I’m pleased to welcome writer and speaker Jennifer Slattery to the blog today. I’ve known Jennifer both online and IRL and am always amazed at her insightful commentary on faith and the Bible. Her meditation below on the story of Hagar is well worth contemplating in an age where many of us often feel worthless and unseen.
Read below for more information on Jennifer and her scripture study, Becoming His Princess, as well as her newest fiction release, Hometown Healing.
Having lived a good chunk of my life feeling worthless, discarded and discardable, and unseen, women like Hagar capture my attention. Not just her plight, which has always saddened me, but her experience with God. In her, we see a beautiful example of El Roi, the God who sees. He sees those everyone else overlooks and elevates the downtrodden. In short, He showers “the least of these”, as Hagar was, with love.
In the ancient world, she had two major strikes against her: She was female during a time when women weren’t valued much outside of house-tending and motherhood. Plus, she was a slave who could be purchased, sold, and given away.
We don’t know much about Hagar’s backstory. She may have been born into slavery, or poor parents may have sold her, feeling they had no other options. Perhaps she was one of the many poor souls carted off into servitude by a conquering nation. Regardless, she eventually found herself owned by a barren couple named Abram and Sarai, considered the patriarch and matriarch of the Jewish nation. Scholars believe she came as a gift, offered by a scared Pharaoh desperate to push her new owners out of his land.
You can read more in Genesis 12:10-20, but to paraphrase, Scripture tells us God had called Abram and Sarai out of their pagan land in Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 11:31) to a land He promised to later disclose. They obeyed, gathered their belongings, and headed first north to Haran then south toward the Negev. When they arrived, they landed in a severe famine so, rather than seek God’s wisdom, Abraham formed and immediately followed a plan: He took his family to Egypt which, irrigated by the annually flooding Nile, was sure to have plentiful food. There, he deceived everyone into believing Sarai wasn’t his wife, and the Pharaoh scooped her up and into his haram.
Likely as some sort of dowry, Egypt’s ruler gave the patriarch a slew of gifts, including animals and servants. Scholars believe Hagar was part of this package.
Fast forward maybe a decade. God had miraculously rescued Sarai from the Pharaoh and she and Abram, along with their clan and all they owned, continued on their merry-yet-not-so-merry way, still barren. Impatient and perhaps worried God didn’t intend to include her in the promise, she demanded that her husband sleep with her slave so she could become a surrogate.
The woman who’d already been torn from her homeland. The woman with zero rights or expectation for better.
The woman without a voice who, quite frankly, couldn’t say no.
Abram agreed and complied and shortly after, Hagar became pregnant. Immediately, tension spikes between the two women to the point that Hagar flees, pregnant, into the desert. How desperate must she have been to do this? She had to know how difficult survival would be. Where would she find food? Protection from wild animals or bandits?
Maybe she’d given up all hope for tomorrow and had simply ran, fully expecting to end her days alone, withering under the sun. I don’t know, but I’m certain she never expected to encounter the living God. Yet that is precisely what happened.
Scripture says the Angel of the Lord, which scholars believe, based on the conversation that followed, was preincarnate Jesus, engages in her in conversation. Though He gives her some difficult predictions, she replies, “You are El Roi” the God who sees, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”
And apparently, that was enough because she returned to camp and bore Abram a son named Ishmael.
Her story is harsh, for sure. She was eventually ran out of camp for good (Gen. 21:8-20), only this time she had a son to care for. But once again, when all seemed hopeless, God came near. Seeing her sobbing and her thirsty boy crying, He said to her, “Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as He lies here. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation” (v. 17). Then, He opened her eyes to see a well of water, which she used to hydrate her son.
Once again, she encountered the El Roi, the God who sees.
May we each encounter that same God during our times of distress as well.
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and international speaker who has addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and other writers across the nation. She maintains a devotional blog found at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud and on Crosswalk. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Love Ministries, she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband. Contact her HERE to book her for your next women’s event. She wrote the majority of Wholly Loved’s Bible study, Becoming His Princess, and numerous fiction titles, including her latest, Hometown Healing.
Becoming His Princess:
Do you ever feel insignificant or unseen? As if what you do or even who you are isn’t quite good enough? Does your confidence level vary based on who you’re around and how their bank account or how accomplishment list compares to yours? If so, this study, based on the life of Sarah from the Old Testament Scriptures, is for you.
For seven weeks, we’ll follow her uncertain and at times terrifying journey from the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur to the land promised to her husband, and ultimately, the place of rest God beckons each of us toward. He met her in the middle of her pain, her shame, and all her striving, and rewrote her story—through grace. A grace bigger than her greatest failures and that proved sufficient for all her insufficiencies. Step by step, God taught this once-scorned woman to live as His beloved, His princess.
As we follow her journey recorded in the pages of Scripture, He’ll help us do the same. We’ll learn to center our identity in Christ, recognize His power and presence in our most challenging circumstances, find rest from our striving, and live daily in His grace.