They couldn’t have been any more different. First, she’s a her and he’s a him. Furthermore, she was an Egyptian. He was a Hebrew. And she was bottom of the food chain, a servant of Abraham and his wife, Sarah. While he was the big kahuna, king of Israel, a son of Abraham who served no one but God alone.
But in my readings this morning what hits me is their similarities. Both were in dire straits.
She was forced to flee the safety of her place of employment after her mistress “dealt harshly with her” (Gen. 16:6). And that because she had “looked with contempt” on her barren boss after having been required to conceive a child by her boss’s husband. Baby wasn’t her idea. Being arrogant about it, though, wasn’t such a good move. And so she finds herself homeless, helpless, and in desperate need.
As for the king, we aren’t told the specifics of his situation. Whatever the cause, he takes responsibility, accepting the need for rebuke and discipline (Ps. 6:1-2). But that it was also desperate is made crystal clear (6:6-7). He was weary with groaning. Every night he flooded his bed with tears. His couch was drenched with his weeping. His eyes wasted because of grief. Whoever his enemies were, and whatever they were doing to him, this descendant of Abraham, ascended to the throne of Israel, was at the end of himself–just like the nobody house servant of Abraham was at the end of herself.
Seems trials and tribulations are a great equalizer. But I’m also thinking they are a place ripe for an encounter of the divine kind with the God who listens to our affliction.
And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. . . .” So she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing,” for she said, “Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me.”
(Genesis 16:11, 13 ESV)
. . . for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping. The LORD has heard my plea; the LORD accepts my prayer.
(Psalm 6:8b-9 ESV)
God had listened to her affliction. He had heard the sound of his weeping. That’s what I’m chewing on this morning.
She was in the wilderness thinking she was alone (Gen. 16:7). He was in his palace crying out to God, “But LORD, how long?” (Ps. 6:3b). But both became keenly aware of the God who sees and the LORD who listens.
For her, it was through an angel. For him, it was by faith. She came to know more about Abraham’s God. He grew to know more of what it meant to trust in the God of Abraham.
Different people. Different life stories. But the same God . . . the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).
The God who listens to afflictions. The God who sees our hardship. The One who looks after us.
Sometimes seemingly silent, but always hearing the sound of our weeping. Sometimes taking longer to intervene than we’d like, but the One who is not deaf to our pleas and is ready, willing, and able to accept our prayer.
Behold our God!
The God who is gracious to me (Ps. 6:2).
The God to whom all glory is due.