Yesterday morning I was reading Genesis 16 during devotions. This chapter tells the story of Hagar, Sarai’s maidservant, who had the child Ishmael with Abram. When the child was conceived, Sarai became upset with Hagar. Sarai was jealous of the pregnancy because she was barren. Hagar fled to the wilderness. The angel of the LORD met her there and told her to go back to Sarai. The angel told Hagar that she would have a son. In addition, the angel told her that her son would be troublesome, to say the least. The ESV calls him “wild donkey of a man” (Gen 16:12).
What happens next is amazing to me. Hagar calls God “a God of seeing” and one “who looks after me”(ESV Gen 16:13). In the midst of the trouble Hagar realizes God is with her. She does obey and goes back to Sarai. However, Hagar’s life after obedience is not one of continual happiness. Think of what she must do when she goes back. Sarai mistreats her and eventually when Isaac is born Hagar and Ishmael are sent away (Gen 21). Ishmael in Hebrew is Yishma’e’l which means God will hear. Also remember what God had said about her son. What mother wants to hear that her son will be filled with anger?
What can we learn from this passage? God is with us even in the midst of our troubles. We can praise Him for looking after us in the wilderness like Hagar. Also, we can see that our obedience and praise to God do no always lead to ideal circumstances. Hagar obeyed but was sent out from Abraham’s household and had a troublesome son. Ignore those preachers or people who say that loving God is a prescription for money, fame, and happiness on earth. It is simply not biblical. Instead we are promised that we will “suffer for His sake” (Phil 1:29).
Each day last week on my way to Vacation Bible School, I passed a Rose of Sharon bush. When I was a girl, we had several of these bushes in our back yard. I always remember that they bloomed in the late summer when not much else was blooming. Much later when I became a Christian, I learned that the bible includes a reference to the Rose of Sharon. Song of Songs 2:1, “I am the rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys.” (NIV) Most commentators consider this a reference to Jesus Christ. He is the Rose of Sharon and the lily of the valleys. I was excited to share my thoughts about how Jesus, like the Rose of Sharon flower, comes to us when we are in the parched land of the summer season. He provides the beauty in our life during the times when we are struggling.
While that is true, the analogy didn’t hold when I looked up rose of Sharon in different commentaries. I found out that I was incorrect in my thinking. The rose of sharon of today is not the same flower in biblical times. The rose of Sharon during that time was probably a common flower with a bulb like a crocus or a daffodil. The NLT version of the bible even translates the passage as, ” I am the spring crocus blooming on the Sharon Plain, the lily of the valley.” Both the crocus and the daffodil bloom early in the Spring before many other flowers are out, at least in the NE US. If we take this version of the flower, we can say that Jesus, the Rose of Sharon comes to us when we are in the midst of the cold, wet, early springtime.
Whether the Rose of Sharon blooms in summer or spring doesn’t matter. Jesus meets us when and where we need Him.
Jesus meets us in the midst of all of our seasons of life. He comes in the summer when we need nourishment, in the fall during the harvest of plenty, in the winter when we are resting, and in the spring when the rain brings renewal. He is always there with us. Romans 8:35, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (NIV)