Respond Like Hagar

The story of Sarai and Hagar is one of the hardest stories in the Bible for me to read, the abuse and wrath that Sarai showed to her maidservant makes me cringe inside. I just want to take Hagar and whisk her away to a place without her hateful mistress. Yet, in this story, God shows up for Hagar, though his instructions are far different than I would’ve offered.

To sum up this story for you: Sarai and her husband, Abram can’t have kids and, because of impatience, lack of faith, control issues, and more, Sarai instructs her husband to sleep with her servant, Hagar (an Egyptian woman) who then becomes pregnant. Sarai gets really jealous and angry about the whole situation (that she played a major part in) and ends up “dealing harshly with her” as the ESV states. After experiencing the wrath of her mistress, Hagar flees and an angel of the Lord meets her. The most difficult part of all this for me is the instruction given to Hagar in Genesis 16:9.

“Return to your mistress and submit to her.”

Sometimes the directive we receive from God simply makes no sense to us. There have been times when God has told me to stay in a job or a situation that I simply didn’t understand at the time, but now, looking back on it, I’m glad I stuck it out. There are other times when he told me to leave when things were great and I’m thankful I obeyed. We often won’t be able to make much sense of God’s instructions at the time, but if instructions made perfect sense then they wouldn’t require faith.

Now, do I think God sent Hagar back to Sarai and Abram to be abused? No, I don’t. I believe he was testing both Hagar and Sarai’s faith and obedience. For 14 years Hagar had to submit to her master. Sarai had a decade and a half to forgive this woman and forgive herself. We know that Hagar was obedient though Sarai’s treatment of Hagar didn’t necessarily change. Honestly, this makes me sad for Sarai but makes me want to celebrate Hagar.

This story, for me, boils down to the fact that I want to obey like Hagar and not like Sarai. I don’t want to take things into my own hands and act in a way that hurts myself and others. I want to submit to God and follow his voice, taking him at his word even when it doesn’t “make sense”. I want a faith that defies logic, like Hagar had.

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