Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well. She went and filled the leather bag with water and gave some to the boy. God was with the boy as he grew up; he lived in the wilderness of Paran and became a skilful hunter. His mother found an Egyptian wife for him. Genesis 21:19-21
It is essential that these two kinds of discourse not be confused or that one gets substituted for the other. Perhaps this can be clarified by pressing the love analogy further. Imagine the lover and the beloved at a critical moment in which the primary language is to be spoken. “Do you love me?” asks the lover. And the beloved answers, “Well, that is an interesting question. What is love after all?” And so launches into a discussion about the essence of love. After patient waiting, the lover finally gets another chance. “Yes, that’s all interesting, but do you love me?” Then the beloved takes another diversionary tack and says, “Well, yes, of course. You see, I love everybody!” (A universalist!) The lover protests, “That’s not what I mean! You haven’t answered the question! Do you love me?” So it goes. In spite of all the helpful things it does, secondary discourse makes the would-be lover look ridiculous when substituted for primary discourse.
Our task is that we develop a self-identity as Christians and do these things not incidentally to our lives, but centrally. By encouraging one another, by praying together, by studying Scripture together, we develop a sense that these things are in fact the very center of our lives. And we recognize they are not the center of the world’s life, however much cultural talk there is about Christianity.
There are the bad guys in scripture, and then there are those we assume are bad guys, sinner worse than the rest of us, and those bound for hell—well at least in our humble opinion.
The first I ever noted was Cain, who God talked to, and protected, not allowing any to condemn him. Ishmael, the son of Hagar, is another. It is just a brief comment. God was with him.
God was with him.
He wasn’t the chosen one, but God was with him.
I think this is what Forde is getting to as he tries to keep sharing the gospel in tension with teaching systematic theology. We can talk all day long about the presence of God, using intricate words like incarnational and sacramental, throwing around Hebrew, Greek and Latin terminology, and discussing the covenants. We can make hypothesis about why Elohim was used and not Yahweh. We can look at the history of his offspring in the Old Testament, and the sins they committed and the wars they started. Based on all of that, we might think that Ishmael was completely cut off, outside the family of God, even as he was cast away from the family of Abraham.
Defined by theology, Ishmael was an outcast.
But looking at the scripture through the lens of the gospel, God was with him.
It is something to think through, because many of us don’t fit the systems of the church today. We are not in with the cool crowd; we don’t have the right sponsors; we don’t have the connections, or the look or the charisma. We feel like outcasts.
This passage gives hope to the outcasts, for if God was even with him, then surely God can be with us.
The passage is that primary language of the gospel, “I am with you” that we so need to hear. I will care for you (which was the promise God made Abraham about Ishmael) God kept the promise, even to the one everyone overlooked.
He will keep those promises to you as well.
The Lord is with you!
Gerhard O. Forde, Theology Is for Proclamation (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1990), 3.
Eugene H. Peterson, Introduction, ed. Rodney Clapp, vol. 17, The Leadership Library (Carol Stream, IL; Dallas; Waco, TX: Christianity Today; Word Pub., 1989), 18.
Devotional Thought for our days:
9 Then the Angel of the LORD said to her, “You must go back to your mistress and submit to her mistreatment.”
13 So she called the LORD who spoke to her: The God Who Sees, for she said, “In this place, have I actually seen e the One who sees me?” 14 That is why she named the spring, “A Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” It is located between Kadesh and Bered. Genesis 16:9, 13-14
140 Live your Christian life with naturalness! Let me stress this: make Christ known through your behaviour, just as an ordinary mirror reproduces an image without distorting it or turning it into a caricature. If, like the mirror, you are normal, you will reflect Christ’s life, and show it to others.
God told her to go back where she was being mistreated.
I struggle to wrap my mind around what God was doing. Who is this God who would send a poor slave back to her owner, to undergo more mistreatment? To send her back to where she was told to commit adultery, to conceive a baby by a man who would never love her, who would later (see chapter 21) abandon her and her son.
Why did God send her back? Why would he not just take care fo them then and there?
Another question needs ot be asked though, one that we really need to ponder.
Why was she the one who got to see God face to face? Why did she have the great assurance that God would even listen to her prayers? Look at the name of the place, see Hagar’s faith.
The One who sees me….
There are times where wonder why God would bother with me. There are other times where I wonder why He would place me where he does so often, dealing with people who are in more trauma than I comprehend.
That’s when Hagar’s faith, this lady who was overlooked, taken for granted, given the worst work ( the idea of having to be involved with the 85-year-old spouse of her mistress must have been a bit traumatic) and not cared for, yet God came to her. God was met her face to face and ensured Her of His presence in her life and in her sons.
As He is in ours. He sees us… you and I.
Assured of that, I can live life, praying that my life is that mirror, that people looking at me see God. And then, I can find some peace… in awe of the glory of God that surrounds us. For He sees us.
Amazing love, how can it be?
I don’t know how… but I sure need it, and it is surely there.
Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge (Kindle Locations 690-693). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.