One of the names of God in the Hebrew Bible is Elroy. It means God of vision, the God who sees. The one who bestowed that name on God in antiquity must have thought deeply and seriously about it. But the fascinating thing is that this person was not some prophet or apostle or theologian. She is simply described as a pregnant female slave, an Egyptian girl.
When I was a young girl myself, the aunt of my fiancé took me to the Louvre Museum in Paris. We went down a flight of stairs into a dark corridor. Suddenly, as we turned a corner, there were two eyes glowing in the dark. By their light, we gradually discerned the shape of a cat. It was a stone idol of the Egyptian goddess Pasht (“Puss”) with eyes cleverly made of some phosphorescent or radioactive mineral. It was dated a little before the time of Hagar, the Egyptian girl in our story. Apparently gods and goddesses with eyes that glowed eerily in the night were not uncommon in Egyptian homes. Educated girls wrote poems to their holy cats, describing their “eyes of kindness” that could find mice in the dark as they patrolled Egypt’s bulging granaries at harvest time.
Hagar was a convert to the true and living God, whose eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him. I can truly empathize with this poor girl, and I just marvel at her faith and amazing spiritual perception. Hagar was in deep trouble. She was distraught at Sarai’s harsh and vindictive treatment. She was pregnant. She was desperately tired. She was faint with thirst. She was in an arid wilderness with little or no shade. She did the obvious thing: aim for a well, the only hope of life in a desert land.
I nearly died in a desert, and I was pregnant too, so I know what Hagar went through. I was stranded in the Mojave Desert on the way to the Idyllwild Bible School. I was out of water and there was no well — and no shade. An angel in the disguise of a truck driver took pity on me, hauled me up bodily into his cab and took me to a little place called Desert Center with a cool café where I could rest and refresh myself. So I know what was going on in this young slave girl’s mind as she sat, or lay dead-beat, beside the well. It was a well, by the way, not a fountain. Did she have a bucket?
A messenger from God
Someone appeared. It wasn’t a kind truck driver in Hagar’s case. Maybe he seemed to be merely a passing camel driver at first. The angel stopped. His questions were straightforward enough: Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl: Where are you coming from? Where do you think you are going? She must have been startled: how does he know who I am? But she soon realized that this was no ordinary passer-by. Hagar, you’re pregnant and you are going to have a boy.
The visitor was clearly a messenger from God. He spoke with authority. More astonishingly, he spoke as if he were God, Himself. I will multiply your descendants exceedingly, that they will not be numbered for multitude.
The marvel of it all overwhelmed her. Raised in her youth to venerate cats and baboons, she knew now that this God has eyes of love. It was incredible enough that this wonderful God, El, had seen her despair and affliction. It was even more amazing than that. For the record expresses it strangely: He found her by a well, as if God had actually sent out His angel to search for her in this waste, howling wilderness. When Hagar looked hard at the angel, she saw marvelous eyes, eyes of love. And she said, I am going to call this great God Elroy, the God of Vision, the God who sees me, the God who has eyes of love. And as the baby within her stirred in response, the baby whom she knew would become a wild man, she decided, following the angel’s instructions, that she would call him Ishma-El, God pays attention, or simply, God cares.
It dawned on her that Abraham’s God not only knew that she existed, heard everything she said and even knew her innermost thoughts, but also cared for her. Strengthened by this conviction, she returned freely to Sarai to resume her duties as a slave knowing that in the eyes of Elroy she was truly free, known and loved. The decision to serve her mistress was hers, an obedience to the God who had saved her and in whom she had come to trust.
The eyes of the Lord
I am inclined to think it was the angel’s eyes that convinced and converted this lost slave girl. Hagar was not the only one in Scripture to be transfixed by the eyes of God. Zechariah saw seven lamps, the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth. In Ezekiel’s visions of God, they looked like immensely high wheel rims, full of eyes, as the colour of the terrible crystal. I would say that words failed him! He fell on his face. I am sure that I would have done the same.
What must the eyes of the Lord Jesus be like? His beloved disciple, John, wrote of the risen Lord that his eyes were as a flame of fire. For me, however, there is a comforting story about the eyes of Jesus in John 8. Some self-righteous church leaders dragged (that’s the word) this woman, guilty of (to them) the worst sin in their book of rules, before the young teacher. Modestly, Jesus averted his eyes, and ignored them. As with all such men, they were annoyed and continued to demand his attention. Lifting his eyes, he slowly swung his gaze around the ring of eyes glaring with pride and hate.
The part of this story that touches me is the unexpected part. The accusers could not face those eyes. Who would have thought that any of those self-righteous prudes had a conscience? But an amazing thing happened: they, being convicted by their own conscience, dropped their rocks, and went away one by one. You know, that gives me hope. That teaches me not to despair of anyone. For I, too, have felt like that poor woman as she flinched from the long line of hard, accusing eyes. And like her, I know my loving Saviour’s name is Elroy and he has eyes of love.
In my helplessness, I have many nurses attending to me. I notice their eyes. I have learned to recognize caring eyes, eyes of love. They strengthen me, because I know I am safe. For a short time, there was one slim, brown girl with jet-black hair and lustrous eyes. Her name was Tlawmngaihna, and she came from the Christian state of Mizoram, which is squeezed between Muslim Bangladesh and Buddhist Burma. She said that there was no English translation for her name, but it meant something like ‘the one with the eyes of love.’
That (thankfully!) nameless adulteress in John 8 saw forgiveness in the loving eyes of her Lord. She saw a love quite different from the lustful, seductive gaze of her illicit partner. Like Hagar and this woman, I have learned from looking into Elroy’s eyes of love that:
- God cares for the lost;
- God wants me to know His love;
- God wants to forgive and restore;
- God offers true freedom so that I can serve Him in love for ever.
The apostle Peter urges us to restrain our tongues from evil, even our lips from deceit and pretence, and do good, seek peace, and follow it. Why? Because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears listen carefully to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against any who persist in doing hurtful things.
In the Song of Songs, the Bridegroom compares the eyes of his Beloved to the fish pools in Heshbon. I like that idea: two deep, still, peaceful pools of love, reflecting as in a blue mirror the love of heaven. The greatest joy I anticipate in the Kingdom, that for me is so close now, is that there will be no more fighting among God’s people, and I will not have to look into hard, unmerciful eyes any more.
Mary Eyre (her last article before she fell asleep in Christ)
Citations from Holy Scripture: Genesis 16:1,7,8,10,11,13; II Chronicles 16:9; Deuteronomy 32:10; Zechariah 4:2,10; Ezekiel 1:1,18,22,28; Revelation 1:14, 2:18; John 8:1-11; I Peter 3:10-12; Song of Songs 7:4.