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God’s Steadfast Love for the Single Parent and Their Child

God’s Steadfast Love for the Single Parent and Their Child

Behold you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You Shall call his name Ishmael [meaning “God hears”], because the Lord has listened to your afflication.”…

You are a God of seeing… Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.Genesis 16:11, 13 ESV 

Maggie squeezed her eyes shut, then opened them slowly, hoping to read a different result. Committed to celibacy until marriage, she gave in to temptation one time with a guy she didn’t even want to date. Now, at age twenty-four, she found herself staring at two pink lines on a pregnancy test.

To complicate matters further, Maggie was in seminary, having just started her first full-time job as a youth minister discipling teens at a church in California. Maggie not only had to tell her boss (her pastor!) she was pregnant, she also had to tell her impressionable students and their parents that she had slept with a man and the consequences included a child.

But Maggie already loved that child. Because she knew Jesus loved her so deeply that he secured her pardon for sin on the cross, she felt confident in bringing this child into the world and raising him, even as a single mother. What she did not know was how her church would respond.

God Sees Hagar

If we ever wondered how God feels about the lonely single parent, the story of Hagar is our answer. This single mother figures prominently in the life of the great patriarch Abraham. Brought from Egypt as a slave for Abraham’s wife Sarah, Hagar lives at the very heart of the establishment of God’s covenant with His own people.

When Sarah endures about ten years without holding the promised child in her arms, she conceives instead a plan to make God’s promise come true: let Abraham impregnate the young slave girl.

  • According to custom, the child of the slave will belong to Sarah.

Consider Hagar’s predicament. She is forced to sleep with her boss, who is not only married but also old. Her mistress sees her as an incubator for God’s promised child, a child she plans to take from Hagar and raise as her own. To Abraham and Sarah, Hagar is not a person but an instrument to carry out their personal agenda. It’s no wonder Hagar treats Sarah with contempt when she does conceive. She finally has some clout in this lopsided triangle.

Sarah responds to Hagar’s insolence by complaining to Abraham, who abdicates responsibility for his unborn child, giving Sarah free rein to do whatever she likes with Hagar. Sarah “deals harshly” with her, to the point that Hagar flees to the wilderness. 

In this moment, Hagar is as vulnerable as a person could possibly be. She is a woman in a culture that does not value women. She is a slave, and a foreign one at that. She is penniless and pregnant, with no resources and no support. The people who were supposed to take care of her have made her life unbearable. She is not even part of the chosen race that God will establish through Abraham.

No one is coming to help her; no one cares. 

Were it not for Abraham’s God, Hagar and her unborn child would have died alone in the desert. No one would ever have known her name.

The angel of the Lord met Hagar at a spring in the desert on the road to Shur and said, ‘Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?’Genesis 16:7-8 GNT

Hagar does not know Abraham’s God. She likely worshiped Egypt’s pagan idols if she had any faith at all. Incredibly, the angel of the Lord comes looking for her. Her insignificance in the eyes of the world does not render her insignificant in God’s sight. She is an outsider in every possible way, and yet he calls her by name and declares her situation, “Hagar, servant of Sarah…”

The angel invites her to talk with him. The question he asks her echoes God’s question to Adam in the garden: “Where are you?” He cares about her history (“Where have you come from?”) and her future (“Where are you going?”). When Hagar admits she is running away from Sarah, the angel instructs her to return to her mistress.

That must have been a hard word for Hagar to hear. Her situation with Abraham and Sarah won’t be easy. But the angel’s encounter with her meets a need much deeper than a desire for ease or comfort.

  • The angel reveals to Hagar a God who knows, sees, and hears her and her unborn baby.

This God is willing to be personally involved and provide for both of them, even naming her son Ishmael, meaning “God hears.” The angel tells her that the boy will be a “wild donkey of a man,” at odds with everyone around him, but Hagar’s boy will live (16:12).

Let’s not miss how astounding this encounter must have been for Hagar. Despised and alone, she is filled with despair so great that she has run away to near-certain death in the desert. There she is met with a heavenly being who knows the intimate details of her life yet treats her with dignity and compassion. This changes everything. She can go back to Sarah, harsh treatment and all, confident that Almighty God has His eye on her.

God’s provision will not mean an easy life, but as part of Abraham’s household, she will have protection for her boy. Every time she calls her son in to wash up for dinner, she will be reminded that “God hears!" 

Excerpted with permission from God’s Grace for Every Family by Anna Meade Harris, copyright Anna Meade Harris.

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Your Turn

What does Hagar’s story tell you about God’s attitude toward you? Do you know that He sees and hears you even in seasons that feel like you’re all alone? Today, speak to Him knowing He loves you! ~ Devotionals Daily