Wednesday, June 25, 2014

“God Opened Her Eyes” (Genesis 21:8-21)

They say that jealousy is a green-eyed monster . . . ask Hagar and she would probably affirm that statement.  Hagar had a pretty good thing going on as the maidservant to Sarah, the wife of Abraham . . . life was good and the people she was working for were good people, except for the fact that Sarah could not bear children.  This had been an unspeakable sadness in the relationship between Sarah and Abraham, but Abraham did not care because he loved Sarah.  But it was a real bur in Sarah’s saddle that she could not produce an heir for her husband.  Unbeknownst to Hagar this would be where she begins her adventure with the green-eyed monster.

To remedy the problem Sarah convinced Abraham that he and Hagar should work on having a child . . . which apparently they both whole-heartedly agreed to.  The result?  Hagar got pregnant . . . a child and heir would be born.  Everyone seemed happy . . . at least for a while.  But one does not have such an intimate affair without developing some feelings and soon Abraham was treating Hagar as more than a maidservant . . . Hagar was moving up in the world.  Sarah noticed and it did not make her happy . . . she was getting jealous.  In her jealousy she has Abraham throw Hagar out . . . Abraham, being the good and dutiful husband realizes that if “Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”.  So, Hagar got the boot and was out on the street.

Of course when things seem their worse there always seems to be a second chance in these stories.  An angel convinces Hagar to suck up to Sarah and patch things up . . . all the while the angel is also telling her that God had plans for this child, that the child would be named Ishmael and a that he would be the first of a multitude of descendants.  So, Hagar went back to Sarah, apologized, kept her distance, and got her old job back.  Ishmael was born a few months later.  One would think that life was pretty good after all of that . . . that everyone was happy.

But the green-eyed monster never really goes away completely . . . it usually crawls off in hibernation until it is awaken once again.  Which happens.  Sarah, the one who could not give birth to children, becomes pregnant and eventually gives birth to a son name Isaac.  This is the child which is destined by God to be the father of a great nation.  Everyone, especially Sarah, is quite happy . . . life is great.  Life is great until one day she discovers Ishmael playing with Isaac.

That is when everything hits the fan . . . the slumbering green-eyed monster is awakened . . . and, life gets really difficult for Hagar and Ishmael.  Sarah begins to think that Ishmael is going to mess up everything . . . that Isaac is going to have to split his inheritance with Ishmael.  Again, she nags Abraham to get rid of them both . . . to kick them out . . . to banish them.  And, again, to keep the peace, Abraham kicks them out and sends them on their way.

Kicked out of house, home, and community Hagar wanders the desert with her son.  Things begin to get bleak as they run out of food and water.  It is not looking good for Hagar and Ishmael . . . the end is near.  Sensing that she could not bear to watch her son die, she places Ishmael under a bush and goes off to cry.  While crying she encounters the Lord . . . and, God personally takes care of the business at hand.  God promises, again, that Ishmael would be the foundation for a great nation . . . God assures Hagar that the boy is not going to die . . . and, reiterates that God personally will see to it all.  Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well.

As the story goes, God fulfilled all the spoken promises.  Ishmael does not die.  He does become the foundation of a great nation . . . and, all is good.  Everything works out for Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac . . . we are here today in part because of it.

Now, this story is not so much about jealousy—that green-eyed monster—that can wreak havoc on the lives of people, though it could be.  Sarah seems to be a textbook example of jealousy at its best or worse.  No, this is not a story about jealousy . . . it is a story about how God opens our eyes to God’s presence in our lives.

I doubt if any of us would want to be in Hagar’s shoes.  She gets a pretty bum deal in the whole thing.  Yet, as we heard the story, we also heard how God had stated from the very beginning that God would take care of everything . . . that God would be with them all.  Also listening to the story one would think that no one seemed to get that.  Instead it seemed that everyone belly-ached and moaned and groaned about how difficult life was and how much it sucked.  That all seemed lost . . . especially for Hagar and Ishmael.

I have always liked that statement about the darkest hour is always before the dawn.  It seems like everything bad happens in the dark.  Hagar would say her life looked pretty dark.  Yet, the sun rose and the dawn broke, shedding light into the reality of God’s presence.  The writer of the scripture reading stated that God opened her eyes so that she could see.  True it was to see a well, but it went deeper than that.  Her eyes were opened to see that God was with them . . . always with them . . . and, that God would never abandon them.  It took the darkness of the situation for Hagar to see the light of the Lord.

So it is for us as the children of God . . . we need to have our eyes opened.  Lots of us just seem to cruise through life when things are going well . . . life is good; but, boy, when we hit a few bumps in the road and things get tough . . . we wonder.  We wonder if we will survive.  It gets pretty depressing and dark in our lives . . . we worry . . . we get anxious . . . we complain . . . we whine.  The darkness overwhelms us and we cannot bear to witness our lives dying.

Yet it is the darkness and difficulty of the situations that opens us to the presence of God in our lives . . . that makes us turn to the one thing we believe we can trust.  It is the light of God that breaks through the darkness to remind us.  It is the light of God that allows us to see.  God is with us . . . God is with us every step of the way through life and beyond.  God will never abandon us.  Sometimes God uses the difficulties of life to open our eyes so that we might see.  May we all open our eyes and see this truth.  Amen.

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