Caught in the Crossfire of Someone Else's War

Caught in the crossfire of someone else’s war. Used and abused. Treated like a soiled, worthless dishrag. Used for someone else’s pleasure or purpose. Mistreated. So she fled.

Hagar fled from Sarai and Abram. She was caught in the crossfire of Sarai and Abram striving to fulfill God’s purpose — an heir. She was a victim. One without much recourse.

How often that is the place in which we find people in pain. They know the pain they’ve just experienced. They know only too well.

Running seems to be the best way to avoid further pain.

In the previous chapter God clearly tells Abram that “a son coming from your own body will be your heir” (15:4). However, Sarai doesn’t get a similar message until later in chapter 17 of Genesis. Prior to that, in this chapter (16) we read of Sarai’s understanding that God has not opened her womb. She has not yet received a clear indication from God that the heir will also come from her body. So, in a culturally acceptable way, Sarai decides she will no longer be the one hindering God’s intent to bless Abram with a child. “Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

What seems amazingly absent here is any resistance from Abram. Apparently he wasn’t clear on who the woman would be either, since he “slept with Hagar, and she conceived.” Abram could have made a different decision. He could have expressed his belief that God would give him an heir through his wife, Sarai. But he doesn’t. Neither did this seem to be on his mind earlier when they went down to Egypt and Sarai was placed in a vulnerable place with Pharaoh.

Abram, after Hagar’s conception, told Sarai, “Do with her whatever you think best,” so Sarai “mistreated Hagar.”  Granted, Hagar was Sarai’s maidservant. Yet Hagar conceived a son — Abram’s long awaited first son, yet Abram doesn’t express any concern over Hagar’s mistreatment, or Hagar’s flight.

Who blames who? Hagar, “when she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress” (16:4). Sarai then begins to blame Abram. Abram tells Sarai to do whatever she wants with Hagar. Sounds like a blaming game in full force.

Where is God in all this? Does he see? Does he know?

What about this young, single, pregnant woman now in the desert alone? How will she ever survive? Does anyone know where she is? Does anyone care about her — and the child in her womb?

We know the angel of the LORD does. The text elaborates, “The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur” (16:7).  Some of this information may seem unnecessary at first reading. Why do we need to know where she was? Does the location even mean anything to us?  May I suggest that the detail of this verse gives us an insight into how much God knows about us. The angel of the LORD knew exactly where Hagar was! He knew that she was not only in a desert geographically, but in a desert physically, emotionally and spiritually. He knew the pain in her heart.

She had been used, then abused. Her young life would forever be altered as a result.

Notice the questions he asked. “Hagar, servant of Sarai…”

No mistaken identity! He knew exactly who she was. Next came two profound questions: “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”

Hagar knew the answer to the first question, but not the latter.

How often that is the place in which we find people in pain. They know the pain they’ve just experienced. They know only too well. Running seems to be the best way to avoid further pain. And sometimes that is where we encounter them. Running – emotionally, mentally, and perhaps physically and spiritually – without an answer to the important second question, “where are you going?”  This can be a meaningful question to ask in the midst of pain — a question to ask the person in pain in the presence of a God who cares.

The beauty of this conversation in Genesis is that the angel of the LORD could answer the second question and told her what God had in mind for her and her child. How did Hagar respond?

“She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: You are the God who sees me, for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me. That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi…” (16:14), which means well of the Living One who sees me. We learn a new name for God and learn more about his character through this mistreated woman, Hagar.

El Roi, the God who sees.

Have you ever wondered if God sees you in a place of painful waiting, of mistreatment, or of being caught in the crossfire of someone else’s war?

He is still El Roi, the God who sees.

About Bev Hislop

Bev Hislop has initiated church/​​community ministries for women on the west and east coasts of the U.S. and overseas. She authored Shepherding Women in Pain and Shepherding a Woman’s Heart, Moody Publishers. Bev currently teaches Pastoral Care to Women courses at Western […]

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  1. Insight into pain…

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