If you’ve been reading along with our devotional, you’ll remember that a few weeks ago, Pastor David wrote about Abraham and Sarah. Abraham and Sarah are two “biggies” in the story of the Israelite people. This week, we will look at another pivotal character in the story of God’s people: Hagar. We don’t usually look at Hagar’s story in and of itself; instead, she is usually seen as playing a supporting role, helping to drive the story of Abraham and Sarah. When we do this, though, we miss the important lessons she can teach us.
I invite you to begin by reading Genesis 16 and 21. Hagar is an Egyptian woman (Pharaoh’s daughter, according to non-biblical Jewish tradition) who is Sarah’s slave. When Abraham and Sarah had been in Egypt, Pharaoh saw the wonders God performed for them. As a result, he returned Sarah, whom he had planned to marry, and also gave Hagar to Abraham, saying, “Better for my daughter to be a servant in this house than a princess in any other.” When they return home, Abraham and Sarah struggle to have a child. Sarah, blaming herself, gives Hagar to Abraham, that Hagar might conceive on her behalf. While this was not common practice in ancient Israel, it wasn’t totally uncommon either. The story isn’t concerned with what Hagar thinks or feels about this and it doesn’t tell us if she consents to being given. It’s hard to believe, though, that anyone would be happy with their body being given to another as a commodity.
Hagar is used and abused throughout the story, yet she is a woman who refuses to be powerless and hopeless. As a result of her strength, she is the first person to whom a divine messenger appears, the only person in scripture to name God, and the only woman who receives a divine promise of descendants who will create a nation. Clearly, she had great spirit! So let’s dive in and see what lessons we can glean from the way this amazing woman lived her life.