His eye is on the sparrow

Click here for an audio version of this blog post.

And the angel also said [to Hagar], “You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the Lord has heard your cry of distress. 12 This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.”

13 Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” 14 So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). It can still be found between Kadesh and Bered. – Genesis 16:11-14 [New Living Translation]

Purple Flower | Oak Harbor, Washington | May 2021

It’s a favorite among many: His Eye is on The Sparrow. The song is available by artists as diverse as Whitney Houston to Michael Jackson and Keith and Kristin Getty to Sounds Like Reign (the link above). It evokes deep emotional responses from a wide range of ethnic and cultural groups. It’s a favorite of my sister-in-law, and a song was repeatedly requested by a member of the church I served. It’s a good reminder for us all. God is watching. 

Hagar experiences this in the midst of her despair. She has fled Sarai, her mistress, because of Sarai’s unkind treatment. Truly, she is an easy target for unkind treatment. She had doled it out to Sarai herself. Sarai couldn’t become pregnant, and offered Hagar to her husband, Abram. When Hagar conceives a child she turns ugly against Sarai.

Some would say she had it coming. To be kicked out by Sarai. To be alone and pregnant. Others would say it’s never right to do wrong to a person – even if that person has done wrong. God sees all of this. There are many facets of evil, many nuances. God sees them all. Every. Single. Facet. 

Maybe you’ve wondered about God’s care for you. Perhaps you doubt that God has any clue about your plight. You may be falsely accused of inept work or inappropriate behavior. You may be the focus of judgmental scrutiny. You have have been thrown away by someone. You may even have brought that trouble on yourself.

God sees you. He takes note. He will act. He will orchestrate. He’s writing a beautiful symphony of grace with counterpoints of truth, and he has a place in it for you. 

Hagar is so convinced of this that she begins calling God by a new name. I wonder whether at least some of the edge of her prayers to God or the invocation of his name to curse Sarai was taken away by the appearance of the Angel of the Lord and his assurance: I see you. Whether or not there was an edge to remove, Hagar will now call upon the One who sees. She recognizes that God is the One who sees her. She realizes, also, that is a good thing. 

There was a well in her day, named after this event. It is named, Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). Perhaps the next time you take a drink of water you might remember that God sees you. That’s a good thing. For the One whose eye is on the sparrow has a heart for lost and hurting people. He sees. And he saves.

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