One of my favorite names for God is El-Roi, the God who sees. I love this name because it’s a reminder that God sees me.
My friend, He sees you too. But what does it mean when I say God sees you? Let’s dig into our Bibles to get an answer to this question.
The God Who Sees Me
The first time the word rŏʼîy, (pronounced ro-ee) occurred in Scripture was in Genesis 16:13.
Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, “You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (NLT)
But if we are going to understand why Hagar called God “the One who sees me” we have to go back a few chapters and a few years.
In Genesis 12:1-2, God called Abraham (then called Abram) to leave his country and go to a place where He would show him. God promised that Abraham would become the father of a great nation. But 10 years after Abraham had settled in the land of Canaan, he and his wife Sarah were still childless (Genesis 16:3).
Out of desperation, Sarah suggested that Abraham take her maid and have a child with her. Before we judge Sarah too harshly, let’s remember it was common for men to have multiple wives. It was also commonplace for women to “have children by their maids”.
Abraham accepts his wife’s suggestion to have a child with Hagar. When she became pregnant, Hagar began to treat Sarah with disdain (Genesis 16:4). Sarah complained to Abraham who gave her authority to discipline Hagar as she saw fit.
Well, Sarah treated Hagar horribly. So much so that Hagar ran away. In fact, the word used to describe Sarah’s treatment of Hagar in Genesis 16:6 was the Hebrew word ʻânâh, (pronounced aw-naw’).
Ânâh could also have been translated as to afflict. It’s the same word used in Exodus 1:11 to describe the Egyptians’ treatment of the Israelites.
Put yourself in Hagar’s shoes for a moment. She was a slave, living in a land that was not her own. She had been given to her master as a concubine to become little more than a brood mare.
Chances are, no one asked her what she wanted or how she felt about the decisions being made about her life and her body. She was simply expected to obey. She was expected to submit. Maybe she had prayed to her Egyptian gods for intervention, but none of them did anything to help her.
After Sarah’s treatment of her, Hagar ran away. Pregnant. Alone. Destitute. She had no plan and little hope of survival. Then the angel of the Lord stepped into her story.
“Hagar, Sarai’s servant, where have you come from, and where are you going?” (Genesis 16:8 NLT)
The short interaction that takes place between Hagar and the angel is covered in just six verses (you can read it in Genesis 16:8-13), but it fully expresses how God saw her.
El Roi: The God Who Sees
Let’s go back to Genesis 16:7 and spend a little time unpacking its significance. The word translated as angel in that verse is the Hebrew word mălʼâk, (pronounced mal-awk’). Mălʼâk comes from an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy and could have been translated to mean a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher.
Mălʼâk is used in Scripture to depict the theophanic angel. You may be wondering, what on earth is the theophanic angel, so let’s talk about him.
The theophanic angel
Theophany is the word used to describe the manifestation of God in a form that is tangible to the human senses. In other words, it’s the appearance of God where He can be seen, felt, or heard.
Bible scholars believe that the theophanic angel is the preincarnated manifestation of Christ. This becomes more significant when you consider that the phrase “angel of the Lord” in Hebrew is mălʼâk Yᵉhôvâh. He bears the name of our Lord!
The theophanic angel shows up in the most interesting places. I’ll list some of them below so you can note of them and do a deeper study.
- Sodom and Gomorrah: Genesis 19:1, 15
- When Hagar and Ismael are put out by Abraham at Sarah’s request: Genesis 21:17
- When Abraham was about to sacrifice Isaac: Genesis 22:11, 15
- On Jacob’s ladder: Genesis 28:12
- In the burning bush: Exodus 3:2
- Leading and protecting the Israelites in the wilderness: Exodus 14:19
- Talking to Balaam’s donkey: Numbers 22:23
Are you beginning to see the picture? I hope so. Hagar’s experience when she ran away from Sarah was truly significant because she had met the God who sees.
What Does It Mean to Say God Sees Me?
For centuries, people have practiced idolatry and worshipped pagan gods. These images and idols are dumb gods that neither see nor hear. They have no ability to help or to save.
But Jehovah is not like other gods. He is all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing. He knows our thoughts and what we’re going through. He knows our plans and desires even before we admit them to ourselves.
When the angel of the Lord spoke to Hagar, he called her by name. He added the designation “Sarah’s servant” so it would be clear that he hadn’t gotten her name right by chance. He knew who she was. He knows who you are, friend. God sees you, God sees me, He sees all of us.
The God who sees is not blind to our faults. He knows the condition of our hearts and loves us anyway. He wants to be our God and the most important Person in our lives.
When the angel of God met Hagar at the spring of water, he asked her two questions:
- where have you come from, and
- where are you going?”
He didn’t ask because he didn’t know the answer, he asked because he wanted to start a dialogue. Communication is an important part of any relationship.
God wanted this Egyptian slave to know she was important to Him. He wanted to know her plans. Better yet, He wanted to insert Himself into her plans and show her a better way of doing things.
He gives her clear instructions in the next verse, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.” (Genesis 16:9 NLT)
Interestingly, the word ʻânâh shows up again, this time as “submit”. God wanted Hagar to return to her mistress knowing it would be hard. But the angel of the Lord doesn’t stop there.
He blesses her, promising descendants without number and giving her a hint of the man her son would become. Then he gives her a name to call her son: Ismael. Yishmâʻêʼl, (pronounced yish-maw-ale’) which means God hears or God will hear. This promise was quickly fulfilled in Genesis 21:17.
In response to the angel’s statement, Hagar says to God,
“You are the God who sees me.” She also said, “Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (Genesis 16:13 NLT)
Not only had God seen Hagar, but He had also heard her as well. My friend, God sees you. He hears what you’re going through and wants to remind you that you’re not alone. He is with you in the situation ready to protect, comfort, guide…He’s the Great I am. He will be who you need Him to be.
What God Sees When He Looks at You
Have you ever asked yourself, what does God see when He looks at me? This is an important question but most times the enemy answers it with lies. He chooses the worst labels we apply to ourselves and puts them in God’s mouth: liar. Cheat. Unworthy. Unlovable. Broken.
But the truth is far different. When God looks at us, He sees the person He had created in His image (Genesis 1:26). He sees the child He watched over in the womb (Psalm 139:13-14).
When we accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour, He sees us through the blood of the Lamb.
- Redeemed (Colossians 1:20-22)
- Victorious (1 Corinthians 15:57)
- Conqueror (Romans 8:37)
- Righteous (Romans 5:18-19)
- Beloved (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
- Daughter (Romans 5:18-19)
The names and labels that God assigns to us through Christ are beautiful and wonderful. He sees us, not marred and disfigured by sin, but wonderful and whole.
God sees you and He calls you beautiful (Ephesians 2:10).
Scriptures to Remind You of the God Who Sees
The Bible verses below are a reminder that God sees you. All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV). Download the free God Who Sees Scripture printable.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. Proverbs 15:3
The Lord looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; Psalm 33:13
And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:13
Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord. Jeremiah 23:24
“For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. There is no gloom or deep darkness where evildoers may hide themselves. Job 34:21-22
For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes. Jeremiah 16:17
O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. Psalm 139:1-4
God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. Psalm 53:2
For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.Job 28:24
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:12
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15
God Sees You
The idea that God sees you can either be terrifying or comforting, fear-inducing or amazing…it depends on your attitude towards Him and the condition of your heart.
For Hagar, being seen by God was comforting. It was a reminder that when no one on earth saw her pain, God saw it.
God sees you, my friend. He wants to be your comfort and your shield. He wants to lavish His love on you and make you a part of His family, won’t you draw close to the God who sees?
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