And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction. – Genesis 16:11
I remember in China being asked what my name meant. To which I replied that I did not know the full meaning of my English name. Chinese names are usually given with some meaning behind them. Some were interesting like one name that meant master of the universe, and others, to us Americans, seemed strange like a name that literally was east east. (No that is not a typo)
Often in the Bible, many of the names carry significant meanings. This is certainly the truth in the Old Testament. Here, in Genesis 16, we see two names – a person and a place. Both of which have incredible meanings about the God we serve. For now, I will only deal with the name.
Ishmael means this: God listens. If you can recall what is going on in Genesis 16, you can see why this name is important. Due to Sarah’s sin, Hagar has been ordered to be with Abraham that Abraham’s lineage could continue. After becoming pregnant, Hagar begins to despise Sarah for what she has done to her. Sarah then begins to mistreat Hagar and Hagar flees. She feels the weight of her affliction and all that is happening to her. No doubt feeling mistreated, despised and alone. Then the angel of the Lord comes to her. He tells her that God has heard her affliction.
It is an incredible comfort to know that we serve a God who hears. Around the world, people pray to idols that have ears but they cannot hear. Others do not have physical idols, but they pray to a god who cannot hear. No matter their suffering, no matter their loss, no matter their pain – their god cannot hear them. He cannot give them mercy or grace or anything. He cannot hear.
We have a God Who hears and Who understands. Whenever we are in need, He hears. Whenever we are afflicted, He hears. He is never too far that He cannot hear.