Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from a NEW Bible Study Coming Fall 2020 from CDM on The Names of God.
The God Who Sees Hagar
So, she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing, for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”
Hagar and the angel of the Lord in the wilderness are an important piece to the relational gospel story between God and His people. It is a story for those who feel weak, used, abused, abandoned, those who are aliens, and those who long to be seen. El Roi is the God who sees us. This name of God is revealed in Genesis 16. Hagar refers to God as El Roi in verse 13, but to understand the importance of this name we have to see the name in the context of the entire story.
In Genesis 16 we see Sarai desperately wanting to push God’s covenant promise along in her own human effort, control, and plans. In the text of Genesis 16 we see she suggests to Abram that he take her maidservant to be his wife. Neither Abram nor Sarai refer to Hagar by name in this entire account recorded by Moses in Genesis 16. She is a maidservant, an Egyptian in slavery in a foreign land, and she is used as an object by Abram and Sarai—unseen to them as the named woman, by the personal name Hagar—to Abram and Sarai, she is servant or just a pronoun.
After Hagar becomes pregnant, Sarai deals harshly with her and Hagar flees. Hagar is pregnant, an alien in a foreign land, and up until this point has not been referred to by her personal name. She flees to a place on the way to Shur—a place that is so far from where Abram and Sarai lived that she must have traveled a very long way on foot to escape the mistress who mistreated her, never called her by her personal name, and dealt with her harshly.
In the desert, the angel of the Lord speaks to her and calls her by her personal name for the first time in the text of Genesis 16. In Hagar’s response to the angel of the Lord, we see for the first time in Scripture, the recorded name of the God who sees, El Roi—the God who sees me.
The God Who Sees Us
In John 1:14 we see The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word, logos, is the same Word by which God created all things, and in John 1:14 we see that The Word, Christ, who was with God, took on human form and dwelt among us. This gives us a picture of a God who is present with His people. Christ was fully God and fully human. He knew thirst, hunger, sorrow, relationships, and tears. Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us. He identifies with our humanity because He was human. The Westminster Shorter Catechism gives us a good theology for what this means: Christ’s humiliation consisted in His being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Our God is a God who is continually pursuing His people by entering into relationship with them. The Word came down to earth, was born in a stable, lived under the same covenant law God gave to Moses and Israel in the desert, experienced misery in this life, bore the wrath of God, and suffered death on the cross. The Word was buried and experienced death for a time. Christ dwelt and was present in hell—but He rose again. He conquered death to fulfill the covenant promise to redeem God’s covenant people, to free them from the slavery of present-day sin. God saw us in our affliction, and He loved us so much that He sent His only Son—that we would not perish but have eternal life.
How We Should Respond
When Hagar responds to El Roi in the desert, she responds in repentance, faith, and obedience. She turns away from her action of fleeing, she trusts God’s promise to her by faith, and she obediently returns to and submits to her mistress. El Roi enters into relationship by coming to Hagar, and Hagar responds in loving obedience by going back to Abram and Sarai. She obediently responds because she is fully seen and intimately known by a relational God.
If we cognitively know God sees us, then we should live a life reflecting His character to the world around us. Like Hagar, we are known by The God Who Sees Us—He is present with us in these remote and uncertain days. God’s people are not isolated. We are seen, known by our personal name, and Our God is present with us in these uncertain times. We are members of His family. As members of the family we must be intentional to reflect His character in an ongoing, intentional effort to pursue those around us—in the midst of uncertainty and in creative ways. If we are His image-bearers on earth, we must bear the identity of The God Who Sees.
God is not distant. He is near, He sees, and He acts. He wants to use us as His image-bearers on earth. He desires His covenant people to see those He sees and love those whom He loves. May He be reflected and radiant as His people learn to see as He sees.
About the Author:
Rachel Craddock is a graduate of Eastern Kentucky University and a first-grade teacher at heart. She currently leads the Women’s Servant Team at North Cincinnati Community Church and serves on the Committee on Discipleship Ministries (CDM) National Women’s Ministry team as a Regional Advisor. She is the author of Slowly Unraveled (CDM, January 2019) and a contributor to Hinged: Vitally Connected to Christ and His Church (CDM, January 2020). Rachel enjoys speaking at women’s retreats—her heart is to teach women how the gospel is relevant in everyday life. Rachel is married to Michael and together they have four fun children: Ezra, Asher, Caleb, and Lydia Jane. She and her family are members of North Cincinnati Community Church in Mason, Ohio where her husband is the lead pastor. You can connect with Rachel her blog, rachelcraddock.com