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Lowell Brueckner

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Seeking the King of the Kingdom, chapter two



“(Abraham) went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her sight. And Sarai said to Abram, ‘May the wrong done me be upon you. I gave my maid into your arms, but when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her sight. May the LORD judge between you and me.’ But Abram said to Sarai, ‘Behold, your maid is in your power; do to her what is good in your sight.’ So Sarai treated her harshly, and she fled from her presence. Now the angel of the LORD found her by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur. He said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from and where are you going?’ And she said, ‘I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.’ Then the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit yourself to her authority.’ Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, ‘I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.’ The angel of the LORD said to her further, ‘Behold, you are with child, and you will bear a son; and you shall call his name Ishmael (God sees), because the LORD has given heed to your affliction. He will be a wild donkey of a man, his hand will be against everyone, and everyone’s hand will be against him; and he will live to the east of all his brothers.’ Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, ‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” Genesis 16:4-13

Taken from this book

One of the most important themes in the Holy Scriptures concerns the characteristics that exist in the heart of a human being. The Scripture gives us a clear vision of what is inside and it is surprising to discover that basically man has not changed at all. Customs and culture are different from biblical times, but if we are honest, we will recognize that his faults and features are still the same today.

Four thousand years ago, a rich and important nomad, named Abram (converted later to Abraham) from Mesopotamia, wandered in the territory of Canaan. The man had many cattle and many slaves. His wife, Sarai (later called Sarah), was barren and therefore was not able to give a descendant to her husband. In the culture of the time and place where they lived, it presented a grave problem. Sarah desperately sought a solution and found it in one of the slaves, an Egyptian named Hagar. She offered her to Abraham, as a substitute for her own barren womb, to give him the desired son. In this way, although difficult to understand in modern society, it gave this poor girl an honor and dignity that she had never dreamed of possessing in the culture of her day.

As is obvious, a slave belonged to the lowest range of society, not only then, but throughout the course of history. A slave had no human rights and the only significance that he could expect, depended on how he was seen in the eyes of his master. He was, after all, his property, just as were his animals and material goods.

If we could for a moment imagine ourselves within the customs of those days, so different from ours, we would see that Hagar, for the first time in her life, enjoyed a dignity, which gave her life meaning and fulfillment. We would think that she should be happy, but that was not the case. Upon finding herself pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. To the measure that she was lifted from her insignificance, to that degree she began to feel herself superior.

Pride, hidden in the depths of a human being, is discovered at the first evidence of recognition and a favorable personal state of being. Do we see this same phenomenon in people today? Yes sir, and many times! Pick one among these four biblical examples, give the social position an up-to-date name and apply it to modern situations and you will see that pride remains fixed in the human heart: “Under these three things the earth quakes, and under four, it cannot bear up: Under a slave when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food, under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant when she supplants her mistress” (Prov. 30:21-23). The fourth one is precisely the one that we are examining now. Although Hagar did not totally supplant her mistress, she got a taste of her position and it was enough to trouble the earth. Her descendants, to this day, continue to shake this planet.

How sweet is pride, but how bitter are the consequences! When she began to experience them, she fled from the suffering and wandered aimlessly in a wilderness. Sarah’s persecution brought Hagar into a greater danger and her situation worsened.

Even though Hagar’s attitude was to blame for the trouble she got into, there was One who was not happy with her plight. Although she was an unworthy slave and an Egyptian, who had little or no place in the plan that God was unfolding in Abraham and Sarah, the great heart of the Lord was moved with compassion and compelled Him to act on her behalf. The Angel of the Lord found her! Let us see how He dealt with this case, which is among the earliest Old Testament stories.

He asked her two questions. The first was: Where have you come from? When I consider the question, I am reminded of the story of the prodigal son. I have often presented him as an individual sinner that wandered far from God and came to live a life of perdition. I think that it is legitimate to do so. However, others see him as a Christian, who has left the Father’s house and returned to the world. These two applications do not satisfy completely some factors in the parable. It is more correct, I think, to see the elder son as the Jews in the time of Jesus. He told the story precisely to them (see Luke 15:2-3). The younger son, it seems to me, represents the pagan, Gentile people of the world that had strayed far from the Father of all spirits. All that God, the Creator, gave to mankind in the Garden of Eden they took, in order to spend and waste it all - their health, strength, mental capacities, emotions, spirituality, and a perfect environment - on a self-gratifying, egocentric jaunt, with no regard for the purpose, for which they had been created. In the parable, the younger provokes the elder (the Jews) to jealousy, and, Paul tells us, that is the mission of the Gentile believers (Rom. 10:19; 11:11, 14).

