El Roi: The God Who Sees

| Beth Villena

“Our omnipresent God sees what we are walking through and, in His sovereignty, He is working out His plan in our lives.”

“…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.’ Therefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi…” Genesis 16:13-14

Have you ever felt invisible? Have you ever felt your innermost feelings and secret joys and sorrows are hidden by a veil of self-protection or misunderstanding? Friends, there is encouragement for you today.

In Genesis 11 we are introduced to Abram and in verses 29-30, we learn that he was married to Sarai and that the couple had been unable to conceive a child. Chapter 12 documents God’s call on Abram’s life at the age of 75 stating, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you… to your offspring I will give this land.” Imagine how bizarre this must have been for this couple who had long since passed optimal childbearing years. Time passed and Abram and Sarai remained childless. As they aged, their faith in His promise waxed and waned, but peppered through Genesis 13-15 is evidence of God’s timely reminders of His faithfulness as He reinforced His plans for their lives. Genesis 15:6 says, “Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.”

Fast-forward to chapter 16 and Sarai, overwhelmed with doubts, takes matters into her own hands, arranging for her servant Hagar to be with Abram in order to “build a family through her”. When Hagar conceived and Sarai was confronted by her own sin, bitterness and hatred crept in. One bad decision turned into another and Sarai, with Abram’s approval, “mistreated” Hagar until she ran away.

None of these events are lost on God. Genesis 16:7-16 describes Hagar’s interaction with the angel of the Lord and her very personal realization of God’s tender mercies and loving-kindness. No one really knows exactly how Hagar was feeling when she found herself by a spring in the desert, but in similar circumstances, I might have felt used, tossed aside, devalued, hurt, uncertain, afraid and invisible. In that divine interaction, God showed her that He knew her intimately and that He understood her misery. It was in her lowest moment that she had a personal encounter with God and called on Him as, “the One who sees me.”

God saw that she had been exploited by one more powerful than herself. God saw that she had been mistreated by a bitter and angry woman. God saw that she was pregnant without a partner or resources to care for the child. God saw her fear. God saw her value.

Although this is the only instance in scripture where we see God identified as El Roi, there are many references to the fact that he sees us in our circumstances. Psalm 121:3-4 teaches that the Lord neither slumbers nor sleeps and that He “will not allow your foot to be moved”. Even the most watchful and loving parent has to sleep every night, but God was not asleep at the wheel during the incident between Sarai, Abram, and Hagar. In His divine sovereignty, He allowed the situation but also met Hagar exactly where she was and initiated healing by providing hope when she was hopeless.

Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” Although Abram and Sarai held all of the power in that situation, God saw the evil they executed against Hagar. Abram was noted to be a faithful man earlier in Genesis, but when he and Sarai tried to rush God’s plan, disastrous consequences resulted. This story illustrates how God-fearing people can try to fulfill God’s plan in their own ways, but we see all through scripture and particularly in the life of Hagar how God can use the mistakes of man to work out His plan.

Walking through life in this fallen world is difficult. Sometimes we find ourselves in hard circumstances because of our own sin, like Abram and Sarai. At other times we face unimaginable pain because of the sins of others as Hagar did. Today you may be dealing with grief, physical pain, loneliness, disappointment, discouragement or even hopelessness not because of your sin or the sin of another person but simply because we live in a broken world. Job 28:24 tells us that the Lord “looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.”

We won’t be able to escape pain and hardship this side of heaven, but there is great encouragement in knowing that our omnipresent God sees what we are walking through and, in His sovereignty, He is working out His plan in our lives.

• Are you stuck in a pattern of sin? He sees your chains and wants to free you from bondage (Romans 8:21).
• Are you unable to forgive yourself for the sins of your past? He sees your struggle and wants to comfort you with the knowledge that He has removed your sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
• Are you lonely or feeling isolated? He sees you and is the friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
• Is your body broken, weak or suffering from illness? He sees your pain and is waiting to comfort you in affliction (2 Corinthians 2:3).
• Have you been hurt, exploited or abused? He sees the sin that was committed against you and someday will vindicate you (Psalm 135:14).
• Have you experienced loss and are suffering grief that seems too deep to bear? He sees your despair and understands it as the Lord Jesus bears our grief and carries our sorrows (Isaiah 53:4).
• Are you growing wearing in waiting for God to fulfill His promise to you…He sees you in your waiting and will be faithful to complete His good work in you (Philippians 1:6).
• Are you experiencing unimaginable joy and peace in this season of life? He sees you and is rejoicing over you with gladness (Zephaniah 3:17).

Take heart, friends you are not invisible. “From heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind, from His dwelling place He watches all who live on earth.” Psalm 33:13