The Uncommon Christ series explores lesser-known scriptural names and titles of Jesus Christ.
My pick for the theme of 2020: “Many of our society’s great problems flow from people not feeling seen and known” . So much of this year has been made up of people fighting--and often failing--to be truly understood. COVID (with all its divisive mandates, masks, vaccines). Black Lives matter. The presidential impeachment and election.
Do you ever wonder if anyone really sees you, or even really cares to try?
Let’s rewind two millennia before Christ’s birth. Before the House of Israel, the ram in the thicket, or the Abrahamic covenant.
To a slave.
In Genesis, we learn of Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian handmaid (i.e. personal servant). Sarah was barren, so in order to build up seed to Abraham and herself Sarah gave the handmaid to her husband, as was customary. But when Hagar conceived, it stirred up drama between the two women. Each in her own way was jealous, hurt, and found ways to torment the other. It escalated to the point that Hagar fled into the desert. 
The scriptural account paints her as feeling desperately alone, misunderstood, mistreated, and afraid. And as this expectant mother ranked among society’s most invisible—slave, foreigner, female, runaway—it’s doubtful she expected to find help of any kind in that desolate wasteland.
“The desert spreads in every direction." writes Amy R. Buckley. In the midst of her hopeless situation, "Hagar only sees dead ends, but"--here's the key!--"the Lord sees another way” .
Right at this dire moment, when Hagar must’ve felt utterly unseen, Abraham’s God manifested Himself to the Egyptian woman . He told her to name her unborn child Ishmael (“God hears”) “because the LORD has heard your cry of distress” . He promised that if she would return to Abraham and Sarah, she would be blessed with an innumerable posterity.
The astonished handmaid—no longer invisible!—then gave Him the name, "the God Who sees me" . Yes, He sees all things and all people, but she recognized that He saw her. Jehovah, the premortal Jesus Christ, is a personal God who sees and understands each of us.
The God Who Sees was also giving sight: Hagar could now see that He was there and had a plan for her life, which gave her hope and courage.
This is important to note: feeling seen didn’t solve her problems, but it did inspire her with perspective and the confidence she needed to move forward. She obediently returned to Abraham and Sarah, and the Lord kept His promised blessing of posterity: her countless descendants through Ishmael include numerous tribes of the Arab nations.
Jehovah saw who she was, where she had come from, and all the possibilities that lay before her.
And you know what? This personal God sees those things in each of us.
When you don’t feel seen, He sees you.
When you're broken, He sees you.
When you don’t think you’re worth being seen, He sees you.
When you don’t like where you’ve come from or don’t know where you’re going, He sees you.
Because He sees with such precision and compassion, He can guide and lift you, opening your eyes to your promises and blessings. Look for His hand in your life.
Jesus Christ--“The God Who Sees”--sees you.
David Brooks, “Finding the Road to Character”
Genesis 16-21, King James Version
CBE International, emphasis added. Amy R. Buckley (M. Div., George Fox Evangelical Seminary) is a writer, speaker, and activist.
Was it the Lord Himself or His messenger that appeared to Hagar? The titles “The Messenger/Angel of the Lord” (malakh YHWH) and “of God” (malakh elohim) appear frequently in the Hebrew Bible. Unlike other messengers/angels, this Messenger refers to himself as the Lord God in the first person [see, for example, Gen. 22:11–15, 31:11; Ex. 3:2–4; Num. 22:22–38; Judges 13:19]. In this story, “the Angel of the Lord” appears to Hagar, yet she tells “the Lord that spake unto her,” using the second person, “Thou God seest me” [Gen. 16:7–13, KJV, emphasis added].
Elsewhere we commonly refer to the Angel of the Lord as being Jehovah, such as when the wandering Israelites were led by a pillar of fire [Ex. 14:9]. In Zechariah 3:4, the Messenger takes away the sin of the high priest, something only the Son of God has power to do. Many of the earliest Christian theologians (as early as 1st century AD) taught that the angel of the Lord was God Himself [see Pope, Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907].
The angel of the Lord might be a specific angel sent to speak on behalf of the Son or the Father, but in Christianity it is often held that it is the unembodied spirit of the Son communicating the will of the Father.
Gen 16:11, Good News Translation
Gen 16:13, New International Version. "She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”