ANOTHER HANDMAID’S TALE
Recently, I learned about the Hulu original series “A Handmaid’s Tale.” It is constantly advertised in Facebook feed, but you cannot learn anything about it that way. What got me interested in the show was that I came across an opinion piece about the series being “timely,” considering “current women’s rights issues.” After reading that piece in the liberal-leaning magazine, I looked up the opposing opinion in a conservative-leaning magazine. Google “opinion, The Handmaid’s Tale” and you will discover that everybody has one – an opinion, that is, not a handmaid.
If you want to know what the book, which the current Hulu series and a 1990 movie are based on, is about, go to Wikipedia. It is pure fiction about a country called The Republic of Gilead (seemly part of what used to be the United States) and is not favorable to the fictional, seemingly fundamentalist Christian sect that runs Gilead. But other Christian sects and even other religions seem to come off looking okay. For example, nuns choose death rather than recant their faith and Baptists fight in the resistance.
The intriguing part to me, and what lead me to write this blog was this about the book, is this: The Republic of Gilead justifies use of the handmaids for procreation based on biblical stories: Jacob took his two wives' handmaids, Bilhah and Zilpah, to bed to bear him children, when the wives could not (Gen. 30:1–3), and Abraham took his wife's handmaid, Hagar (Gen. 16:1–6). [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale]
I thought, we could learn a thing or two from Hagar, the handmaid. You can read about Hagar in Genesis 16:1-16 and 21:9-17. She was an Egyptian and the servant of Sarai, Abram’s wife. At Sarai’s bidding, because she herself was unable to bare children, Abram slept with Hagar and Hagar got pregnant.
Lesson one: Sometimes we make trouble for ourselves by forgetting who we really are.
When Hagar found out she was pregnant, she forgot who she was – a slave – and began to despise her mistress, Sarai. While you and I are not slaves to people, we are God’s bondservants. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget that and get a bit “uppity” thinking that I deserve more than I do. I deserve death. But what God asks of me is service to Him, by serving His children – those who know Him now and those who have not met Him yet. It does nothing toward fulfilling that role if I look at any suffering person and think that I am better because I am blessed to know and worship the Father.
Lesson two: Sometimes you just have to go through it.
Hagar means “flight” and flee she did – running from the cruelty she received from Sarai.
Genesis 16:6-10 [NIV] … Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. The angel of the LORD found Hagar near a spring in the desert; it was the spring that is beside the road to Shur. And he said, "Hagar, slave of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?" "I'm running away from my mistress Sarai," she answered. Then the angel of the LORD told her, "Go back to your mistress and submit to her." The angel added, "I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count."
Do you see that? Hagar wasn’t even looking for God, for intervention, for help. All she was thinking about was getting away from her suffering. But God came looking for Hagar. He had a message for her. It might not have been exactly what she wanted to hear at the time: “go back.” Sometimes God tells us to stick it out in tough situations. Sometimes He doesn’t rescue us from a bad boss, painful sickness or financial troubles. Sometimes, He says, “endure it.” But He also says, “I will be with you.” And adds an unexpected blessing.
Lesson three: God is near to us in the wilderness – whether we put ourselves there or not.
Psalm 34:18 [ESV] The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.
Hagar went back and submitted to Sarai, only to end up back in the wilderness, wandering around again. This time, she was cast out – given bread and water and a push out the door. For a woman in that era, this would seem to be a death sentence. But God already had plans.
Genesis 21:14-20 [NIV] Early the next morning Abraham took some food and a skin of water and gave them to Hagar. He set them on her shoulders and then sent her off with the boy. She went on her way and wandered in the Desert of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went off and sat down about a bowshot away, for she thought, "I cannot watch the boy die." And as she sat there, she began to sob. God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water. So she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink. God was with the boy as he grew up. He lived in the desert and became an archer.
For the second time in her life, Hagar ended up alone and destitute, wandering in the wilderness. For the second time in her life, Hagar was visited by an angel of the Lord with news directly from God. For the second time in her life Hagar, an Egyptian slave, was told that God had plans for her and her son. Not bad for a handmaid.
There is another handmaid in the Bible, not mentioned in book The Handmaid’s Tale – Mary, mother of Jesus.
Luke 1:38, 48 [KJV] 38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her. ... 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” and submitted to what would be the toughest of motherly trials – seeing her beloved child beaten and crucified. God has plans for you too, my fellow handmaids of the Lord. Some of it might be tough. But He is never far away from your troubles.
In the song El-Shaddai there is a line that goes, “to the outcast on her knees, you are the God who really sees.” I believe this refers to Hagar. God the Father will never cast His willing handmaid away – never send His handmaid into the wilderness to wander about and die of thirst. But when we find ourselves there, for whatever reason, He sees.
He sees you handmaiden of the Lord, and He is ready to respond – to rescue you from your present distress and to give you a blessing. We are never alone in your wilderness.
I welcome your thoughts, comments and questions. You can write me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.