Now the Angel of the Lord found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.” The Angel of the Lord said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.” Then the Angel of the Lord said to her, “I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, so that they shall not be counted for multitude.” (Genesis 16:7-10)
Other than the two cherubim posted at the entrance to the Garden of Eden, this is the first time an angel is mentioned in Scripture. In fact, the “angel of the LORD” is often used in Scripture to infer that the angel is God Himself. Here, the angel intercepts Hagar as she is wandering toward her homeland and tells her to return and submit herself to Sarai. Think of it: he tells her to submit to the person who had treated her harshly.
Submission to authority can be quite challenging for some and especially if that authority is being overbearing and abusive. We don’t know exactly what it was that Sarai did that would cause Moses to write that she “dealt harshly with her” but it must have been enough to convince her to flee while in a delicate condition, no less. Still, the Angel of the LORD tells her to go back and to submit to her mistress.
Years later, Sarai’s grandson would find himself in a somewhat similar situation. When Jacob was living in Padan Aram, he was continually cheated, abused and falsely accused — treated harshly, if you will. This went on for twenty years under the heavy hand of Laban while all along God observed and allowed it to happen. It was, apparently, God’s will that Jacob live in submission to Laban’s authority. That is not to say that God approved of Laban’s abuse of his nephew but it does speak to the notion that God requires much of His people if they are going to be regarded as Israel.
Ultimately we are expected to submit to God’s authority; sometimes that means we have to challenge the authoritative edicts of wicked men and sometimes that means we must submit those wicked men in performance of God’s will. When we are faithful to obey Him, there is great reward. Because Hagar did as she was instructed, the Almighty favored her with offspring which, He said, would become so numerous they could scarcely be counted. May it be that our will is always to satisfy His Will. May we always be determined to serve Him even if it means we must serve others.
Blessings and Shalom,