Hagar came from a similar background as the prodigal, an unworthy Egyptian living in an atmosphere blessed of God. Though she was a slave, her needs were all covered and she had security and support. Who can say what God might have had in store for her life? She had been in the right place. The Angel of the Lord wanted her to think about what she had left behind, a place where only her pride had damaged her and brought her misery. She knew her place of departure and quickly answered the first question, but had nothing to say about the second.

The second question was: Where are you going? He wanted to make her think about her future. Really, what plan did she have? Few people take time to hear this question and they live in a routine of activity that does not give time to think. Their most important goal is to keep moving, without considering where their activity will lead them. Hagar ambled aimlessly in a desert and the only thing that got her attention was a well that satisfied her needs for the moment. Whether it be water, bread, alcohol, drugs, a job, studies, entertainment, or anything else, the lost soul lives to satisfy his immediate desires and needs. The Angel of the Lord always deals with that affair, whenever He intends to help any individual.

He had compassion, knowing her condition, and showed concern for the dangers that awaited her, but His love always has conditions. He did not give her options or counsel, but ordered her to return. Repentance always stands along the pathway to salvation. There was no remedy for her in the desert, where she found herself. She had to leave it and return to the situation, where there was a possibility that the plan of God for her life could develop.
Independence condemns and offers no hope to any individual. Return to Abraham and Sarah, the people of God! Leave this rebellion behind! Now it was up to Hagar to react.

His second command was, “Submit yourself!” She had to subject herself to the wise lordship of the One who knew exactly what she needed. She had to surrender and be under discipline. Remember that it was the Angel of the Lord who was acting and speaking, and He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. There is no way to obtain positive results without following the same steps.

When He saw that Hagar demonstrated conformity with His will at that moment, the Angel applied the perfect answer to her dilemma, according to His desire for the well-being of this poor slave. The promises of the Lord are “yes” and faith was born in her heart. After an experience with God like this one, nobody can be the same. It not only changes direction, but also character.

Now, we come to the purpose of the story and it is the same principle reason, for which we have the Bible; it is to reveal to us the Son of God. All the points that we have examined, the steps and instructions given to Hagar, are incomplete, if we cannot see Him with the eyes of the spirit. What did she see? Fleeing the place of blessing and wandering in the desert, no one cared that she was desperate, lost and alone, but the Angel of the Lord. Having abandoned all that was good, God had not abandoned her to the curse of walking in her own way. He saw her and found her. If she had never known Him before, if she had no name, by which to call Him, she had one now. She saw the One, who saw her and called him Elroi (the God who sees). It was a transforming reality in her life.


Philip was excited. Since his childhood, he had heard the ancient prophecies in the synagogue and they were as old as the history of the human race. They centered on a Messiah, who one day would come to Israel to rescue His people from all their enemies and reign from a throne in Jerusalem.

Leaving his hometown in the north, Philip went for a time to the south in Judea to hear, as many others in Israel, this strange man called John, clothed in camel skin. There, he heard that Someone, who he did not know, was seeking him (Jn. 1:43), a man named Jesus from Galilee, the same province where Philip lived. Jesus found him and said, “Follow me!” He followed. The voice and the character of this man, in fact, his whole personality demanded attention and could not be ignored. In a short time, Philip, along with his friends, the brothers Andrew and Simon, were convinced that this was the Person, of whom Moses and all the prophets spoke.

When he heard that Jesus was going to Galilee, he was happy. From the first time that he met Him, Philip thought of his friend, Nathanael, who had been very serious and thoughtful those days. Probably, he was reacting to the preaching of John the Baptist concerning repentance. Near Bethsaida, the town of both Nathanael and Philip, he found him emerging from under the shade of a fig tree with his face drawn and preoccupied. Philip hurried to tell him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote…!”

Nathanael could not believe what he had just heard. How could it be possible that the most important prophecies of all history were being fulfilled in those very days? That really was astounding news! “… We have found Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” All right, this was obviously a deception among gullible people, who could believe anything. A king from Nazareth, a village with about 50 houses? That could never be. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” he answered Philip. “Come and see,” was the only challenge that his friend gave him. That answer and the sincerity in Philip’s demeanor caused him to follow.

