El Roi

El Roi
Photo by Louis Galvez on Unsplash

She basically had no right to be there in the story. She was shunned, kicked out, unwanted. Parched and starving, pregnant and abandoned, she sat down in a barren place to die. She did not expect to then get an incredible revelation from the eternal God.

But she did.

Hagar was an Egyptian. A foreigner. A woman. A slave forced into sexual sin with no thought to her opinions. And the result of this was her pregnancy – a son who was now unwanted too. She had no “claim” on the narrative of God’s plan with the children of Abraham, but here she is, honored with learning a name of God – El Roi – which means The Living One Who Sees Me. Her story is in Genesis 16.

In Genesis chapter 20, the scene is replayed. This time, she has Ishmael, her son, with her. Parched and starving again, she had to make a choice that would rip a mother’s heart apart – one we never, ever want to make. “Do I leave him alone? Or stay here and watch him die?” Did she feel defeated and inadequate as a mother when she realized that as much as her son needed his mother, she did not have the strength to watch him die? And then, to sadly turn and stumble away? Did she wonder where God was – whether He was still El Roi? Did He see her now? He did.

Do you need to be seen today? Heard? Do you have a past that rips you apart? Maybe it was abuse from people you trusted. Maybe you have sinned and the memories haunt you endlessly. Have you been falsely accused? Betrayed? Spitefully used? Pushed out of the warmth of relationships to fend for yourself? Maybe you always fended for yourself. Or maybe this has happened again and again and you deeply struggle to hope in a God who sees you.

Maybe no one knows about these dark things. Maybe you ask, like the old proverb, “If a tree falls in the forest, does anyone hear it?” Do you want to just forget, push it away, or pretend it all didn’t happen - because, after all, if no one else knew, did it happen at all?

Does all this make you wonder - is God as disappointed with me as I am? Friend, are you parched or starving today?

Can I give you this cup of cold water, friend? God is your witness. He saw and heard and was with you when the worst happened. He saw it but more than that, He saw you. And what’s more – your judgment of yourself is always, always harsher than His judgment of you. In fact, He has no judgment left for you. How do I know? He poured it all out on His Son, your Savior.

In Hosea, there is an incredible chapter about God’s love for Israel in spite of their repeated sin. Please read the whole chapter, even the whole book and let the truth of it wash over your parched and abandoned soul. But hear this verse first:

“I will not execute my burning anger;
I will not again destroy Ephraim;
for I am God and not a man,
the Holy One in your midst,
and I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:9).

Did you catch that? “For I am God and not a man… and I will not come in wrath.” That is NOT how I would expect that verse to end.

In the book Gentle and Lowly, Dane Ortlund puts his expectation of that verse this way:

For I am God and not a man,
The Holy one in your midst,
And I will therefore come in wrath.”

Yes! That is what I expect too! But the chapter is actually saying that it is because He is God that He will not come in wrath for His own. It is because His nature is so vastly different from ours that His heart is warmed in compassion and moves towards us in our brokenness. He is God and not man. We run away from brokenness. He runs toward it.

Jesus saw the leper no one would touch. He not only touched him, He completely healed him. Moved with compassion, He saw, He heard, He came, He saved - us. Because of the cross, we are chosen, called out, named and given revelation – just like Rahab. We had no “right” to this story. We deserved death and damnation for all the sin we were born into and the sin we have committed.

We are not dealing with a God of wrath like we sometimes expect. We are dealing with a God of mercy. Who sees. And the scene of Hagar, parched and starving, cast out and unwanted, about to die… does not end the way we thought it would.

And friend, neither does your story. He is your witness. He knows and groans with you over all the pain in and from your past, and with all the regret over your sin that you daily struggle with. He meets you there, and tells you His name: “I am the Living One Who Sees”... you.

The world, your family, your friends, or other believers may say you or your pain is not important or is nonexistent. Maybe even you join in criticism and say to yourself, “This is not important. Just forget about it.” But the Living One, the Holy One in your midst, the one that chose and called you from out of the multitudes of the earth, says, “No. You and your story were, are, and always will be important and precious to Me. For I am the God who sees.”

Friend, if you are broken, hurting or abandoned today, this truth is for you. He is the God who sees.

The “Whatevers” series of Philippians 4 is coming. Here’s a peek at “Lovely”:

Do you know what is lovely today? Home. Home with all its cluttery silliness and all it represents. Things that should and could be put away but aren’t. Stray socks and a wagon and amazon packages and half-thirsty plants and bandaid wrappers and pillows that little minds thought needed to be here and not there. Bibles and school books and pencils and legos. Two shoes that don’t match, fuzz and dust and loose papers that are bills or forgotten offerings of artwork that never made it to the fridge. Dried out flowers that were brought inside in rapture but never given a drink…