A very early account of human trafficking that appears in the Old Testament is one of the gnarliest stories in Scripture. It’s the tale of an Egyptian girl by the name of Hagar (chronicled in Genesis 16 & 21). We’re told very little about her except that she was a servant in the tents of Sarah and Abraham. When Sarah is unable to conceive, she makes her husband sleep with Hagar, supposedly bearing a child on her behalf. Once Hagar learns that she is pregnant, she doesn’t act as compliant as Mistress Sarah would have and flees to the wilderness.
So what does Author God have in mind? What does He want us to know?
In pondering over this story, I don’t get the impression that God delights in what is happening to Hagar; rather, He delights in Hagar. In the middle of nowhere, God calls out to her, showing that her suffering has been observed. In turn, Hagar gives God a descriptive name, calling Him the God who sees.
This story also shows us that God has a timing for all things. If Hagar continued in the wilderness as a pregnant fugitive…probably not the best situation for her or her baby. God tells her to return to Abraham and Sarah where she stays until her son is fourteen. Home life has become increasingly dysfunctional, and it is at this point that God gives the green light for Hagar to move on. Once again God meets Hagar in the wilderness, this time providing water in a dry land. For the second time in raw nature, God comforts the brokenhearted.
Thematically, Hagar’s journey shows us the destructive nature of slavery. It divides spouses. It uses innocent victims. It’s not good for anyone. Hagar’s story is a message to the world that slavery is the way of death. Freedom is God’s desire in all of our relationships.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
What do I learn about myself?
Hagar’s story shows me that God wants to meet me in personal ways, especially in the midst of a crisis.
Through Abraham and Sarah, I see the pain that ensues when we try to accomplish God’s will for Him. Abraham and Sarah had been promised a great lineage, but as they grew old and no children came, Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. At the expense of Hagar, she fails to trust God’s plan for bringing about children; rather than wait for God to reveal His miracle, Abraham passively goes along with his wife’s plans. This flawed couple reminds me that I can hear the voice of God and that I am to wait on Him to bring about His promises in my life.
How can we respond?
Hagar’s story is just one of the innumerable accounts of slavery in the history of the world. Her story gives us hope that God does see victims and wants to speak to them in personal ways.
Desiring to hear from Hagar’s parched lips, God asks the question, “What troubles you?” Victims of abuse should have the opportunity to safely share their journey. That’s what programs like Abolition Now are doing. Check out their website for stories of hope.
Written by Heidi Sadler, © 2016 Heidi Sadler, All Rights Reserved. The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®) copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. ESV® Text Edition: 2011. The ESV® text has been reproduced in cooperation with and by permission of Good News Publishers. Unauthorized reproduction of this publication is prohibited. All rights reserved.