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Not Forgotten: Genesis 16.7-16

We are thankful as we remember this morning as this is Memorial Day Weekend.  As we celebrate this weekend we remember those who paid a high price, those who have given their lives so we can gather together today.  We can worship.  Most of us are gathering at home this morning.  We are starting to hear about things reopening and returning to normal.  Things haven’t been normal for quite awhile for us.  I I want to remind you thought that this is the kind of weekend to remember and to think about such things as those who have given their lives for us.  It’s time for us to do the things that we’d do on a normal Memorial Day weekend, to think about those who paid such a price because here’s what’s happening.  As we begin to reopen and do some things that feel very good to us it can also bring some other thoughts to our minds as well.  While remembering those who paid this price, they are not forgotten.  Somewhere along the way you can also feel forgotten in all of this.  Here’s what happens in many of our lives.  If you think back to January and March, that whole time period, did you have problems back then?  Did you have struggles that you were working through?  We all had things we were dealing with in our lives.  We all had challenges but suddenly we were all thrown into this pandemic.  We were doing a lot of things to make adjustments in our lives.  We needed to do that, but as we did that we put a lot of other things in our lives on the back burner.  We just couldn’t deal with those things right now because we have a pandemic going on.  As things begin to open back up and some parts of our lives begin to return to normal all of those things that were in our lives before all of this happened, they’re starting to come back again.  What that can do is it can make us more anxious than we were before.  Now we realize we have to deal with all the things we had before in our lives and deal with reopening and with the pressures of COVID 19 still with us.  As we think about all of this and the challenges that come with this I want you to know that God has not forgotten you. 

This morning we are in Genesis 16 :7-16 we encounter Hagar.  Hagar isn’t mentioned a whole lot in scripture, but what we do see about her is phenomenal.  Hagar was one of Abraham’s slaves.  Hagar is with child, pregnant.  Hagar is in a very difficult situation because she is being abused and because of the relational damage that has happened in that home, she is afraid and she’s ready to get away from it.  She is so afraid and distraught that she runs away.  She just wants freedom and on a weekend like this we can relate to that.  We are a freedom loving people.  Hagar just wanted freedom and was so desperate for freedom.  She wanted to be free from this hostile environment that she was willing to leave everything and just go.  That’s what she does and in the middle of her running what she discovers is that God pursues us.

God pursues us.
We are going to discover that God pursues and we will encounter Hagar in verse 7.  Hagar is in the middle fo the wilderness and she’s headed for home.  She’s on the road to Egypt; she was from Egypt and she’s on the way back there trying to get away from it all.  In the middle of that she finds God pursuing her. 

                        7The angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur. 

What this verse tells us is she’s traveling on this road.  This is a major road that was around for thousands of years.  We know this path well.  As she’s on this road in this wilderness place, almost an abandoned place there was this bright spot.  It was a place where people would stop for water.  It was a refreshing place.  In the middle of everything that’s happening in her life she stops to be refreshed.  We get a little bit of a clue.  For most of us reading this passage we aren’t familiar with the Bible backgrounds and those kinds of things.  It doesn’t mean a whole lot to us but for most people in the day that this passage was written, they would have realized that this well is very close to Mt. Sinai.  Mt. Sinai is a very special place, the place where God revealed himself to Moses.  This is where Moses got the Ten Commandments.  This is where God has shown up before and sure enough here in verse seven the angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar.  At first she doesn’t realize that this is God showing up.  This is the first time we have this wording, “the angel of the Lord.”  It occurs 58 times in the Old Testament, but it’s a unique working here.  Most people when they first encountered God in this way didn’t realize it was God.  We find that throughout Genesis and throughout the Old Testament that this is actually God pursuing Hagar.  Hagar is going to slowly recognize that this is God pursuing her but this is something we can resonate with.  Often we are so wrapped up in just trying to get away, getting away from our problems we’re so distraught in our struggles that we don’t realize that God is pursuing us.  God is with us.  Every time we see the angel of the Lord show up in the Bible there’s a deliverance that is happening.  There’s some kind of salvation that is happening.  It’s the same image we have in Christmas.  Whenever Jesus shows up it is a deliverance, a salvation.  After 400 years of silence, just at the right time, Jesus was born.  He was brought into the world; God with us.  God rescues us just like He rescued Hagar, God comes to us in the middle of our struggles and challenges.  As things begin to open up in your life and as you begin to explore and venture out, remember that God is with you.  God is present.  Maybe you’re in a place where you’re just running, you’re trying to get away from things.  God is still there.  God rescues us.  In those moments when we need Him most, God also teaches us.

