by the Rev. Dr. Clark G. Armstrong
Marshall Church of the Nazarene
I know five persons since Christmas who have committed suicide. As pandemic restrictions, shutdowns, quarantines, economic side effects, family and personal challenges have persisted without any definite relief, depression has begun to greatly increase and take its toll. Mental and emotional health are subtly in danger amongst all of us.
On one particular weekend, God impressed upon me the story of Hagar and her son Ishmael from the book of Genesis (16:1-16 and 21:8-21). Her situation and the name she gave to God were clearly fixed in my thoughts. Maybe that name — “The God Who Sees” — is the reminder you need today!
Hagar was the servant of Sarah, wife of the great patriarch Abraham. Because Sarah could not have children, she gave Hagar to her husband to bear a child (Ishmael) for her. But later, when Sarah bore a son (Isaac), she rejected Hagar and had them banished into the desert to survive on their own. Most of the story about Hagar concerns her plight on the backside of the desert, rejected and alone with her child.
It was there that God appeared to her, spoke reassuringly with her, and where she gave God this name. It was the first time that anyone had given God a name. In their culture, a name depicted the character or nature of the person. It is one of the 16 main names of God in the Bible. The most common ones are:
— El or Elohim (God, Judge, Creator),
— El Elyon (God Most High),
— El Shaddai (God Almighty),
— Adonai (Lord, Master),
— Yahweh (I Am That I Am, LORD, Jehovah),
— Jehovah Jireh (God Will Provide—connected to the story of Abraham “sacrificing” Isaac),
— Jehovah-Nissi (God Our Banner),
— Jehovah Raah (The Lord My Shepherd),
— Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals),
— Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There),
— Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace),
— Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts),
— Jehovah-Zedek or Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness).
Key Verse: (16:13)
13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
This name is El Roi — The God Who Sees. “Roid” is actually the Hebrew word for “king,” so this is literally “the king who sees” or the king who is aware of what is going on in all parts of his kingdom. He is not out of touch with the most common or poor or hurting people in his kingdom. He sees their plight.
1. You are the God who sees.
He not only sees the big picture, but he also sees the smallest little details of all of his creation.
God sees the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and cares for them. “How much more” it says he cares for humankind.
He sees everything and he notices your predicament and your hurt today.
2. You are the God who sees me.
It is well enough that he sees everything and everyone. But it means so much more when we become aware that He sees me personally, even right now, even every specific aspect.
Hagar adds the word “me” because that is the word that means the most to her in her great moment of abandonment.
Hagar named her son Ishmael which meant “God hears.”
3. I have now seen the One who sees me.
It is most amazing that God appeared to her and talked to her personally.
Never doubt that God speaks to the outcasts. In fact, some say that is when he speaks to us the best and most.
The original can be translated “I have now seen the back of the One who sees me.” When Moses wanted to see God’s glory (Exod. 33:23), the LORD also only showed to him his backside.
In the British series “Call the Midwife,” the governmental authorities were going to shut down the Nonnatus House because they did not know what a difference it was making in the East End of London. Trixie, one of the midwives, makes an impassioned speech addressing them.
They had no clue what was going on in their jurisdiction, but our God is the King who sees — the One who is fully aware of your situation and your struggles — and the God who shows up when we feel the most hopeless or feel like the world would be better off without us.