We've been traveling through the Book of Genesis at my home church. Specifically, we have been following the life and journey of Abraham. Every chapter of his story is wrought with life lessons. We not only learn from Abraham but all of the others who journey with him. Chapter 16 highlights a piece of Hagar's story. Hagar was a servant of Abraham and Sarah. When they were quite old and were still not conceiving their own child, Sarah instructed Abraham to have a child with Hagar to continue his bloodline. This advice was contrary to everything God promised and the results were dysfunction and bitterness.
Sarah became jealous of Hagar. Hagar was able to produce the child she could not bring forth. Any woman would harbor hard feelings. Sarah began to mistreat Hagar and Hagar decided to run. Running away from your community in these days meant running into a desert wilderness and meant certain death. One could not survive alone, much less a pregnant woman. While in the desert, Hagar finds a well and stops for water and an angel of the Lord meets her there. He asks a seemingly simple question but one worth noting. "Hagar, you who serve Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?"
Certainly, the angel of the Lord is not asking this question because God doesn't know the answer. The omniscient, all powerful Lord does not need to collect information. By calling her by name, it's clear the angel already knows everything. The question is asked more for Hagar's sake. Where have you come from? Where are you going? Hagar quickly says she's running from a harsh boss and mistreatment. Upon further reflection, Hagar might realize she was running from a difficult situation but running into something much worse - a hot, desolate and dangerous wilderness.
Sometimes we run from something that appears to be the worst situation and we run toward nothing but more calamity. Some run from a quarrelsome family into the arms of a relationship that seems great to start but is really abusive. Some run from a low paying and seemingly dead-end job to a position of more power and prestige, only to be worked to the bone. The act of running itself indicates panic. In the Bible, those who were confident and trusting in the Lord were said to be "walking with the LORD" not running.
Again, God never asks a question because He needs the answer. Throughout Scripture, God poses questions through angels or His son Jesus to get people thinking. If you met the angel today, and were asked, "Where did you come from? Where are you going?", what would your response be? Would you say you are coming from defeat and walking toward victory? Would you say you are coming from dysfunction and heading toward destruction? Are you leaving safety and heading into a dangerous wilderness? Are you leaving darkness and walking toward light?
It must have been hard for Hagar. She thought she was doing the easier thing. Running away seemed like the right answer. In times of uncertainty, prayer and reflection on God's promises will help us to walk and not run. Allow God to pose a few questions and let's be honest with the answers.