Katie Chew is back and diving deep into Hebrew for this week’s edition of Word Nerd Wednesday with a look at our next name for God – El Roi.
El Ro’i: The God Who Sees
Meet Hagar. The maidservant of Sarai, she was given to Abram in order to bear him children when Sarai could not. Though Abram and Sarai were promised children as numerous as the stars in the sky, their waiting turned to worry and they decided to take matters into their own hands. Enter Hagar. She becomes pregnant with Abram’s child and ends up running into the wilderness to escape Sarai who mistreats her. It is there in the crossroads of her life that she meets El Roi. The story unfolds in Genesis 16.
El Ro’i: The Backstory
Before we get to the full story, some background is in order. Genesis 16:4 states that Hagar began to treat Sarai with contempt the moment she knew she was carrying Abram’s child. Here began the cycle of mistreatment. Sarai met Hagar’s contempt and disdain with her own jealousy and insecurity. She became harsh to the point of Hagar fleeing. Both women are wrong but, in the words of my five-year-old, “Hagar started it.”
It is there, in Hagar’s flight of despair, we see her come face to face with the Angel of the Lord. He asks her a question and when our omniscient God asks a question, I’d argue it’s worth stopping and lingering a little longer. “Where did you come from and where are you going (Genesis 16:8)?” Those two questions trouble us all at pivotal moments in our lives. What is your past and what is your future? What are you leaving or running from and where are you hoping to end up? Will your future be the same as your past? It is at this familiar crossroad that Hagar is intercepted by God.
He Sees Where You’ve Come From and Where You’re Going
If you’ll notice, Hagar knows from where she has come. She clearly and boldly states, “I am running away from my mistress Sarai.” But she never answers the second question. She offers no plan of how to do things differently. She does not speak of a place she is running to that will remove from her the pain, loneliness, and fear she feels. She does not give an idea of how to change the cycle she began. Does she have one? Not that she claims. And so the Angel of the Lord offers her a new destination. In reality, it is the old destination but with a new attitude that comes from a new command: Submit to Sarai’s authority. Take away your contempt and break the cycle of mistreatment. Go back from where you came.
That’s a terrifying command for some of us, right? When we are asked to face our past and face the people we have mistreated and have mistreated us, almost instantly the fear sets in. What if I’m not different? What if my new attitude doesn’t change anything? What if the situation never gets better and reconciliation never occurs? How could I ever go back?
He Sees and Pays Attention
Well, Hagar did go back and the only way she was able to go back—and go back different—is because she had a life-changing experience. She came face to face with the Angel of the Lord, and she left with her life and a promise. “The angel of the Lord said to her, ‘Look, you are pregnant, and you will give birth to a son. You are to call him Ishmael because the Lord has paid attention to your misery’ (Genesis 16:11).”
Do you see that? God has paid attention to her misery. The very name Ishmael means either God hears or God pays attention (CJSB, 21). He notices. He hears. And he intercepts. Because of this interception, Hagar explodes with hope and awe. She calls Adonai by a new name in the crossroads of her life—El Roi—the God of seeing. How beautiful is that? The God who sees speaks to her and gives her a son named “God hears”. Armed with her new knowledge of a God who sees, hears, and speaks, Hagar obeys the Angel of the Lord and returns.
El Ro’i Sees You, Too
The God who met Hagar is the same today as He was then. He still sees. He still hears. He still speaks. In the crossroads of your life, he is there. You can have hope because you are known, you are seen and you are heard. Listen to his voice and his direction. Obey his commands and find the awe and hope that Hagar found. If you already have this hope, won’t you be His eyes, e, rs and voice for someone else today? May the God who sees give us eyes to see the hurting and the broken. May he give us words to speak that inspire hope, humility, and obedience in the crossroads of the lives of those we meet.You can have hope because you are known, you are seen and you are heard. #WordNerdWednesday #ElRoi #namesofGod Click To Tweet
The Complete Jewish Study Bible. Edited by Rabbi Barry Rubin. Hendrickson Publishing, Peabody, MA, 2016. Print.
The Holy Bible, New International Version. Zondervan House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984. Print.
Katie is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three preschoolers. Most of her time is spent outside or in imaginary worlds. In rare moments of free time, she loves to read, paint and write.