back to Isaac and Ishmael. And it is true that God’s prediction in Genesis 16:12 comes true, that Ishmael and his people, the Ishmaelites, would cause strife and war against his relatives since the Ishmaelites are an enemy of the Israelites later on in the Bible.

However, this article outlines many compelling points about how Ishmael is not actually set up against Isaac, and how the Ishmaelites are not always an enemy of Israel in the Bible.

Ishmael is circumcised with Abraham as the sign of the covenant with God (Genesis 17:26). And even though Ishmael is not the son that carries on Abraham’s line in accordance with his covenant with God, Ishmael is still clearly favored by God and receives his love and blessings.

In very simple, modern terms, it’s easy to see Isaac as the “popular kid” and Ishmael as the “loser.” But even though Ishmael was not who God chose to carry on Abraham’s descendants, God still clearly stuck by him, freed him, and blessed him.

We can all feel like the “loser” next to the “popular kid” at times. But this story reminds us that not only do we have a God that loves us in either situation, but a God who advocates for the outcasts and models for us to do the same.


4. God Still Works, Even When We Go off Plan

Finally, we can see through Hagar’s story that God is powerful and will still find ways to love us and glorify himself, even when we don’t stick to his original plan.

God promised Abraham that he would have innumerable descendants through his wife, Sarah. The only reason that Hagar was put in the position she was was because Sarah and Abraham’s faith wavered. Sarah blamed God for her inability to bear Abraham an heir, so she attempts to make God’s promise come to fruition her own way, on her own strength.

In that way, Ishmael was never even supposed to be born. Had Sarah remained faithful in God’s provision, Hagar would never have been offered up as a womb slave to bear Abraham’s heir. And yet, God still keeps his promise.

In Genesis 17:15-22, God reaffirms his promise to Abraham. Abraham asks God if it could be Ishmael who lives under God’s blessing instead of Isaac. But God remains insistent that he will do the miraculous and open Sarah’s womb to bear his heir. God promised something to Abraham, and he intended to keep it.

And he does! Through this miracle comes the twelve tribes of Israel, and eventually, Jesus himself! God does not waver in his faithfulness, even when Abraham and Sarah wavered in theirs.

But God doesn’t just ignore Hagar and Ishmael or treat them as an inconvenience to his plan. He uses them to show his tender, faithful love, his provision, and attention to justice and the oppressed. We still learn from them today, thousands of years later!

The story of Hagar offers so much hope to us today. As individuals, we know that God sees and hears our misery, provides for our desperate needs, and shows love to us even if we are outcasts. And as a community, we learn from them that God fights for the oppressed and does not show favoritism to the privileged.

Let’s take these lessons from Hagar to heart and see how God transforms us and our community.