GOD’S HEART FOR THOSE HURT BY THE CHURCH by Adriel Sanchez for Core Christianity
The story of Hagar in Genesis 16 is a tragic recounting of a woman taken advantage of by God’s people. Abraham, so often treated as an exemplar of faith in the New Testament, together with his wife, Sarah, mistreat Hagar through their lack of trust in God’s promise. Impatient with God’s timing, Sarah offers up Hagar to Abraham as a kind of surrogate mother. The act not only conceives a child but also creates tension between Sarah and Hagar (Gen. 16:4). As the story unfolds, Sarah begins to treat her maidservant harshly (v. 6).
The word used in verse 6 to describe Sarah’s treatment of Hagar is quite strong. In Genesis 15:13 it was used to describe Israel’s future affliction in Egypt. There’s a strange role reversal in the text. Long before the Hebrews are afflicted by the Egyptians, Hagar (who happens to be from Egypt) is afflicted by this Hebrew couple.
Hagar is an example of someone used and abused by the church, and there are many Hagars around us today. Pollsters tell us that the increasing number of “de-churched” people—those who used to attend religious services but no longer do—point to negative experiences in the church for why they’ve left. How does God feel about them? How does he feel about you, if you’ve been hurt by the church, and have fled into the wilderness like Hagar did?
Jesus Pursues You
In Genesis 16:7 we read that as Hagar was on the run, “The Angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, the spring on the way to Shur.” This is the first explicit mention of the “Angel of the LORD” in the book of Genesis. Many biblical scholars believe that the angel of the LORD is none other than a preincarnate appearance of the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God (compare v.10 to Gen. 12.2; & v.13).
Meditate on that. The first explicit appearance of the Angel of the LORD isn’t to Abraham, it’s to Hagar. This Egyptian woman, afflicted by the people of God, is pursued by God. Isn’t this so very much like Jesus? Jesus is the savior who leaves the 99 to go searching for the one sheep that has wandered away (Luke 15). You may feel spiritually lost after a bad experience in church, but Jesus doesn’t stop pursuing you.
Jesus Knows You
When the Angel of the LORD meets Hagar in verse 8, he calls her by her name, “Hagar.” This doesn’t seem too special, until you realize that up until this point Abraham and Sarah have only referred to her as the servant.
The first job I ever had was doing yard work for a neighbor. Each day after school I’d go to his house and rake leaves or trim trees. It was a fine first job, but my neighbor never quite knew my name. When I told him my name was Adriel, he heard “Pedro.” For an entire year he called me Pedro, and while I tried to correct him during the first few weeks, he was hard of hearing and my name never really registered. It was pretty clear that he wasn’t interested in me personally, but only in the job I did.