While they walked, Nathanael thought of the hours that he had spent alone day after day; desperately, he had struggled under the fig tree, trying to contact God. His sins worried him and he could find no relief. He prayed, but the heavens were brass and none of his words seemed to be able to penetrate. How well he knew that God did not hear sinners, especially a dishonest deceiver like him! John the Baptist had pointed to a Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Whatever the case, how could He be the Nazarene that Philip had mentioned?

Now they approached a small band of people and among them were some familiar faces like those of Simon and Andrew. Before them, was a Man, who was unknown to Nathanael. His physical features revealed nothing outstanding or attractive (Is. 53:2). Before they met, this Man pointed His finger at Nathanael and, as if He knew him, said to those around Him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathanael was astonished. What was He saying? It would be more accurate that He should say, “Behold, the most deceitful person of all”. “How do you know me?” were the only words that Nathanael could think of in response. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.Nathanael’s eyes filled with tears and a lump in his throat delayed his answer for several seconds. Then he said, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God: You are the King of Israel.”

Forgive me for turning my imagination loose, dramatizing a little the first encounter between Jesus and Nathanael. I recognize that it may not have been exactly as I described it. On the other hand, it just may have been quite like this, because this is the surprising reception that many a sin-weary and despondent seeker has found. It is consistent with biblical teaching concerning conversion and new birth experience, when people come into contact personally with the One who sees them.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday in the Old Testament. The Angel of the Lord saw the slave girl, when she was alone in the desert, wandering without significance or future. Then, she saw the One who saw her and her life was transformed. In the same way, Jesus Christ is the same today in the New Testament: He saw Nathanael seeking desperately under the fig tree, where no one else saw him and when no one could give him an answer for his spiritual need. Then, Nathanael saw the One who sees him and the deceitful man that he had been, changed into an honest man with integrity. And what can we say about a man in solitary confinement in a Japanese prison camp?


As a young man, Jake DeShazer abandoned his Christian home and the God that his family worshiped to start his own business. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, he joined the American Air Force to take vengeance. By chance, he found himself in the squadron of soon-to-be-famous James Doolittle. Doolittle had devised a plan that included taking off from an aircraft carrier with B25 bombers, bombing various cities in Japan and landing at an airstrip in China. Jake DeShazer was the bomber in a crew of five in one of these aircraft.

They took off at night and the plan developed perfectly up to the time for landing. The pilots could not find the strip in China, because the Chinese had not turned on the runway lights. When the fuel ran out, they all parachuted from the planes. The five in DeShazer’s crew were captured by the Japanese and became prisoners of war.

They were tortured and one lost his life. As you can well imagine, the hatred that Jake felt towards the Japanese deepened. For the most part, during those 40 months of imprisonment, he was in a solitary confinement cell. Far from his homeland, his childhood and family, in a pagan nation with guards who were cruel and ungodly, something strange began to move Jake in the inner man. What can someone do in a small cell with one window so high that he could only see the sky? Day after day, week after week, month after month, with only four walls, at which to stare, there was nothing to do, but think. DeShazer began to think about God.

It came as a total surprise, when one day a guard brought him a Bible! He instructed him to read it for three weeks and then, he must pass it on to the rest of his crew members, so they could read it. We have no idea of the background to this part of the story and the reason why a pagan guard had a Bible to give them. That remains in the treasure storehouse of the secrets of God. What we do know is that Jake DeShazer, as he searched the Scripture, came back to the God of his youth.

The Angel of the Lord, Jesus of Nazareth, the resurrected and glorified Christ, saw him there, where there was no pastor or preacher, chaplain or Christian. Jake saw the One who saw Him and his entire being was changed from the inside-out. His hatred was transformed into love for the Japanese and, when the war ended, he went to Japan as a missionary. “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and your right hand will lay hold of me” (Ps. 139:7-10).

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and yes forever.” Know this for an absolute certainty: He must be faithful to His name and to His nature. Hagar called him, “Elroi, the God who sees”, and still today in the 21st century, He remains Elroi. He is the same Elroi, who saw Nathanael under the fig tree and Jake DeShazer in solitary confinement. I assure you that stories like these continue to the present day.

Where are you? Are you alone, without a soul who appreciates or understands you? Are you lost in an impossible situation, feeling miserable and oppressed? Have you called to God and yet feel unworthy to be heard? You think no one is listening. The One who saw Hagar, Nathanael and Jake DeShazer sees you. Leave your pride behind, turn to God and submit yourself before Jesus Christ. He must be true to Himself. Call out to Him and yes, you will find the surprising reality that He has taken you into account. He will manifest Himself to you, so that you also will see Him who sees you.


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