While she is often looked down upon in Church history, I feel that Hagar, whose story is found in the book of Genesis, is a woman worthy of much admiration. In the face of adversity, she found God ready to meet her needs and see her through some really hard times. As God reached down to her, she reached up to Him in faith, believing that He would make good His promises.
Since she was a slave girl, she was at the beck and call of her mistress, Sarah. When Sarah came up with the idea to give Hagar to her husband Abraham to have the child that she couldn’t seem to conceive, Hagar didn’t really have a choice but to obey.
To her discredit, once Hagar conceived, she became haughty in her pregnancy and Sarah became jealous. Being unwilling to face the consequences of her own decision to give Hagar to Abraham to bear his child, Sarah appealed to Abraham, who handed Hagar over to the jealous Sarah. Sarah immediately began to treat Hagar harshly, wreaking vengeance on Hagar’s prideful behavior.
Sarah’s treatment of Hagar was so harsh that Hagar ran away. She fled into the wilderness, probably seeking to return to her family in Egypt. Hagar must have felt hopeless at this point and unsure of what to do. Egypt was 150 miles across the hot desert, and Hagar was great with child. When she was at the end of human hope, God found her. It was here in the wilderness that Hagar witnessed two of the grandest attributes of God, his omnipresence and his omniscience; God is everywhere and he knows everything.
While she was resting at a fountain on her journey, and “Angel of the Lord” called her and advised her to return, telling her in a few words the great future of her unborn child. In Genesis chapter 16 we find the words of the angel. The angel said, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” The angel of the LORD also said to her: “You are now with child and you will have a son. You shall name him Ishmael, for the LORD has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
Hagar in turn gave the Lord the name “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” And the well at which she sat was called Beer Lahai Roi, meaning “The well of Him who lives and sees me”.
Obedient to God’s command, Hagar returned to Abraham and Sarah. When her child was born, she name the boy Ishmael, meaning “God hears”, just as the angel had directed her to do. But her life was not an easy one. They lived in Abraham and Sarah’s household for fourteen years before Sarah bore Abraham Isaac, the child of promise. As Isaac grew, Hagar and Ishmael’s jealousy became evident. When Ishmael began to maltreat Isaac, Sarah could no longer tolerate it and she compelled Abraham to cast out Hagar and her son. Abraham sent them off into the wilderness of Beersheba to an almost certain death, with only a skin of water and some food.
After the water was gone, Hagar put her son under the shade of a bush and went some distance from him, not being able to bear to see him die. Here she sobbed in despair and her cries were joined by that of Ishmael. Hagar had forgotten God’s promise to her and that her son’s name meant “God hears”. But God didn’t forget and he heard the cries of both mother and child. He called out from heaven “Fear Not!” God saw their plight and assured her that they would indeed live and that Ishmael would become a great nation. He then opened her eyes so that she saw a well and he then commanded her to get up and take the boy with her. Once again, Hagar mustered up her courage and stepped out in faith. She filled her skin and they drank.
Through the gracious provision of God, Hagar found the faith and strength to raise her son in the desert alone. God was with the boy and he grew strong. He became an archer, which undoubtedly provided food for his mother and himself. Because of her obedience to God, Hagar was truly blessed. As God promised, Hagar lived to see her son grow up, marry, have children, and become a ruler of a great nation.