Are some mistakes, some lives even, unredeemable?
Are there some pits of sin, some secrets of the past, some truly horrible choices that a Holy God cannot accept?
The corporate response replies, “No! Remember John 3:16!” But within the hearts of so many, the silent voice questions, “What about my choices, my past? I just don’t think God can accept those things, and they’re a part of me, so I too must be unacceptable.
Many, many years ago, a slave girl was taken into the home of a very rich man. She did her work well and eventually became a handmaid to the rich man’s wife.
The rich man worried, for he had no son. Without a son what would become of his fortune?
The rich man’s wife worried, because it seemed her womb was closing and there were no children. The man who had everything didn’t have the one thing that mattered, an heir. And it was her fault.
So she thought of her maid and an idea niggled in her mind and a plan hatched full fledged.
She went to her rich husband with her young servant beside her. She made love to her husband but his act was with her maid. Her purpose as a servant, lowly as it was, was ripped from her. She was less than the cattle and sheep, a mere heifer to calve and make milk and eventually be led to slaughter. Did she know she was a victim of abuse, a pawn in a flawed game of desperate strategy? Raped, shamed, ruined.
Anger welled and boiled and burst her heart wide open. She was only human and humans aren’t meant to bear such burdens.
She ran with swelled belly. No destination. Death for her and the child would be better than that existence in rich tents without love.
Someone saw her suffering. Someone intervened.
She was met near a spring. A promise was made–a little covenant between maid and Almighty God.
She encountered Greatness and named Him: Beer Lahi Roi, You are the God who see me.
She returned to the rich man’s tents. She returned to serve the mistress.
And a son was born.
She named the boy “God Hears”, Ishmael, not knowing his name rang sad and low with a prophecy.
An illegitimate son deemed a legitimate heir by social justification.
But the son belonged to the heart of the servant girl and a this life of hurt and abuse hardened her. Her stone heart rebelled.
She may have wanted circumstances to improve, she may have tried harder to submit to her mistress and do her job well.
But as things often turn out, life just got worse.
The old, rich woman’s womb sprang to life and she bore a son. An old wrinkled granny dawdled the newborn on her knee – the true heir.
What of the promise from the Greatness she met near the spring? Was the God who sees watching this?
What kind of God makes a promise like that: “mighty nation, too numerous to count”? Her son was supposed to be her revenge, the son of her heart, her only promise.
Hurt begets anger. Anger begets more anger. The son and mother became the rejected ones. The pride and the wounds of years of dysfunction tangled and strangled and poisoned them.
The day came that the maid, now a woman with a son beside her who now posed a real threat, was forced to leave.
The old, rich man shook his head in concern. This boy, Ishmael was his child, too. But the God who sees was watching. He would make good on his promise.
Off into the desert they went. Shuffling sand beneath sandals; the sun baked and the provisions ran out.
And the hopeless woman looked into the wide, desperate eyes of her child and something in her snapped.
She placed him near the shade of a desert tree, more of a bush, really.
She left him to die.
A lone sacrifice to a harsh world.
She turned and walked away and collapsed and cried a lifetime of tears until the water ran out of her. She was a dry desert, a parched wilderness, a dark night. A nothing.
Ishmael. God hears.
The name the boy wore each day of his life became his Savior. Crying on earth never goes unnoticed by heaven. There is a God who sees and hears. A God whose senses are in tune to his creation.
Ishmael. A name like wind. A name of truth not unacquainted with suffering. God heard his crying.
I know, I see, I hear.
And there, in the desert of near-death, ran a spring. Clear, fresh water. Lives saved and promises kept.
We read about Hagar, the servant of Abraham and Sarah, and mother of Ishmael in Genesis 16-21.Hers is a sad story. But hers is not an uncommon story.
If you are wounded by the sins of others, take heart. If you have spent years swallowing down the bile of spite and contentment, take heart. If you are discouraged, alone, abandoned, hopeless, take heart. This is a cruel world, but there is a God Who Sees. There is a God Who Hears. There is a God Who Provides.
This is your message and your truth. He will redeem you; he will buy you back with his promise made good by the blood of Jesus. Do not be afraid.