God teaches us.

What Hagar teaches us is that when God shows up God teaches us.  When we first read these words, these are very harsh words.  Keep in mind that Hagar was a slave and she’s trying to find freedom and she’s free, she’s finally broken away from it and in breaking away from it she also lost every means of support that she had in her life.  She’s pregnant, all on her own and God shows up and will teach her in this verse and it will sound very harsh.  It brings a question to our mind, “Why would God say these things to her?”   

We see God.

                        9The angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress and submit to her.” 

This seems awfully harsh, that God would tell her to go back to slavery, to submit to that. The truth is it is very harsh.  It’s a difficult word to hear, but God has a reason for this and that reason shows up in verse 10.  In the middle of her pain and suffering it’s very difficult to understand why God would want us to go through more suffering.  It’s also difficult for us today and one of the things we are dealing with in this pandemic is it’s not supposed to be like this right?  We’re not supposed to go through suffering.  On Memorial Day weekend, of all weekends we are reminded there is great suffering and there has been great suffering throughout time and we are not immune to times of great suffering.  If the way we live our lives is constantly trying to get away from suffering at all cost, and we think that’s God’s design, that’s not always the case.  There are times in life when God calls us to go through suffering.  God is with us in that suffering and there are some times when God is not calling us to move away or run away.  Sometimes God actually calls us to go through it.  God will be there with us.  What she doesn’t know is that God has a plan for her.  In verse 10 she finds out that this promise that was given to Abraham, God has told Abraham He will make of him a great nation, she finds out for herself in verse ten.  God said I’m going to multiply you; you are going to have many offspring.  God raises her status tremendously even in calling her to go back into suffering.  She can’t see the future that God has for her.  What she sees is this immediate moment and it’s very difficult.  She doesn’t realize that god is going to lead her into something far greater.  There are times in our prayers and in our suffering that we might pray for God to give us the strength to get through this.  That’s a good prayer.  Sometimes our prayer is for God to help us understand what’s happening.  Sometimes we are praying both of these things.  This is a time for understanding, a time to ask God to teach us and to say we don’t understand why all of this is happening, what’s going on.  Hagar has to have all of these thoughts in her mind when God asks her to go beck the obvious question in Why?  Why would I go back to what is there?  We don’t always understand things.  In our  modern technology if we don’t understand things we google what we don’t understand.  We can look up how to do things.  Maybe you’ve found yourself doing that in some of your cooking from home.  You’re missing your favorite foods so you decide you can probably make it.  You experiment at home a little bit.  Anybody been experimenting at home?  Anybody been tasting what someone else experimented?  Sometimes it works out well and sometimes it doesn’t.  When we don’t’ understand we try to find new ways of doing things that we didn’t know how to do before.  That’s been the story of our life for the life several weeks, but it’s been the story of God’s people for thousands of years.  Hagar doesn’t know how to do this.  Nobody knows how to do what she’s facing here but God is teaching her and showing her there’s a reason for all of this.  Sometimes we need that from God.  Sometimes we are OK with going through some difficult things if we know God has a reason for it and a plan in it.  God shows that to her and what we learn is we have a God who hears us.

God hears us.

Hagar finds this out in a very unique way.  She knows she’s pregnant but she doesn’t know she will have a son.  God tells her here that the child within her is a boy. 

                        11And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.

She is indeed not forgotten.  She feels like she’s been forgotten but God, in coming to her in this unique way, and telling her that she will have a son and what to name him, is God’s way of telling her she is not forgotten.  She’s not aware of all the things that have been happening.  She’s trying to find freedom and to fix things on her own, not realizing that God is working in all of this.  God is helping her to know that she is not alone in all this, not forgotten.  The name Ishmael literally means ‘God hears.’  Every time she says her son’s name throughout her life she will be reminded that we have a God who hears us.  This child will be a reminder to her of God’s presence.  God hears us and is with us even when we don’t feel God.  God is present even in those moments when we don’t understand what’s happening.  God hears us and God sees us.

God sees us.

The next thing that she realizes as we move forward to verse 13 is that God sees us.  We are known by God.  The fact that God sees us also tells us that God knows us.  Sometimes we can feel like God doesn’t understand us or maybe that nobody understands us.  Nobody really knows us.  We don’t know exactly what Hagar was feeling, but we can imagine.  We imagine she was a marginalized woman who could not have been any lower on the socioeconomic ladder.  She’s a slave.  She’s a woman.  She’s all alone, no career.  She could not have felt like she was more dismissed than any other person on the face of the earth.  In this moment God has shown up and said I hear you. 

