The Depth of God’s Compassion — Genesis 16:13

J.C. Riley
Inspiration By New Creation Ministry — By J.C. Riley

ON a recent visit to an auto store I had an impactful interaction with a sales clerk. During my visit, the clerk expressed his disappointment in the current condition of the world. He said that everything was so “chaotic.” After engaging with him for a few moments I decided to steer the conversation into a different direction. I proposed the question: “what is your view of God?”

After resisting my question for some time out of fear that he would offend me, he replied: “I think God created us and left us to fend for ourselves.” In Daniel 2:11 we can see that this worldview is not new. It says of the magicians who were unsuccessful in recalling the king’s dream: “It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Please understand this, Satan’s main attack is on our view of God.

In Genesis chapter 16 we are told that Sarai was unable to give a child to Abram which caused her much shame since the greatest gift a wife could give her husband in that culture was a child (preferably a son). In a desperate attempt to satisfy Abram’s desire for children and possibly appease her own broken spirit over the matter, Sarai suggested that her slave-woman be used as a surrogate.

It’s interesting to note that in Genesis, Abram nor Sarai refers to the slave-woman by name which is telling of the level of respect they had for her as a human being. Also, the slave-woman was an Egyptian who was separated from her family, culture and home. The slave-woman was probably at a point in life where she’d given up hoping for personal desires to be realized in her future. She may have become estranged from her value as a human being and her identity as a person. And she was possibly numb on the inside and just existing. Here is a woman with no home, no authority and so far, no name. As she was offered to marry Abram for the sake of procreation one can imagine the change that took place within her.

Think about it: the slave-woman being promoted to serve a purpose that the wife, the head of the household clan, could not serve. As one could expect, the atmosphere around the house had shifted drastically and Sarai began to treat her surrogate so bad that she, pregnant and with nowhere to go, ran away. It’s here, according to Genesis 16:7-13, that the depth of God’s compassion is revealed as she was visited by God during her lowest point:

“Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going… Behold, you are with child, and you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has heard your affliction.

“He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.” Verses 7,8,11,12.

The word compassion literally means to suffer together and the God of creation is so intimately involved in His creation that He suffers together with us. In Hagar’s experience we see that the angel of the Lord sought her when she was lost; called her by her name when she was confused about her identity and gave her a hopeful summary of her future when she thought her end was near. From this encounter, Hagar learned something life changing about God’s character: He sees us and suffers with us. Genesis 16:13 states: “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “Have I also here seen Him who sees me.” When Saul (turned Paul) was persecuting the Christians there came a time when he heard the Lord say: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting…” Acts 9:3-5

God is not sitting on a heavenly island watching as we suffer with pain, loss, grief, disease and sin here on earth but is, in many ways, suffering with us. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

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