As I look through the wilderness stories in the bible I thought I would start with Hagar. Her story is an important one when looking at the wilderness. Her name means stranger. She was an Egyptian, yet God speaks with her and comforts her in the wilderness. Once she runs away unable to bear Sarah’s treatment. Like Elijah she runs away. Like Jesus she goes into the wilderness alone. The second time she is officially sent off. Like Israel she has to depend on God to survive.
Today I have heard Christians say that Hagar is one of causes of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. That is untrue. The story of Hagar shows a God who will meet with those outside the fold; a God who listens to the dispossessed; a God who cares for those we don’t have time for.
Hagar in the desert names God as ‘the one who sees me.’ Her son is called ‘God hears.’ When they’re in the desert God hears Ishmael’s crying and opens Hagar’s eyes to a well of water.
The desert is the place where we have to face the question whether God sees us or hears us. Hagar gives me comfort that maybe he does.