Tan: Hagar’s journey to spiritual discernment

Straight from my heart

Genesis 16

THE journey to the path of spiritual discernment is a profound mystery. Though it is something unstructured, many books and sermons tackle this issue. Despite the voluminous material and ideas that are available, the issue of spiritual discernment still manages to slip away from the grip of those who want to manage it. It is indeed humbling that when it comes to one’s relationship with God, many areas are better left unmanaged by human hands. Hagar is an embodiment of this truth; a slave woman who met God; had a journey that baffled the religion of her time; and a woman who many wont even name their daughters after.

Genesis 16 is a narrative of what transpired at the birth of Ishmael...the colourful story paints our bible heroes as flawed ones instead of being untarnished.

Today, let’s put the standard heroes (Abraham and Sarah) aside and give way to a mysterious character, Hagar, who, in the most unconventional way paved a unique journey of spiritual discernment. It all happened when God, through an angel, met her. A standard principle about spiritual discernment is not us discovering God...it is responding to His Presence as He uniquely reveals himself to whom He wants! Believe me, it is very humbling to see how NO ONE CAN MANAGE THE PRESENCE OF GOD to favour personal agenda! With this attitude of surrender in our attempt to manage spiritual discernment, let us willingly learn, really learn spiritual insights especially from the unexpected model -- Hagar.

A beginning of a spiritual journey

I want to highlight verses 7-9 where an angel met Hagar and asked questions that would lead her to see her heart and discover God’s Presence. Again, spiritual discernment begins with God’s sovereign initiative to reveal His Presence, then an opportunity to respond is now widely open for us to respond. The two main questions of the angel to Hagar are timely questions for all of us to answer. This is really something life-altering and life-transforming. “Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from and where are you going? In verse 13 we find this wonderful response “You are the God who sees me” She also said “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?”

We learn at least three things about this encounter

1. An Honest Answer to a simple question

2. A Hard question coming from a hungry heart

3. A Humble reflection about many issues of the heart

A life with many complicated consequences

The puzzling thing about cause and consequences of life is that there are many consequences that we pay...the fault of others yet we pay the price. The complicated life of Hagar did not leave answers to many questions, but I’m glad we can have this insight to glean:

• We can’t stop, erase, end, rationalize or judge it.

We need to ask these heart-searching questions, hoping that God will lead us to His welcoming grace:

1. Is Hagar a victim?

2. Is Hagar a pawn?

3. Is Hagar a woman who finally saw the One that sees her? (Gen. 21:19)


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