Reading theology today — making connections in Genesis. God created the Garden to be his dwelling place with man — it’s where heaven and earth intersected in divine communion and worship. But God’s relational presence did not stop there.
Genesis 12–50 recounts the story of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and at the theological center of this section is the account of how God establishes a relationship with this family through his covenant with them. … To each of the patriarchs God not only promises descendants, land, and blessing, but in each case he also includes the promise of his relational presence.J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays. (2019). God’s Relational Presence:
The Cohesive Center of Biblical Theology
- Abraham: When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” Gen 17:1-2
- Isaac: The Lord appeared to Isaac and said, “… I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” Gen 26:2 – 5
- Jacob: There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. … I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Gen 28:12 – 15
Clearly God developed strong relationships with the patriarchs, meeting with them, talking with them, reiterating the covenant He was making with them. But there is one other to whom God revealed Himself in Genesis that I want to explore for a moment. She was a pagan, a foreigner, a slave, marginalized … yet God found her and blessed her with His presence.
Maybe you know the story of Hagar from Genesis 16. Abram and Sarai had heard the promise of God for a son, and they had waited many years for that promise to become real. Feeling like possibly she should take matters in her own hands, Sarai offers her Egyptian slave to Abram. They have relations, and Hagar gets pregnant. The scripture says that Hagar began to look with contempt on her mistress, feeling superior to Sarai due to her infertility. Sarai blames her husband for Hagar’s disrespect, and Abram shirks responsibility. He puts it back on Sarai – do what you want with your slave. So Sarai mistreats Hagar. Hagar runs away. She discovers, though, that you can’t run away from God!
Where can I go from your Spirit?Psalm 139:7 – 10
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
The scripture says “the angel of the Lord” finds Hagar. I love that image of finding. And I’m reminded of the lost sheep, lost coin, lost son in Luke 15 instructing us that God is in the business of finding! Jesus said He came to find, to seek out the lost in order to bring salvation, to have a personal relationship with each of us!
Hagar, who before had appeared to herself to be carried away by chance, through the desert; now perceives and acknowledges that human affairs are under divine government. And whoever is persuaded that he is looked upon by God, must of necessity walk as in his sight.John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis
This “angel of the Lord” asks Hagar questions – where did you come from and where are you going. Have you noticed how often when God “finds” His people, He asks questions – obvious questions, questions to which He clearly knows the answers? This is a characteristic of God’s relational style!
- To Adam – Where are you? Gen. 3:9
- To Eve – What is this you have done? Gen. 3:13
- To Cain – Where is your brother? Gen. 4:9
- To Abraham – Is anything too hard for the Lord? Gen. 18:14
- To Jacob – What is your name? Gen. 32.27
God uses our answers to His questions to help us to help us clarify our situation, confess truth, and to instruct us. For Hagar, the “angel of the Lord” gives her direct instructions to return to her mistress and to submit to her. But He also prophesies, telling Hagar that He will greatly multiply her descendants, and that she is about to bear her first son. Hagar is amazed because she has been seen by the Lord. Hagar is the only person we know that gave God a name, “the God who sees me.” And she celebrates having seen God and lived!
[Hagar] calls him God of seeing, i.e. the All-seeing, whose all-seeing eye the helpless and forsaken does not escape, even in the remotest corner of the wilderness.
FRANZ DELITZSCH. (1889). A New Commentary on Genesis
I’m reminded that God didn’t just “so love the world,” but he loves me, loves you, each of us individually. He meets us where we are and offers us blessings, the greatest of which is himself.
“God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome them.”C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
If you don’t already know God, He sees you. And He wants a personal relationship with you! And if you once were close to God but now seem far off, in the desert wilderness, know that God sees you there. And He longs to restore your fellowship with Him. Talk to Him today!
God is always near me,
Hearing what I say,
Knowing all my thoughts and deeds,
All my work and play.
God is always near me:
In the darkest night,
He can see me just the same,
As by midday light.
God is always near me,Philip P. Bliss
Though so young and small;
Not a look, or word, or thought,
But God knows it all.