One of the many blessings of being pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Evanston is engaging with very biblically literate Christians. Each week, I work with, fellowship and preach to people who know and read their bible. The following is a reflection on Genesis 16:1-16, written by a member of our congregation who decided to take up my challenge to the congregation to read through all of Scripture in 2013.
Sarah can’t wait for God’s plan and blames her infertility on God. I think that she is angry. She takes her future into her own hands. Have we seen this pattern before? Sarah tells Abraham to take her maidservant and then, out of anger, Sarah mistreats her maidservant.I feel badly for Hagar. I don’t like anyone to be mistreated.Hagar begins to run away from the mistreatment. God asks her where she is coming from and where she is going? I love God’s questions. This is just like when he asks Adam and Eve where they are after they sin. God always knows where we are coming from, where we are, and where we are going I think that the specific words are not meant to comfort Hagar as much as they are to assure Hagar that her plight has been seen and that God is in her presence. It is always God’s presence that comforts us. The “words” really are of little matter. His presence is beyond words. God does not allow Hagar to become a “restless wanderer” like Cain. He does not “scatter” her like the people of Babel. God tells her to return.
Hagar wants a new beginning. Sometimes I want a new beginning too. I think that it is difficult to know when to run and when to stay in life. When do we set out with our tents to a new place? When do we pitch our tents and stay? I envy the Jews in the wilderness because they had a cloud – a visible sign of God’s presence – to tell them when to go and when to stay.I do know that if we leave a place of difficulty where God has put us, we are missing His blessing. I also know that if we stay in a place of comfort to serve ourselves, because we feel safe and provided for, we are missing God’s purpose.Either way, God can use us. He can overcome our bad decisions and offer us a new purpose and a new sense of direction. Still, it is best to listen to God’s voice. The more we listen, the clearer His voice and His presence becomes. Isn’t this the greatest blessing of all – to be traveling life’s road with the King?