Hagar And God’s Promises

Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.”…So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away…When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes. Hagar knew her child would die but God heard the voice of the boy and said to Hagar: “Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.” Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water (Genesis 21:9-10,14-15, 18-19).

Hagar’s story occasions discomfort because it illumines the divisions that exist among women along lines including race and class. It invites us to consider the injustices that women perpetuate against one another, often in the name of keeping peace. Jan L. Richardson
In a culture where barrenness was like a sin for a woman; where concubines/slaves was an acceptable route to having children within a family; where inheritance of land and cattle was important for nation building; the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar is full of tension, abuse, mistrust, and manipulation. But in the midst of it all God’s promise of new nations is given to both Isaac and Ishmael.

The sharp-eyed Deity
manages to get
around when people least
expect attention-
not just to those
who claim monopoly
of God’s good graces.
~ Thomas John Carlisle

This situation seems unfair to Hagar. In everything, she has done as she was told, and now she is about to lose not only her life, but also her beloved child. Questioning just this kind of justice, Teresa of Avila is reputed to have charged God: “If this how you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few of them!” What does God promise when we dedicate our lives to God? Are we promised that there will be no hardship, no difficulties? Instead, we are promised that we will never be alone. Is that enough for us? The Spiritual Formation Bible

Give to the winds thy fears;
hope and be undismayed,
God hears thy signs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.
~ Paul Gerhardt, trans. by John Wesley

The story of Hagar is the story of the terrible jealousy of Sarah and the singular ineffectuality of Abraham and the way Hagar managed to survive them both. However it is the story of how in the midst of the whole unseemly affair the Lord went around making marvelous promises and loving everybody and creating great nations. Frederick Buechner

Prayerfully read the entire story in several translations and place yourself within the story as an observer. Then translate the story into what is happening in our country today between white and black citizens – what are your actions doing to ease the tension, hurt and grief?

The reflections are for use during the week of June 21-27 and are based on the scriptures for worship on June 21.

Joyce D. Sohl, Laywoman-in-Residence


Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, quarterly retreats, and art exhibits.

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