Why did the Angel of the Lord tell Hagar to return to Sarai?

Watch the complete sermon here: https://www.bridges.church/messages/the-god-who-sees-genesis-16/

Well, friends, for this week’s sermon question, I want to pull a question from the text that we used this last Sunday in the message that was shared by Alba Kellejian, she talked about her own faith journey. And if you missed it, I really encourage you to go back and to hear all that God had done in her life about the God who has seen her through every single step of the way. It’s such an encouraging message that I think all of us can benefit from. But within that Genesis 16 text, you can go back and you can refer to it.

We meet an Egyptian slave woman named Hagar, and she is being exploited in a very uncomfortable way for us to read about.

And she flees Abraham and Sarah to get away from a very toxic and abusive the situation she’s having to endure, all this mistreatment from Sarah. And so Hagar flees out into the wilderness, and there the angel of the Lord speaks to her and reveals himself to her. And it’s just this beautiful story. And God really did an amazing thing in Hagar’s heart when the angel of the Lord appeared to Hagar. But there’s also some counsel or some direction given by the angel of the Lord that can make some of us a little bit, I think, uncomfortable in this day and age.

And that is that the angel of the Lord told Hagar to go back, to go back to this abusive situation, to go back to this negative environment, and to submit herself to Sarah. And in this day and age, when we read stories about that and we, you know, it’s one thing to read about stories of slavery or sexual exploitation that happened in the past, and we can, you know, grieve over that, but we can also sort of comfort ourselves by saying, well, that was another time in another place, another culture very, very long ago. But we also know that those stories exist today, and that that is the experience of countless women and girls around the world today.

And when you put on top of that stories of domestic violence and homes and all these things are just very unsettling for us to think about then for this advice from the angel of the Lord or not advice, but direction for Hagar to return, to submit herself. What do you mean return?

Isn’t this where God is supposed to bring about some deliverance? Why is she supposed to return? Well, there’s a couple things that we can do to kind of wrestle with these kinds of passages. Our knee jerk response a lot of the time, quite frankly, is to just sort of try to find some way to just explain it and to say, well, maybe God knew that Hagar was going to endure more violence and more abuse somewhere else. For instance, it looks like Hagar, from the story was on the way to Egypt.

And so maybe God was protecting her from future violence and from future danger that she would have had to endure in Egypt, perhaps, and that it’d be better back with Sarah and with Abraham. At the end of the day, we just don’t know because the Bible doesn’t clearly tell us why the angel of the Lord said this to Hagar. But here’s where I’ve landed personally on this. I don’t personally feel that this is a blanket endorsement for all of those who have been abused and victimized to return to more abuse and to more victimization and to have to endure that.

I feel in this day and age, you know, often we’ll read about stories where that is the counsel of particular faith leaders or particular friends who are well meaning, who are telling somebody in an abusive environment to go back to that and to submit themselves to that, only to have to then endure even more abuse.

I don’t think that that’s what’s happening here in the story, and I don’t think that we can simply draw that from this particular story, what I landed on personally, and perhaps you could see this from my perspective, or maybe you have another perspective on this, but that the specific direction, the specific direction in this specific instance to this specific individual at this specific time in that specific culture does have some general application for each of us. And that is this. I feel like God is saying to Hagar, and he’s saying to you and to me to trust him, to trust him.

In this particular case with Hagar, God was asking her to do something really, really difficult that we have trouble wrapping our minds around. But for whatever reason, God did tell Hagar to do this.

And the message to Hagar was, hey, trust me, I’m not sending you back without my presence and without my peace, that God was going to do in her own life the same promise that he had promised to Abraham, just as God had promised Abraham that he would make him into a great nation and a great people and that he would bless him. God made that same promise there in the wilderness to Hagar. And so it’s as if God is saying to Hagar, I want you to trust me. I want you to trust that I’m writing a different story here and that you can trust me, that I am not going to just ignore you.

Remember, hey, guard, I’m the God who sees.

I see your plight, I hear your distress. And I’m going to be with you, and I promise to bless you in that environment. So, again, I don’t feel that this should be a blanket endorsement for anybody in any abusive situation to necessarily have to go back and to endure more abuse. I feel like that this is a different type of a story, but still, for all of us, God is always after our card. He wants us to trust.

And when God tells us something and he confirms that, we want to do what God says, because God’s plan is always best, and he is wise, and he is always the God who sees. Well, I hope that this has been helpful for you, as I’ve wrestled with it, and trust that maybe you’ll be wrestling with this in some way. But thanks for joining us for this question today.