Jesus Believes Women: Hagar, Kavanaugh Cosby and Dismantling Patriarchy

Did you know the first person in the Bible to give God a name was a woman? Not just any woman but an Egyptian slave?

Hagar was the “servant” of Sarai. Sarai instructed her husband Abram to “go in to” Hagar. Frustrated by her inability to conceive a child for Abram Sarai makes Hagar become her surrogate only to deal harshly with her once Hagar conceives. Things get so bad that Hagar while pregnant decides flee into the wilderness.  A pregnant woman alone  roaming the wilderness of the ancient near eastern world was akin to suicide. Yet something happened that Hagar did not expect out in the wilderness. She had an encounter with the divine.

We are told that an angel of the Lord found her by a well and delivered her a message from God. I find it amazing that Hagar who had previously resigned herself to quite possibly dying in the wilderness or falling into the hands of another who would enslave her decides to heed the message and go back to Sarai. Keep in mind, Hagar is Egyptian. She has no context for Abram’s God. Heck at that time Abram had very little context of who God was, which is evidenced by the fact that Hagar is the first one in the scriptures to give God a name. Even before Abram.

And she calls God, “You are a God of seeing.”

She goes on to explain, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.”

Think about that for a moment. Being seen, being heard, was enough for Hagar to go back to a terrible situation with no promise of her interaction with Sarai or Abram improving. That wouldn’t have been my recommendation.

Abram is what Bible scholars refer to as one of the “patriarchs” of the nation of Israel. You can’t have patriarchs without being in a society that is defined by patriarchy or male dominance. In a very odd and surprising way this story in the Bible is undoing patriarchy in a very small and subtle way. A female foreign slave is the first person mentioned to give the God of Israel a name in the Hebrew scriptures.

Hagar named her son Ishmael, which means “God hears”

Why do I share this story from scripture?

The Kavanaugh Ford hearings have dominated the headlines the last few weeks. In the meanwhile.

Bill Cosby got sentenced 3 years for drugging and raping a woman. It only took thirty plus years for one of the dozens of women who accused him of rape to be heard.

Some guy in Alaska after pleading guilty to kidnapping a woman sexually assaulting her was sentenced to zero days in prison. The judge explained, “I doubt he’ll do it again.”

The former longtime Michigan State gymnastics coach is going to trial for lying that no gymnasts had informed her team doctor Larry Nassar was sexually abusing them and others twenty years ago.

My Facebook feed has been filled with stories from women. Stories of how they have been raped or sexually assaulted. Stories of how their parents or husbands shamed and silenced them though they were the victim.

While the story of Hagar certainly elicits the question, “Well if God sees, then why doesn’t God intervene?” perhaps that is not the most pressing question. I’m a Christian. I am part of the Body of Christ. Therefore any question or challenge I’m willing to issue God regarding what he is or isn’t doing in the world I need to be willing to submit myself to the same question.

Do I see?

Do I hear?

Will I intervene?

I will likely never cross paths with any of the major players in this Supreme Court Judge confirmation saga. But daily I cross paths with women who are tired of being seen as objects. Daily I cross paths with women who are tired of only being heard as a nag. Daily I have an opportunity to allow the Holy Spirit to intervene and guide me in all truth and see women not as the world sees them but as Jesus sees them. To undo the dredges of patriarchy and toxic masculinity I’ve been infected with.

What did Jesus see that he broke protocol and talked to the Samaritan woman at the well?

What did Jesus see that he refused to stone the woman caught in adultery?

What did Jesus see that he invited Martha to join Mary in sitting in the place and posture reserved for his disciples?

It’s ironic that Jesus in his life saw woman in a way that men of his time and place did not. Perhaps he knew that women would be the first to see the empty tomb and that the men would not believe them.

Thoughts on Being Chosen Predestined And Adopted In Christ

Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love, he predestined us for adoption to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace… (Ephesians 1.4-6)

I love it when Isla repeats again and again with excitement and glee, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!”

Her mother and I chose her before she was conceived when we decided to adopt a child. Our love and our desire to be parents, to be a mommy and daddy drove us. We went through all of the necessary hoops to be able to adopt a child; prescreening and applying, writing bios, reading homework, references home study, background checks, submitting financial records, so that a child would be predestined to live with us, have our surname and an inheritance from us. By the time we had been approved and placed on a waiting list there was a yet to be born child out there who had been chosen by us. By the time we had been approved and placed on the waiting list there was a yet to be born child out there who was destined for our address.

Now when I read Ephesians 1.4-6 it doesn’t seem quite so far fetched or difficult to imagine, “… even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”      

Our choosing and predestining of Isla before she was even conceived by going through the process of being pre-approved to adopt a child is but a shadow of what God has done in choosing us before the foundation of the world and predestining us for adoption through Jesus Christ. Our will in adopting Isla is not all that different than God’s will in adopting us. I love it when Isla repeats again and again with excitement and glee, “Daddy, daddy, daddy!” Of course Emma loves it when the refrain is mommy. In the same way God wants to be praised by those whom he has chosen and adopted.

I’m trying my best to tread lightly on a touchy subject. Predestination and election have long been contentious doctrines in the church for centuries and Ephesians 1 has been a mainstay text in the debate. I’m not writing this to argue for one side or another in that on going discussion. I would just like to point out that I now see the focus of this text being Jesus and what he’s done both before the foundation of the world and in flesh while he dwelt among us. Our life was laid bare before the adoption agency to decide whether or not we were approved to adopt a child, and thus a child would be destined to live with us and have our inheritance. The whole process of being scrutinized for approval to adopt a child is but a shadow of Jesus, “who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself…”(Philippians 2.6-7). Jesus laid himself bare in his life (pre-application process) death (application process and home study) and resurrection (approval) that approved God to adopt us as sons and daughters.

 

[Note From the Author: The middle school small groups have been and will be going through Ephesians 1.3-14 the next few weeks. These are some of the thoughts I’ve shared with them in helping this the text become more meaningful and rich for them.]