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The Lord Has Listened to Your Affliction

Genesis 16:11 (ESV) … “And the angel of the Lord said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the Lord has listened to your affliction.”

This prophecy seems to have had reference more to his posterity than to Ishmael himself. It is well known how accurately its terms have been fulfilled in the Arabs who, in all ages, have been a wild and warlike people, and who, though surrounded by nations that have each been conquered in turn, yet have themselves been unsubdued by the great Powers unto this day.[1]

These are great promises. But before they can come, Hagar must return to Sarai and submit to her authority. How hard it is to do this!

When we have run away from something, we never want to go back to it. But if you have made a wrong turn in the direction of your life, as we often do, the only thing to do is return to the point where you went wrong and start over. Anything else only takes you farther and farther away. In the same way, if we have rebelled against one proper authority, our problem is never solved by continuing in that rebellion or even seeking out another authority.

Ishmael means “God hears.” By giving this name to Hagar’s son, God was saying that he hears the cry of the afflicted. Since Hagar was heard, she undoubtedly understood the importance of this name. But notice: When she reflected on what had happened to her by the spring on the road to Shur, she heightened it somewhat. She did not rest content with the truth that God hears and had actually heard her, though that was true. The God who had heard her was also the God who had first seen her, who had seen the rebellion of her heart. She called God “the One who sees me.”

Are you aware that God sees you? Right where you are? He does. He sees you as you are and where you are. He sees where you have come from and where you are going. He sees what you need and what you do not need. Above all, he sees what he wants to make of you and how that final, glorious product is to be achieved. You cannot see it. But it is precisely for that reason that you must lay your own wisdom aside and return to the path God has given you to walk in.

Hagar did this; and, from the final verses of the passage, I suspect that she returned a changed woman. Why? Because Abram accepted the name she brought back for the child. God had told her to name the child Ishmael, but Scripture never records that God told Abram the name. Yet verse 15 says, “So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.” Apparently Hagar’s testimony after she had returned to the camp convinced Abram that the God who had revealed himself to him so many times before had now also appeared to her. So Abram stood by her in accepting the new revelation. The one who has really seen God will have little trouble convincing other believers of this reality. There is no escaping the one who has been sought out, seen, and changed forever by the God of Calvary.[2]

[1] Pink, A. W. (2005). Gleanings in Genesis (p. 180). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

[2] Boice, J. M. (1998). Genesis: an expositional commentary (pp. 572–573). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

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