Not sure who the credit for the question mark belongs too.
“And he said, ‘Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going…?'” Genesis 16:8
The angel of the Lord asked Hagar this question. “Where have you come from and where are you going?” Maybe I ought to stop and ask myself this question. Maybe Lord, You are wanting me to stop and think this over too. Maybe this wasn’t just a question for Hagar to think about.
“Where have you come from?” That’s not a question of location. If so, a different word would have been used. But this is the word ay which is a statement of surprise. It’s more like, “What are you doing here in the desert when you should be back with Sarai?” Or it could be, “Why aren’t you where I expected you to be?”
Imagine the Angel of the Lord coming and asking that of me if I were Hagar or even if I were just me. I’d stop and think. I might whine a little. But then I might start to realize some things about You, God. Like, what about the fact that You come to me in the wilderness. Here I am thinking I am all alone and there You, of all the greatest, find me and encounter me. Now, I wouldn’t necessarily know this if I were Hagar, but this is probably the first time You’ve appeared this way in Scripture to anyone, at least as recorded. I wonder if I would have realized the importance of this moment? And here You are, the Angel of the Lord, speaking to me, yes, to me a woman! Not only that, but I’m not even an Israelite and here You are speaking to me!
So how did Hagar respond? How would I respond? Hagar told the truth. “I’m fleeing from the face of my mistress Sarai.” I think what she was saying was, “I can’t handle it. Things are getting too hard for me. It’s too painful to stay. I don’t like it. It hurts too much.” And what was the Angel of the Lord’s response to her? “Return to your mistress and submit yourself under her hands.” Not only that, He promised to multiply her seed. He heard her affliction and He was acting on her behalf. So what followed as Hagar’s response? Despite the pain, Hagar responded in faith and returned. He didn’t remove her ill treatment or hardship or the coming cruelty. Even though her heart wanted to run away, she trusted God and returned. That’s faith.
Sometimes I’m like Hagar. Sometimes, though I should be bearing and learning and growing amidst my pain and suffering and affliction, I want to run away from it. But when I run away to the wilderness I run the risk of dying. There’s no water and food in the wilderness. It’s better to suffer and live than to avoid suffering and die. Skip Moen takes the question to, “Why have you run away from your pain?” Running from our pain doesn’t solve the problem. It doesn’t even make sense. But what is the solution? Maybe I need to find God in the midst of the pain, right there where I am. How can I trust God if I am always trying to escape? What if I chose to trust in God’s sovereignty in the midst of it all? What if God was doing something that Hagar couldn’t see in the midst of all the pain? What if God is doing something that I can’t see even in the midst of all the pain? We must return, because God, You are at work.
Now, “Where have you come from?” is not the only question here. The second half is, “Where are you going?” But if we really look at the words, anah and halak, we see it’s all about seeking and walking. What if it’s all about her manner of life? What if it’s about the big picture and not the little steps she’s taking. What if the question is “Where do you seek to walk?” What if You are asking Hagar about her destiny? Could she be lost in the wilderness because she’s not walking according to You? Is that why she has no clear direction? Is that why she’s going no where? Thank You God, that You sent her home to find how to walk Your way, with You.
Now, I do think that Hagar walked according to faith in so far as the promise you gave her. But I’m not so sure that Hagar got the full picture of You. I think that we can walk like that too. I think that we can walk according to Your promises that appeal to us and avoid other parts of You. I mean Hagar grasped the promise of a nation coming from her womb, but she never grasped that Isaac was also a glorious promise leading eventually to salvation for all people. So, though Hagar acted in faith here, did she ever truly begin to walk with You, Lord. Did her walk conform to that of Yours or did she only attach herself as long as it seemed to benefit her own desires?
That’s the temptation for all of us, isn’t it? That’s the temptation when I don’t really have a relationship with You, Lord. That’s when I follow You as long as it serves my interests. That’s when I start trying to help You out and tell Abram to use Sarai to bear our child, because God needs some help. That’s when I start doubting You because I don’t like the way You’re handling things in my life. That’s when I start forgetting where I should really be and that’s why I start running away instead of seeking You.
And that whole thought brings me back to Enoch. And I’m back to the Book of Enoch because if it was good enough for Paul and Jude to think about and be aware of, well, maybe it’s something You want me to think about also. Now, talk about tough times and Enoch was there. He was in a really rough world at this point. But instead of running from God, Enoch drew closer. Chapter 10 begins, “Then the Most High, the Great and Holy One spoke, and sent Arsayalalyur to the son of Lamech, saying, ‘Say to him in my name, ‘Conceal yourself.’ Then explain to him the consummation which is about to take place; for all the earth shall perish; the waters of a deluge shall come over the whole earth, and all things which are in it shall be destroyed. And now teach him how he may escape, and how his seed may remain in all the earth.” Now, let me ask this question? What in the world does it mean to conceal himself? What was God asking of Enoch? What were You wanting, Lord? And why did You make Enoch privy to all that You would do?
Now, Chapter 11 is missing but this is what I find in Chapter 12. “Before all these things Enoch was concealed; nor did any one of the sons of men know where he was concealed, where he had been, and what had happened. He was wholly engaged with the holy ones, and with the Watchers in his days. I, Enoch, was blessing the great Lord and King of peace. And behold the Watchers called me Enoch the scribe. Then the Lord said to me: Enoch, scribe of righteousness, go tell the Watchers of heaven, who have deserted the lofty sky, and their holy everlasting station, who have been polluted with women…” Do You see where Enoch was concealed during these hard times? Enoch was concealed with God! People didn’t know where he was, where he had been, or what had happened. Why? He was wholly engaged with God and the holy ones, and the Watchers. He was so wrapped up in God that that’s where he always was despite what was going on around him in the world. He was busy blessing God when the world was busy “blessing” itself.
What a far cry from only trusting in what benefits me. Enoch’s faith was all about blessing You, God. Enoch just wanted to spend his time with You and with Yours. Whereas Hagar was still thinking like a mere woman because her thoughts were on blessing herself, Enoch was thinking like You. Enoch didn’t need to run to the wilderness because no one understood him. Enoch understood the thinking of God because it was never about undertanding me. That’s the whole secret. That’s the mystery we need to discover, that the truth is it’s all about me learning to understand and delight in the thinking and doing of God. I was created to bless You. Hagar was created to bless You. Sarai and Abram and Enoch were created to bless You. If only we would learn that the more we bless You the more blessed we are in You. If only I would stop worrying about myself and my needs and my feelings and learn to bless You. I want to spend my time with You. I want to conceal myself in You until I am wholly given over to blessing You.
Am I where You expect me to be? Am I with You like I need to be? Where am I going? Am I walking with You as I need to be? It’s foolishness on my own part to not be concealed in You. I need to stop being such a fool. Teach me to totally bless You. Oh, that I would be wholly given over to You.