To know, apart from the grace of God, that the living God sees us is an awesome, yea a terrifying experience.
That knowledge drove Adam and Eve into the thickest part of the trees in the garden of Eden. And it will cause the ungodly in the day when Christ returns to call for the hills and the mountains to cover them and hide them from His all-searching and holy eye.
But to know in the grace of God that He sees us in all our afflictions and oppressions of the wicked enemy is for the child of God a glorious and comforting truth and blessed experience. To know that God always sees us in Christ; to know that He never sees us in any other way than as those who belong to Christ, who have been redeemed by the blood of His cross and whose names were eternally written in His Lamb’s book of life, affords the children of God unspeakable comfort and assurance. This brings him out into the open to seek the face of that God of his salvation. It makes him climb the mountain to lift his prayers unto this living God and to sing His praises with a loud and joyful voice.
These truths are to be seen in the life of Hagar who was used by Sarai and Abram to strive to bring forth the covenant seed that was implied in the promises which God had given to Abram. She conceived and despised her mistress, Sarai. When she could no longer take the harsh treatment that Sarai brought upon her, she fled and was on the way to Egypt, for she was an Egyptian.
The angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness by a fountain and confronted her with the evil of this flight, for evil it was. We can understand her action, and apart from the grace of God we would have done the same, and perhaps sooner than she did. But it was wrong for her to flee from her mistress, and the angel told her this very truth.
After all is said and done; she asked for the harsh treatment that Sarai inflicted upon her. She was still Sarai’s maid; and that is also why the angel asked her in those very words, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, whence camest thou?” That she was mistreated we cannot deny. And that holds true for both Abram and Sarai. Cruel was Sarai’s treatment. Lacking in compassion was Abram’s behavior after Hagar conceived by him. He owed her gentle and thoughtful protection, a home and nourishing food with safety. And she owed him her presence there by Abram’s tents and in the service of his wife until she had borne him this child. It was his as much as it was hers. And the fifteenth verse of Genesis 16also declares that she bare Abram a son. Incidentally, we may note that God does not say that she bare this son to Sarai—which was a great comfort to Hagar. For one of the reasons that she fled was that she could not bear the thought of giving up her own flesh and blood to become Sarai’s child. It would be too painful to be in the same household with that child, to see it every day and be kept from caressing and caring for the child while Sarai would claim all the joys and benefits of motherhood.
And now the angel of the Lord came to her with questions, even as God came to fallen man with the question, “Adam where art thou?” Now the question was, “Whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go?” That pinpointed the matter at once. For Hagar had at once to admit that she came from the service of Sarai and that she intended to get as far from it as she possibly could. She was forced to admit, “I came from where I belong.” And she was confronted with the fact that although she fled to escape the treatment she did not want for her sin of despising Sarai, she did not flee from and escape the searching eye of God. She was not simply running away from Sarai and going to peace and safety. She was running up against the living God and, continuing in the way of sin, she would be walking, yea running, to her destruction in the wrath of an holy God. She was not fleeing to safety in Egypt. She was rushing to a confrontation with the living God. How often, is it not that we forget that, and concern ourselves only with what we, think is safety for the flesh.
How often are we not ready to trample God’s law under foot to obtain some carnal advantage, while wholly ignoring the living God before Whose judgment seat we will have to appear? How often, is it not, that we are on the way to Egypt (that is, to the world) for some advantage of the flesh, fleeing from our duty before God and refusing to humble ourselves in obedience to His law? The employer mistreats us, cheats us, takes advantage of us, and so we rush to Egypt for the world’s tactics of the strike, or of the boycott, and trample the fifth commandment under our feet. And we think all the while that we are doing ourselves and our families good because we come home with a fatter check, and with more ability to put delicious and dainty food on the table, and more expensive clothes on their backs, in a more comfortable home, to which and from which we ride in a later model automobile. And the living God sees it all. But the tragedy is that we do not see it as sm. Therefore when the living God Who has seen it sends, not the angel of the Lord, but the officebearers of Jesus Christ to ask us, “Servant of the living God, whence camest thou, and whither wilt thou go?” we dare even to answer that we are serving the living God by our deeds of rebellion.
