El Roi: The God Who Sees

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There are few things more discouraging than discovering you’re invisible—that your opinions don’t matter, that no one cares how you feel, that nothing you do is acknowledged or valued by anyone around you.

I wonder sometimes if Hagar felt like that. Her son, Ishmael, was not part of God’s plan to make Abraham into a great nation. He was, instead, the product of a lack of faith—an attempt to work out a divine plan through human reasoning.

It wasn’t Ishmael’s fault that he existed. It wasn’t Hagar’s fault, either. She was a handmaid, with precious little control over what happened to her or how she was treated—but that probably came as little consolation to the mother who found herself running away from a harsh, vindictive mistress. It must have been hard not to wonder if that’s all she and her unborn son were in the grand scheme of things:

Disposable. Inconsequential. A regrettable mistake.

Invisible.

And then God spoke:

“Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8).

Not that He didn’t know. He knew who Hagar was; He knew where she had come from and why. He commanded her to do the hard thing—to “return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand” (Genesis 16:9). But He also explained that He knew what Hagar was going through, and that He had a future in store for Ishmael, regardless of how Sarai felt about it.

And Hagar wondered: “Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13). And she called God El Roi, “You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees” (Genesis 16:13).

* * *

The God Who Sees.

Maybe that moniker feels too obvious. Of course God sees. What kind of deity would He be if He couldn’t? But don’t forget that in the ancient world, gods were so often imagined with human shortcomings. They could be distracted, they could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, they could be asleep—they could simply not care. During the confrontation on Mount Carmel, the prophets of Baal “called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice; no one answered” (1 Kings 18:26). Elijah couldn’t help but mock the false prophets: “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27, English Standard Version).

It’s easy to take it for granted that we serve the God who sees. It’s easy to forget how incredibly spectacular that truth is.

Jesus told the disciples, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Luke 12:7). Not just the disciples’ hairs. Not just yours. God has a perfect working knowledge of every hair on every head the world over.

Imagine knowing that. Imagine knowing the total number of hairs in the entire world at any given moment. Imagine knowing the exact moment when one fell out or a new one grew in. Imagine having all that information in your mind—having the capacity to see that, all at once, all the time, and not have your brain short out from the sheer overload of calculations and running tallies you’d have to keep track of every second of every day.

God does that. And He does it without letting it distract Him from seeing and knowing everything else there is to see and know: “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). Never missing a beat. Never missing a thought or intent or feeling or action.

He is not the God Who Sees Some Things, Depending on Where He Is Looking. He is not the God Who Sees Sometimes, When He Is Not Distracted.

He is the God Who Sees—all things, all the time. He saw the handmaiden, running away in fear—and He sees you, too.

* * *

That can be a comfort or a terror, and the difference depends on us.

God knows when we’ve been wronged—and when we’re doing wrong.

He knows when we’ve been persecuted—and when we’re persecuting.

He knows when we’ve been deceived—and when we’re deceitful.

He knows when others refuse to forgive us—and when we refuse to forgive others.

He knows, in short, when our hearts are right before Him and when they are not. And when they are not, when we are too stubborn to repent and change, there should be a certain terror in knowing that “there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13). But when our hearts are right, we can take comfort knowing that “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9).

* * *

We serve the God Who Sees. He sees you. No matter how small and insignificant you might feel some days, no matter how invisible you might be to everyone around you, the God of the universe sees you. He sees you when your own problems feel a million miles away from anyone’s spotlight. He sees you while entire governments are in the throes of geopolitical upheaval. He sees you as He skillfully guides and weaves the threads of human history to a place where His plan will unfold in the perfect way and at the perfect time.

When you’re surrounded by a million other things that feel more important and more significant than you, God sees you.

And loves you.

And wants you in His family.

No matter what’s going on in or around your life, you are never invisible to God. You are known and loved by the God who holds the entire universe in His hands.

That’s what it means to serve the God Who Sees.

Until next time,
Jeremy

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