The God Who Sees
By Chioma Fanawopo
In Genesis 16, after arranging for her husband Abraham to sleep with her servant Hagar, Sarah turns against her servant. Hagar is forced to flee, but the angel of the Lord finds her in the wilderness and reassures her that God knows about her distress. In fact, despite Sarah’s unjust treatment of her, the Lord is going to bless Hagar and give her numerous descendants. Hagar responds by calling out to the Lord by the Hebrew name, El Roi – the God who sees. Today, God continues to see the injustice experienced by His people and He calls us to do the same.
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In Genesis chapter 16, due to her longstanding battle with infertility, Sarah advises her husband Abraham to sleep with her Egyptian servant Hagar. Although it may seem strange to us, this practice was common in that culture and it still happens in some places today. Abraham accepts Sarah’s proposal and Hagar becomes pregnant.
But then things start to go wrong. Hagar shows contempt for her mistress Sarah, and Sarah responds by treating Hagar harshly. It is all a bit of a mess, and it results in Hagar deciding to flee from home.
However, in verse 7, the angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the wilderness beside a spring of water, and he instructs her to return home. He reassures her that he will multiply her descendants exceedingly and tells her to name her child Ishmael because the Lord has heard her affliction.
In response Hagar calls out to the Lord by the Hebrew name ‘El Roi’ which is commonly translated as ‘the God who sees me’. This is the first time this name of God is used in the Bible. In the middle of her plight Hagar has been assured that God sees. He sees, and He comes to rescue her from the injustice she has suffered at the hands of Sarah.
I am sure that many of our sisters and brothers around the world today can relate to Hagar. They know what it is like to be disregarded, to be treated like a commodity, to feel like there is no other choice but to flee.
During a recent trip to support Somali brothers and sisters in Kenya, I met many women who were treated badly for the sake of the gospel. When they became Christians, their families treated them spitefully and disowned them. Their husbands even divorced them because of their commitment to following Jesus.
Yet God saw them. And because He saw them, their lives have been turned around. They know the love and peace of our Saviour Jesus Christ. Some have met Christian husbands and remarried. Jehovah El Roi has brought them hope and deliverance, and a special place in a new spiritual family.
Later in the Old Testament, the prophet Micah calls his people to be like God and to see. He challenges the corruption and idolatry of the religious and political leadership of his day and in chapter 6 verse 8 he says,
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
When we think about our persecuted sisters and brothers across the world today, how can we as Western Christians act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God?
Well first, we need to see. I want to encourage you to get to know the stories of our persecuted family. Read Release International’s Voice magazine, watch our YouTube videos, listen to our podcast. Make sure you understand the issues that our brothers and sisters face for the sake of the gospel.
Secondly, we need to use our voices, our social media presence, to speak out against the injustices that we see and be part of the change that is needed.
And finally, we need to remember that God sees us too. Despite the difficult circumstances we might be facing, we know that we are not alone. Jehovah El Roi, the God who sees, is with us.