Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar.
When Hagar fled into the wilderness from the face of her mistress she was visited by an angel, who sent her back; but together with this implied reproof of her impatience, he gave her a word to strengthen and console her. In this mixture of humbling and cheering thoughts she recognised the presence of her Lord, and hence "she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me." Such was the condition of men before Christ came: favoured with some occasional notices of God's regard for individuals, but for the most part instructed merely in His general providence. But under the New Covenant this distinct regard of Almighty God for every one of us is clearly revealed. When the Eternal Son came on earth in our flesh, God began to speak to us as individuals. There was a revelation face to face.
I. It is very difficult, in spite of the revelation made in the Gospel, to master the idea of this particular providence of God. We conceive that God works on a large plan, but we cannot realise that He sees and thinks of individuals. In trouble, especially when the world fails us, we often despair, because we do not realise the loving-kindness and presence of God.
II. In order that we may understand that in spite of His mysterious perfections He has a separate knowledge and regard for individuals, God has taken upon Him the thoughts and feelings of our own nature, which we all understand is capable of such personal attachments. The most winning property of our Saviour's mercy is its dependence on time and place, person and circumstance—in other words, its tender discrimination. Even Judas was followed and encompassed by His serene though grave regard till the very hour he betrayed Him.
III. Consider our Lord's behaviour to the strangers who came before Him. Judas was His friend, but we have never seen Him. Let His manner toward the multitude of men in the Gospels assure us how He will look on us. Almighty as He is, He could display a tender interest in all who approached Him.
IV. God beholds thee individually, whoever thou art, He calls thee by thy name. Thou wast one of those for whom Christ offered up His last prayer, and sealed it with His precious blood. What a thought is this!—a thought almost too great for our faith. What am I, that God the Holy Ghost should enter into me and draw up my thoughts heavenward "with plaints innumerable"?
J. H. Newman, Selection from Parochial and Plain Sermons, p. 204.
Advent brings with it the thought that we shall one day, every one of us, stand before our Judge, the All-seeing, the All-knowing. There are some things in religion which are among its plainest and most familiar teachings, which yet, when we come to think of what they really mean, seem almost too tremendous to bear. Among them is this truth—that the eye of God is always upon us. The Bible everywhere takes it for granted, and appeals to it.
I. We all know that if there is anything true in the world, it is that God, who made us, must see and know all that we are and all that we do. What is the good, then, of fighting against what is inevitable, what is so certain? We ought to live and learn to live all day long with the thought that God's eye is upon us, if no other reason, for this one alone—that this is the truth, that this is the real condition under which we must live.
II. The thought of God's eye upon us is usually looked upon as a thought to restrain and bridle us in the hour of temptation and carelessness; and so it is. But is this all? Is it fixed on us only to make us feel our infinite distance from Him who is our Father and our God, only to make us shrink and tremble before Him? In our cowardice and with our selfish love of forbidden things we miss what is meant not merely to restrain us, but to be the greatest and most unfailing of our comforts. The thought that God sees us always is His great encouragement and help to His children in doing right. His eye is not the eye of a Judge and Ruler only, but of a Shepherd and Father, the Lover of the souls of men, these poor souls of ours and of our brethren, not sparing even His own Son for them. So in those bitter times, which seem to shut out all remaining hope while we are here, we shall know and feel that we are being watched by an eye of tenderness and sympathy deeper and truer than even that of any man on earth for his suffering friend. And so may we prepare ourselves for that day when our eyes shall be unsealed and we shall meet and behold each other.
R. W. Church, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 345.
References: Genesis 16:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii., No. 85, and vol. xxxi., No. 1869. Gen 17—R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 279.
And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the LORD hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the LORD judge between me and thee.
But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thy hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
And the angel of the LORD said unto her, Behold, thou art with child, and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the LORD hath heard thy affliction.
And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Wherefore the well was called Beerlahairoi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered.
And Hagar bare Abram a son: and Abram called his son's name, which Hagar bare, Ishmael.
And Abram was fourscore and six years old, when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.