For He Sees You and Hears You
Open Your Bible
Genesis 16:1-16, Genesis 21:1-3, Genesis 21:8-21, Psalm 34:1-10, Lamentations 3:55-60, Matthew 6:25-34
BY Patti Sauls
When I think of time alone in the wilderness, I imagine the desert fathers and mothers, ancient Christians who withdrew to solitary places to seek the Lord, meditate on Scripture, and pray. It’s easy for me to romanticize that experience. I can picture myself in that scene—it’s just God and me, quiet communion away from the noise and bustle of everyday life, footprints in the sand, and all that. I imagine a journey towards clarity, calm, and peace.
This may be the image in my mind, but it doesn’t match the wilderness experiences found in Scripture. Today we meet an enslaved woman who ran away from home to the wilderness as an escape. Later, she was forced out of her home as a punishment. She didn’t expect to encounter God in the desert, but that is exactly what happened.
The first time Hagar wandered into the wilderness, she was pregnant with her master’s child. As the baby grew in her womb, hatred grew in her heart towards her mistress, Sarai. Hatred grew in Sarai, too, and she began to mistreat her pregnant slave. In desperation, Hagar fled from her abuser into the desert. Panic must have set in as she feared dehydration, starvation, violence from animal and human predators, and death.
Clarity, calm, and peace were nowhere to be found until the angel of the Lord found her and called her by name. Up to this point in the narrative, the vulnerable woman had only been referred to by others as “the slave.” Now, Hagar is seen, known, and named. She is cared for with promises of protection, offspring, and a future nation. In turn, Hagar names the Lord “El-roi,” meaning “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13).
This mutual naming and knowing is an astonishing, desert-born gift. Strengthened by God, Hagar returned home and gave birth to her son, Ishmael. Her complicated home life was surely difficult, but she lived in the reality that God was personal and intimately involved in the details of her life. He knew her by name.
Years later, hatred and jealousy flared again. Hagar and Ishmael were forced out of their home. I wonder if Hagar purposefully headed toward the desert in hopes that El-roi would meet her there again. Spoiler alert: He did. He heard Ishmael’s cries, addressed Hagar by name once more, and reaffirmed His care by providing water and reminding her of His promises.
Are you in a wilderness today? Maybe you’re all too familiar with the desperation, even panic, of wandering. Maybe your journey feels disorienting, unpredictable, and frightening. The truth is that our feelings don’t negate the reality that God sees us, hears us, and cares for us. Psalm 34:7 reminds us that “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he rescues them.” Are you wandering in the wild? You’re not alone. El-roi encamps around you. He sees you and hears you, and He calls you by name.