Not so with Hagar. She confessed, “I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarai.” Confronted by the angel of the Lord she confessed, that Sarai was still her mistress and that she had not gotten from under the obligation to serve her. Therefore she did not answer the “Whither wilt thou go?” She had no plans any longer of going further to Egypt. She would go back. To admit that Sarai was her mistress was to confess that she did wrong by leaving, and ought not to continue in that way. She did not oppose the angel of the Lord or in any way try to defend herself in her sin.
Hagar recognized this angel of the Lord as God Himself. For she called Him, “Thou God seest me.” And though the English translation presents Him as the angel of the Lord, He is the Angel of the Lord. No mere angel is He, but the Christ Himself in His Old Testament form before the Son of God took upon Him the human nature that was prepared in the virgin Mary. She was afforded that rare privilege of having the Christ Himself appear to her and promise her a son. She knew that she was with child, but not until now did she know that it was a son that she would bare to Abram. And, of course, neither Abram nor Sarai knew as yet that it was a son and that what they had sought would be accomplished. It remained for them to learn from Hagar that she would bring forth a son, that this son would not be Sarai’s son but her own, and that God Himself had promised her that she might keep this son.
Hagar was amazed, and expressed this also in the name which she gave to that Angel of the Lord, and in the statement which in the English translation is in question form, “Have I also here looked after Him that seeth me?”
The emphasis falls on the verb seeth and not on the words “after” or “here.” She did not mean that she was surprised that she saw God here in the wilderness rather than back at home in the house of Abram and Sarai. Nor did she mean that after not looking for Him before, she now does here in the wilderness. But consider that she was walking in sin. Consider also that she was mistreated by Sarai and brushed off by Abram and felt so very alone. “Does God care?” must have been a question in her soul for many, many days. “Does He really see me in my sad plight which was not my doing but that of my mistress, who simply gave me to her husband, and now treats me so cruelly?” And she found that God did see her and was with her and now came to turn her back from her sinful flight to set her feet on the way of righteousness. The emphasis falls upon the fact that God saw her, and not that she had seen God. This is plain, first of all, from the fact that she expressed the activity of God in the name which she gave to Him. It is to God that she gave a name. And, in the second place, when she gave a name to the well she again spoke of God—that He is the living and seeing God. Her own actions are not on the foreground.
And let us take note for a moment of the fact that we so often measure God’s loving care for us by material gifts and works that benefit the flesh. That loving care, however, is also to be seen in His works whereby He turns us from a sinful way and brings us on our knees in repentance. We soon take it ill when God, through one of His servants, rebukes us for a sinful way and for laxity in our spiritual life. But that rebuke which He administers through one of His officebearers also is a sign that He sees us in love and has a Father’s concern for us. And it is wonderful and blessed to be seen of God in that way. It is a privilege of grace that Christ as the Angel, that is, the Messenger of the Lord, comes with a message that is designed to bring us back to a walk of life wherein we can know the blessed watchfulness of God over us and thoughts of peace unto us.
We cannot find that knowledge and have that joy on the way to Egypt, that is, on the way to the world in all its unbelief and wickedness. In Egypt we can only hear Him speak His curse and pronounce His woes upon sinners. They are outside of Christ and have not been redeemed by His blood, and for them there are no benefits of the cross. Those whom He sees outside of Christ, He sees in righteous indignation and wrath. And it is terrible to be seen of the living God that way! Paul, speaking of a very particular grace of God, declares in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.” And the plain implication is that there is terrible condemnation for those who are outside of Him. What is more, Paul does not say, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them who will join themselves to Christ Jesus, but who ARE in Christ Jesus. And a little later in the chapter he points out that God predestinated a people in Christ and that we are in Him by sovereign, eternal election before we are called to enjoy the blessings in Him.
These who are seen by Him in Christ may rest assured that He sees them in love and that He cares for them. These upon whom He looks that way may look upon Him with confidence and sing:
To the hills I lift my eyes;
Whence shall help for me arise?
From the Lord shall come my aid,
Who the heavens and earth has made.
He will guide through dangers all,
Will not suffer thee to fall;
He Who safe His people keeps
Slumbers not and never sleeps.