The One Who Sees…July 10, 2017
One of the questions we are most frequently asked, is if we are a religious organization. While we are under the umbrella of Restoration Church in Wichita, Kansas, (and work with churches in India and East Africa), SheHopes is a non-religious nonprofit organization in an effort to help as many women and girls as we can around the world. At SheHopes, we believe that every woman and every girl deserves to be empowered and have hope, regardless of where they live on the map or their religion.
One of the special things we have been able to do is to talk about the heart of SheHopes in churches here at home and around the world. As I thought about what to share with the churches where we were invited to speak, I wanted to look at how God has treated women in the Bible – thousands of years ago. You see, the world hasn’t really changed that much since then. History is full of women and girls who have been victims of oppression, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and even spiritual abuse. Their only crime was being born a girl. Sadly, this continues even now.
Today we are sharing with you the message that we have shared in churches in America, Kenya, and India… How does God look at women and girls? And how can we use that to help our sisters around the world today?
Hagar – Nothing about Hagar’s life had been easy. She was a slave girl from Egypt. She was forced to marry an old man to have his baby for her childless mistress. Genesis 16 tells us that once she conceived and was going to have a baby, her mistress treated her harshly – so harshly that Hagar ran away and found herself alone in the wilderness.
This is not the life that young Hagar had imagined – pregnant and alone in the desert. God saw her there in the wilderness that day. When it felt like she had lost every bit of hope, he was there. When it felt like no one could see her – a young victim of human trafficking – he was there. He comforted her heart, told her to return to her mistress, and assured her that he would multiply her offspring.
Genesis 16:13 says, “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…’”
Several years later, we are in Genesis 21 and Hagar is again in the wilderness. This time she and her son had been cast away from their home. They wandered in the desert for so long that they ran out of water – and Hagar had the agonizing realization that her precious son was dying.
I have three sons. They are 13 years old, 11 years old, and 9 years old, and my mommy heart breaks as I imagine how Hagar must have felt that day. She lovingly laid her child under a bush – then she walked away from him, sat down, and waited for him to die. There was nothing she could do. There was no one to help her. Once again she had lost every bit of hope and she was alone in the wilderness.
But then something happened. The God who saw her in her time of loneliness several years before – comes to her again. He tells her to fear not, for he has heard the voice of the boy where he is. Genesis 21:18-20 – “’Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.’ Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy, and he grew up…”
God saw Hagar there in the wilderness. He sees our hearts and hears even our silent cries when it feels like no one else sees us.
Samaritan Woman – There is a story in John chapter 4 about a conversation between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. This is unusual for several reasons:
1 – He was speaking to a woman – and traditionally Jewish men did not speak to women in public at all – even their own wives.
2 – He was speaking to a Samaritan woman. The Jewish culture of the time looked down upon people from Samaria. They avoided dealing with Samaritans as much as possible, but here is Jesus asking her for a drink of water.
3 – He is speaking to a woman who had a shameful past. She has had more than one husband, and now she was with a man she wasn’t married to. Jesus could see into her heart, but he still speaks to her – a woman, a Samaritan, a sinner.
Not only does he speak to her, but he also offers her eternal life.
John 4:14 – “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
When we have been rejected, he is right there with us. He loves us, forgives us, and accepts us. He offered this woman, and He still offers us exactly what we need – His perfect living water.
Woman with Blood Disorder – This next woman in Scripture has a story that is short, but full of daring faith. Once again, we don’t know her name, but her story is close to my heart.
Mark 5:25-26 says, “And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.”
This woman did not have a monthly cycle – she had a daily cycle of blood for twelve years. TWELVE YEARS. Can you imagine how weak she must have been? The Bible says that this woman SUFFERED at the hands of doctors. She spent everything she had for over a decade to try to heal her body – but she only grew worse. And then she heard about the man called Jesus, who has been doing what doctors could not do – he was healing the blind, healing those who couldn’t walk, and casting out demons.
Verse 27-28, “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. For she said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.”
This fragile woman had tried everything possible, but when she heard the stories of Jesus’s miracles, her faith became alive again. For the first time in a long time – she had HOPE.
Verse 29 – “And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”
Reaching out in faith had healed what no one else could.
Jesus sensed that healing power had gone out of him – and he asked, “Who touched my garments?” He knew exactly who touched him – but what happens next is a beautiful example of His love and care for us.
You see, when a woman was on her cycle, she was considered unclean because of Old Testament Law. Not only had this woman lost everything to doctors to try to fix her problem, she was also shamed. According to the Law, she should not have been away from her house, and she certainly shouldn’t be touching a man – Jesus. But her faith in Him was stronger than her fear and shame. The Bible says, “She came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.”
Let’s look at what Jesus did next in verse 34, “And he said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your disease.”
By calling her Daughter, he healed her disease, he accepted her, and covered her shame.
Woman Caught in Adultery – There is a story in the Book of John about a woman who had been caught in bed with a man who was not her husband. She was committing adultery. The woman knew that the punishment for her sin was to be stoned. She knew that she was guilty and now she was being dragged away and placed in front of Jesus where she waited for the Son of God to condemn her for this secret sin and to end her life.
She must have paralyzed with fear as he bent down to the ground, but his hands did not pick up a stone. What did he do instead? He stretched out his finger and wrote in the dirt on the ground. As he lowered himself to the ground, the men who were there to condemn her to death turned their angry eyes off of her – and looked at Jesus.
He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then he bent down again and continued to write on the ground. The Bible doesn’t give us any specifics, but I’ve always been curious what he was writing with his finger that day. He saw the depths of her heart, and he still covered her guilt and shame with forgiveness. In a time in history when Jewish men had nothing to do with women in public, instead of condemning this woman, he protected her.
The Bible says that one by one, each of her accusers left until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. No one dared to argue further with him that day.
John 8:10 – “Jesus stood up and said to her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said, neither do I condemn you; go and from now on sin no more.’”
Jesus saw her heart, and covered her with his gift of forgiveness.
Mary Magdalene – The Bible says that Mary Magdalene met Jesus when she was healed from seven demons. After that, she followed Jesus and served him for the rest of his time on earth. She wouldn’t leave her Savior. He had healed her from so much, that she wouldn’t even leave him while he was dying on the cross. The Book of Mark says that she watched where Jesus was laid after he died.
As soon as the Sabbath was over, she came to the tomb early in the morning while it was still dark – but when she arrived at the place where her Savior and friend had been buried, fear gripped her heart as she saw that the stone was rolled away – and his body was gone.
Tears filled Mary’s eyes. As she turned around to leave, she saw a man standing there, but she did not recognize him. Like Mary, there are times when we are also blinded by our own fear and feelings of hopelessness and we can’t see Him there with us – but then, and this is my favorite part, he gently called her by name. “Mary…” And instantly she knew it was her Savior.
John 20:18, “Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord” – and that he had said these things to her.”
When all seems lost and we feel alone, He is right there with us, gently calling us by name. He alone can wipe the tears from our eyes, and show himself to us.
We live in a world that doesn’t always value women and girls the way the Lord sees them. We can look at the stories of His faithfulness in the Bible and know that He continues to be faithful today.
Hagar has a story. The Samaritan Woman has a story. The woman with the blood disorder has a story. The woman caught in adultery has a story. Mary Magdalene has a story. I have a story. You have a story. We all have stories of times when we felt hopelessness, rejection, shame, guilt, and fear – but what I want us all to remember is that in each of our stories, He is right there with us. He sees our hearts, accepts us, heals us, forgives us, and shows Himself faithful to us. Even when you can’t see him – He is there.