I’ve learnt something today that has blessed me hugely, so I thought I’d pass it on to bless you too. It’s a story of God’s grace and wonderful ways, and how He can transform a ‘bad place’ of despair into a place of blessing. You’ll remember Sarah and Hagar and their sons, Isaac and Ishmael, and how Hagar was sent away by Abraham because Ishmael mocked Isaac at the boy’s weaning ceremony (Genesis 21). Not just light teasing; the word indicates intense derision.
You’d think that Hagar would have prevented him because years earlier she’d run away after being badly treated by Sarah after mocking her childlessness (Genesis 16). A rather nasty thing to do, you might think, laughing at someone who longs for a child but can’t conceive. (The pain of childlessness is often still felt in old age.) Hagar suffered because of her own pride and insolence. But God had His eye on her and found her sitting near a spring in the desert. He told her to go back and submit to her mistress, and because of that, the well in that place is called ‘Beer Lahai Roi’ meaning ‘the One who lives and Who sees me.’
The wonderful twist in the saga is that years later, Beer Lahai Roi was the place where the grown up Isaac was meditating and where his new bride was brought to him (Genesis 24: 62-62). And it was there that he chose to live (Genesis 25:11), bringing community and life to the place where ‘God sees’. God kept His promise to Hagar (Genesis 16), and turned what had been a tragic place into a blessing.
People sometimes say that they are ‘in a bad place,’ when they are experiencing depression, or sorrow, or grief. Bereavement is an especially ‘bad place’. But Hagar’s story brings hope, because it shows that there is ‘One Who Sees’ and who will, in time. turn it into a place of grace and communion.
(With thanks for the insight to Roger Hitchings, an inspirational Bible Scholar who will be speaking at our AGM in Leicester on May 11.)