July 1, 2010
Again and again, the Scriptures speak of God’s people doing evil in God’s eyes. In telling us the early history of Israel, the Book of Judges repeats, like a responsorial refrain, these words seven times: “The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord (Jd 2; 11; cf. also 3:7.12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1). The Books of Kings and Chronicles place almost the same words as the epitaph over most of the kings of Israel and Judah. These books say again and again, “He did evil in the sight of the Lord” (1Kgs 15:34). Neither leaders nor people can hide their sins from God. Hebrews says, “No creature is concealed from him, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account” (Heb 4: 13).
God does not see our sins as an eager prosecutor ready to catch us and bring us to punishment. Our sins bring their own punishment. Sin shows its ugly effects on our face, let alone our spirit. No, God looks at us always for our own good.
When Deuteronomy promises Israel that “The eyes of the Lord your God are always upon [your land], from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year” (11:12), what is said explicitly of this one nation is God’s promise to every nation, for all are to be his people. God’s eyes are an expression of his loving providence over all. He looks and watches over us because he cares for us. When Chronicles proclaims, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9), there is stated the kind providence of God.
He sees all our afflictions. He has such detailed knowledge of our lives that he counts the very hairs on our head, as Jesus says. But he is so moved by our afflictions and sufferings that, as the psalmist says, he keeps our tears stored in a vial and writes down our sufferings in his book (cf. Ps 56:8). Our pain touches the heart of God. He sees the situation that sin brings upon us and he is moved to save us. Certainly this is the reason for his action toward Abraham’s slave Hagar.
When the elderly Abraham cannot father children by his wife Sarah, he fosters a son by his slave Hagar. When Sarah discovers this fact, her jealousy is enkindled. Hagar has no say in Abraham’s use of her to have a son. She has no say that her son would be reckoned the child of her mistress Sarah. She has no recourse when Sarah mistreats and abuses her. So she flees, perhaps back to her home in Egypt.
In the desert, Hagar encounters God. God had chosen Abraham, rich and able to provide for his whole clan. But, God also cared for Hagar, the runaway slave girl, poor, homeless, and with child. God speaks to Hagar. She is the first woman after Eve to whom God speaks directly. Once Hagar understands how much God, who comes to her in her distress, truly cares for her, she gives God a new name.
In Sacred Scripture, God is addressed by a variety of names. Each name is like a portrait that reveals some new aspect of the mystery of God. In fact, each name contains in itself a promise of God’s benevolence toward us. This is clearly seen in the new name that Hagar gives God in the desert.
Once Hagar understands God’s benevolence to her, she names him “El Roi,” that is, “The God who sees” (Gen 16:13). In the Hebrew language, “to see” also means “to provide.” Thus, the name that Hagar gives God expresses her belief that God sees and knows all things and, therefore, he can and will provide for her and her child.
Although this name “El Roi” is used of God only this one time in all of Scripture, it captures the divine truth that is found in every other place where Scripture speaks of the eyes of God. And it is this: God is watching over us, God is present to us in every time and place of our life, because he loves us. He will not let us lack whatever we need in our life journey.
May we always find favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen 47: 25).
(This is the third article on “the eyes of God”.)