The God Who Sees Me
By Vicar Lisa Rygiel
I just finished another assigned reading entitled Reading the Sarah and Hagar Narrative Through the Lens of Human Dignity. The story of Sarai and Hagar is found in Genesis 16 and 21 and makes an interesting read, especially when viewed from the perspective of a modern woman.
If you remember, Sarai was married to Abram (they were soon to be renamed, Sarah and Abraham). They remained childless despite God’s promises to Abraham to make him the father of many nations. Sarai was old and tired of waiting for God to keep his promise, so she gave her slave woman Hagar to her husband to be his second wife. Hagar conceived and Abram, at 85 years old, was about to become a first-time father.
However, Sarai’s attempt to execute God’s plan her way took a bad turn, as it so often does. Once she became pregnant, Hagar began to look at her mistress with contempt. In turn, Sarai responds by mistreating Hagar. She then blamed Abram and complained with contempt to her husband about “this slave woman”. Sarai continued to abuse Hagar and finally, Hagar responded by running away from Sarai.
Hagar found herself in desperate circumstances, alone, and pregnant. She could have been easily victimized or killed or lost her unborn son. Running, on her own, trapped in the grip of pride and fear, despairing in her hopelessness, she had given up. One might have expected that this woman named Hagar would be written out of the history of Israel. Instead, her story becomes one that serves as a powerful vehicle for moral reflection.
Hagar was intercepted by an angel of the Lord who told her to return to her mistress and submit to her. The angel added, “I will so increase your descendants that they will be too numerous to count.” She was told that she should name her son Ishmael for “the Lord has heard of your misery”.
At this low point in her life, the Lord found her, clarified her identity, focused her, and spoke words that restored her. Hagar is the first woman in the Hebrew Bible to receive an annunciation when God speaks to her, rather than about her. In Genesis 16:13, she states about the Lord, “You are the God who sees me…I have now seen the One who sees me.”
Sometimes it is easy to fall into the trap of hopelessness. We may feel that God doesn’t see us and doesn’t hear our prayers. But he does see and hear us. As we focus on persistent prayer this week, following the example of the persistent widow from Sunday’s gospel, remember that we have a God who sees us and we have the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us when we cry out to God, even when we struggle to find the words.
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people by the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27)
This week (other meetings/gatherings will be taking place as well but here are some things to note):
Sunday, October 23, 2022, The 20th Sunday after Pentecost
The gospel reading for this coming Sunday is the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Come to worship, to see which one of these characters is more like you, and join the assembly in the meal of forgiveness.
We who assemble on Sunday are both the Pharisees—people who trust that their religious practices are God-pleasing enough—and the tax collector—people who know their sinfulness and plead for God’s mercy. God responds by justifying the unrighteous.
Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22
Although the scientific revolution challenged the biblical worldview that droughts are divine punishment, we too lament the conditions of our lives. This dialogue between God and Jeremiah is set next to Luke’s parable because of the similarity of the readings: the people of Judah are something like the Pharisees, and Jeremiah is something like the tax collector. God is the hope of all who pray.
2 Timothy 4:4-6, 16-18
In this last of the semicontinuous selections from 2 Timothy, the author compares the faithful life of the believer to a fight, to a race, to face the lions. Paul’s death, like a pagan sacrifice, is a gift offered to God. These metaphors may strike many contemporary believers as extreme. We can join with Paul to pray for those who misuse us (v. 16) and to praise God in all situations of our life (v. 18).
Zion's Lutheran Church