When God Shows Up

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The angel of the Lord found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, “Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?”

“I’m running away from my mistress Sarai,” she answered.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” 10 The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

11 The angel of the Lord also said to her:

“You are now pregnant
    and you will give birth to a son.
You shall name him Ishmael,
    for the Lord has heard of your misery.
12 He will be a wild donkeyof a man;
    his hand will be against everyone
    and everyone’s hand against him,
and he will live in hostility
    toward all his brothers.” 
 – Genesis 16:7-12

Mount Baker from Whidbey Island | Oak Harbor, Washington | May 2021

I’ve told the story on myself before. I had taken the initiative to engage a Christian counselor to help me work through some issues I was struggling with. Part of that process included – at the end – some marital counseling with both Diane and me present. 

One session had us together with Bruce speaking with Diane. He was probing some of her feelings as I sat nearby. Without warning – but not abruptly – he turned to me and asked, “Dave, what do you think Diane is feeling right now?” I had too admit, “I feel like a kid in school who’s been caught daydreaming in class.” 

“No problem,” he said. And he returned to talking with Diane. A few moments later he turned to me again. “Dave, what do you think Diane is feeling right now?” I was ready! I spouted off a few things, at least somewhat proud of myself. He made nothing of it. Puzzling.

A few minutes later he turned to me again and asked, “Dave, what do you think Diane is feeling right now?” I quietly admitted, “I have no idea.” It was an encounter with grace and truth for both of us the likes of which we’ve very seldom experienced – before or since. In her words, I showed up. And she opened her heart to me in a new way.

God shows up to Hagar at this time in the form of the Angel of the Lord. There is no little amount of debate as to whether this is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Answers in Genesis explains these “theophanies” (Greek: theos = “God” + phaino = “appear”) or “Christophanies” to mean “appearances of God” and “appearances of Christ,” respectively. 

Even if these are not theophanies or Christophanies, there are three distinct actions by the Angel of the Lord in this passage. First of all, he finds Hagar. Jesus echoes this when he says of himself, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). The Angel of the Lord is certainly doing a Jesus-like thing here. 

The Angel of the Lord also “told her” to go back and submit to her master. This is a command. This is not information sharing. It is direction. Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another (John 15 for example). He commanded his disciples to make disciples (Matthew 28). He even told the once demon-possessed man, “Go back to your home, and tell all that God has done for you” (Luke 8:39). Very Jesus-like.

The Angel of the Lord also speaks to Hagar about what is to come. And it’s not all roses. In fact it’s a bit thorny. Jesus warns the man who was healed at the pool of Bethesda, “See, you have been made well. Stop sinning, or something worse may happen to you” (John 5:14). Seems very Jesus-like that the Angel of the Lord offers this warning about Ishmael. We may not like it, but there it is.

There are choices and consequences we all make and face. But we have been found by God. God’s first action is to seek and save the lost. While we thank God for his rescue, let’s not ignore his commands, nor fail to heed his warnings. 

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