                        13So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,”

To see is to know and as she calls out this name of God she is reminding herself, she’s reminding us and everyone who will ever read this passage that we have a God who sees us.  She feels known in this moment.  God has seen her and remembered her.  There’s value in this and it tells her God cares about her.  There are a number of ways to translate what she said.  The simplest way is that God sees us, but it can also be translated as, ‘You are the God who looks for us.’  It’s a slight different in the way of saying it.  It takes us back to that idea of God pursuing us; God looks for us.  Even when we aren’t looking for God, God looks for us.  Even when we think were forgotten, God looks for us.  Even when we feel alone, God looks for us.  God sees us and she knows that in this moment.  In 1 Samuel chapter 1, we have this same expression that is used by a woman named Hannah.  Hannah is the mother of Samuel.  Hannah prays for God to see her.  She’s praying God will remember her.  God does remember her.  She feels forgotten but what she doesn’t realize is that God’s had a plan to bring Samuel into this world long before she ever realized it.  Even before she prays this prayer God already had a plan to use Samuel to bring deliverance to God’s people.  In our pain, suffering and distress we don’t’ know what God is doing.  We have a God who sees us.  Hannah says, “God sees me.”  Hagar says, “God sees me.”  The question I have for us today is, “Can you say that about God?”  Can you say, “God see me?”  Do you feel known by God?  God cares about you more than you can ever imagine.  In all of your struggles and everything you are facing right now in your life, you are not alone.  God sees you and knows you.  It’s not just that God sees us, but we also see God.  We are able to see and know God.  This is the grace of God.  God reveals Himself to us.  Here’s the last part of verse 13:

            "for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” 

What she says here is, “I have seen the One who sees me.”   That’s a lot to say.  We have to slow down a moment to let that sink in.  As God sees me and knows me I see God looking at me.  I know His presence.  It’s more than just being known, it’s that I understand who God is now in a way that I didn’t understand before.  All of the hurt we’ve been through, all the challenges, and changes, I know you’re struggling.  We are all struggling with this.  Your struggle is real.  Your pain is real.  If we aren’t careful we’ll take out our frustration on others and on systems.  This is just difficult.  If we’re in a rush to get back to everything normal we can miss something God is doing in our life.  We can miss something far greater that God wants to do and that is to make us more like His son.  There’s a possibility that we’ll miss seeing God.  Are you seeing God in all of this?  Can you see the reason God might be doing some of the things He is doing in your life?  As a church there’s reasons why God has taken us through this time.  We don’t know all of those reasons but we do know one thing:  God’s heart is for people all over this world.  God loves people more than we can ever imagine.  One of the things God is always passionate about is turning us from the inside out, getting us outside of the church walls.  I’d say God’s accomplished that mission.  We’ve been outside the church walls completely.  We miss being inside the church walls but think about how many times we’ve talked about this, how God wants us to get outside the walls.  God did it!  What are we doing in these moments outside the walls?  Can you see what God is doing in your life?  This pandemic is real, but this pandemic is not the biggest thing happening right now in this world.  It seems like it, it’s been consuming and all we talk about.  The most important thing happening right now is that we have a God who loves us and pursues us.  We need Jesus and we need to see God in these moments. More than any other time in history, people need Jesus.  God is about the business of reconciling the world unto Himself.  God wants to do that in this moment.  Are you able to see God in your life?  What’s God changing in your attitudes and your heart?  God sees you and by His grace He is revealing Himself to us.  He is here.  I don’t’ know what you might be running form today, but I know it’s real.  There are times you want to run and escape.  You want that freedom and maybe God is speaking to you saying He wants you to face these difficult things you’re going through.  I hear you.  I see you.  I am with you.  We’ll get through this together.  In this, can you see God?  Can you be present with Him?  I want you to be good to yourself.  It’s not always going to be like this.  Take good care of your soul in all of this.  I’ve said it a number of times through this and I want to say it again, “Just because things are opening back up doesn’t mean our souls will immediately be ok.  Go easy on yourself.  This is a hard time.  Take care of yourself and walk with God. Spend time with God.  See God in all of this.  Trust Him in what we’re going through.”

Sermon Notes and take, transcribed and posted by Jeni Martin Johnson.

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