Fearless Women of the Bible – Hagar

I have always felt sorry for Hagar. She was a victim caught up in circumstances beyond her control. But as I’ve been studying her more in depth, I’ve found there’s a lot more to Hagar’s story than first meets the eye.

Hagar was Sarah’s Eqyptian slave, which means that from the moment we meet Hagar, she’s already experienced fear. Imagine being ripped apart from your family and sold into slavery then taken from the land you know to unknown territories. That was Hagar’s life before we meet her.

It appears, at first, that Hagar and Sarah had a good relationship. Sarah trusted her and had a certain respect for her. The problems with Sarah and Hagar erupted when Sarah got caught in her own fears, temporarily lost faith in God and felt the need to take matters into her own hands. Poor Hagar got caught in the crossfire. We can imagine what an awkward situation the two women found themselves in. This was not how God designed things to be.

Once she found out she was pregnant, I can see where Hagar might gloat a bit. She may have just been a servant girl, but she was a servant girl who was having a baby, and the father, was not any old man, it was Abraham!

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are the God who sees me,’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.’

Genesis 16:13

And Sarah, being a loving wife, was reasonably jealous. Again, in fear, she reacted by treating Hagar so harshly that Hagar fled in fear for her life. Fear often causes us to overreact in ways that we might not otherwise. Fear causes jealousy and anger and snowballs into more jealousy and anger. It consumes us, convincing us of untruths.

Fortunately for Hagar, God saw her fearful exit and met Hagar in the desert. Even though she was an Egyptian slave, and not a child of God, God loved her and cared about her enough to personally reach out to her and encourage her with a word of prophecy.

The Angel of the Lord told her to return to Sarah, which she did. Years later, she and her son found themselves in the desert again. And like before, God was there for them.

Hagar called God “the God who sees”. What a perfect reminder when we find ourselves huddling in the desert fearing for our lives. We may feel abandoned, forgotten, invisible, but God sees us and is there for us wherever we are.

Fearless Women of the Bible – Sarah

Most women in the Bible have a chapter or two at most dedicated to their story. Many women have merely a verse or two. Sarah’s story, however, encompasses thirteen chapters plus mentions in Isaiah, Romans, Hebrews, and 1 Peter.

While Sarah is a woman greatly admired, she is also a woman who spent much of her life in fear.

Almost as soon as we’re introduced to Sarah, we see her fear. She and Abraham leave the land they know to travel to a foreign land to follow God. We see no evidence that either of them were afraid to pack up all their belongings and embark on an adventure to new lands. However, once they have to travel through pagan cities, they’re fearful of the foreign rulers. So Abraham devises a plan to pass off Sarah as his sister in order to save himself. How scared Sarah must have been when the king whisks her away from Abraham and into the king’s palace, preparing her to be a part of his royal haram. Fortunately, God was watching out for all concerned, and intervened, restoring Sarah back to Abraham untouched. I can only imagine the relief she must have felt to be reunited with her true love. Twice they pulled this deceit. Didn’t they learn their lesson the first time? Apparently not.

You’d think since Sarah had personally witnessed the hand of God at work in her life, that she would know that she could trust Him. But even though she knew God had promised Abraham a son, after time continued to pass without a baby, Sarah let her fears get the best of her. Perhaps she feared that God had forgotten them. Or maybe, she feared, they’d misunderstood God. Obviously, Sarah was far to old to bear a child. If Abraham was to have his heir, she’d need to take matters into her own hands.

In her fear and lack of faith, Sarah stepped out on her own, devising a plot that was to have eternal consequences. We all know how Sarah presented her slave girl to Abraham so that he could have a son through Hagar. But, as it always happens when we take over and leave God out of the plan, things didn’t work out quite the way she expected.

For Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him.

Genesis 21:2

Interestingly, the time when we would most expect Sarah and Abraham to exhibit fear, we see none. No mention is made of Sarah in the account of Abraham taking Isaac to the mountain to sacrifice him. Did Abraham not tell Sarah? Did he tell her and she accepted it? Seems unlikely, but we’ll never know since the Bible doesn’t tell us.

The good news is that despite her failings, Sarah loved God and was deeply loved by her family. What is amazing to me is that an entire chapter in Genesis is dedicated to the death of Sarah. I’m not sure why Abraham wasn’t with her when she died, or why she died in Hebron rather than Beersheba. Nevertheless, when Abraham got the word, he hurried to her and went to a lot of effort to find the perfect burial spot for her.

It’s easy to berate ourselves when we are fearful, but God understands fear. Throughout the Bible, He’s always reminding people to not be afraid. He knows that’s our natural inclination. He reminds us, though, that we don’t have to live in fear. If we can only trust Him and quit trying to take the weight of our worries on our own, He will take care of it all in a way that far surpasses anything we could imagine. We can be fearless if we give it to Him instead of holding onto it ourselves.