She was pregnant, tired, broken, abused and distressed. Having fled home and now headed on a road to the desert, as far as she could from her abusive mistress, Hajar slumped down in despair next to a spring. Perhaps that decision saved her life – I don’t know. But alone and with no way back, so she had concluded, I suspect she thought she had reached the end of the line. And in her distress she cried out. It was a very simple prayer I suspect, something like – ‘God help me!’
Deciding to stay by a source of water is not a bad idea when all around you lies the dry arid and forlorn vastness of the wilderness. And it is in this place of despair – save for the fountain – that a stranger happened upon the broken young woman. Whether she initially thought he was an angel or not I don’t really know but his questions seemed human enough – ‘Where have you come from, and where are you planning to go?’ Talk about getting to the point! Of course she had a clear answer to the first part of the question – but not for the second. But Hajar was honest enough to give a straightforward answer – ‘I am running away from my mistress.’
Some believe the person who found and spoke to Hajar was God himself. In any case her questioner obviously had an intimate and supernatural knowledge of her as a person and of her situation. Of course it was ultimately her own conclusion that it was indeed God who had met with her in her distress. Her! Hajar, a common slave of little or no value in her culture! These are her own words – ‘I’m going to call You the God of Seeing because in this place I have seen the One who watches over me.’ And the fountain beside which Hajar had collapsed in despair would go on to be known as – ‘Well of the Living One who watches over me.’ (Genesis 16 TV)
I suspect David may have had Hajar in view when he wrote of his own experience – ‘You have the fountain of life that quenches our thirst. Your light has opened our eyes and awakened our souls. (Ps. 36)
Of course it was by a well that Jesus met a woman with a similar story many years later. She too had known rejection and the mockery of her community. Her lifestyle, as Hajars, had led her into a spiritual desert where, shockingly in her culture, she encountered the God Man. And it was he who held out the hand of hope, wholeness and salvation, just as he had to Hajar many years before.
Interestingly, Hajars name in Hebrew (Hagar) means ‘forsaken’. And it is, very often, to the desert that the forsaken migrate. I have from time to time travelled desert roads myself – and I am always shocked by just how many people who have faith – or a measure of it – I find there. And many (not all) have found a fountain in the wilderness by which they rest and find sustenance. Like Hajar they find that, having fled abuse, ill treatment and the burden of religion, there is still a God who sees them, cares for them, watches over them and sustains them in their wilderness.
And, in the final analysis of all things, it is to the broken, the weeping, the worn and rejected that God will give the eternal ‘fountain of waters’ – ‘For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’ (Revelation 7:17)
So if today you find yourself in the wilderness – perhaps feeling there if no way back and no future – please be assured of this. God sees, God cares, God watches over you and God is still intensely interested in you – even when it appears others are not. He loves you with an everlasting love!
I had a strange experience when writing this post. Playing some random youtube worship music in the background very quietly as I wrote I suddenly became aware of the words ‘All my fountains are in you’ being repeated. There words are of course from Psalm 17. I had never heard these words used in this song before. Here is the link if you are interested – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVlumi1u0FU.