El Roi - The God Who Sees
This vision of this eagle came in a rather unusual way, more than most of the paintings I have done up to this point. Typically I see pictures in my mind's eye during worship or while I am in His Word. The eagle, however, was a quick dream I had just before waking a few weeks ago.
In my mind's eye I saw an eagle flying past my field of vision and just as he was about to pass me, he turned and looked intensely into my eyes. In just a moment I was awake, having this image burned into my memory.
As I painted this unusual encounter with the eagle, I again asked God which name of His that He was wanting to reveal through this visual depiction of His character. And again He showed me one I had never heard of before: El Roi.
The first person to refer to God as El Roi in the Bible, “The God who sees” is maybe not who you would expect, yet one who needed this revelation of God more than most. The first to receive this revelation was Hagar. Hagar was a slave. She had been used to being unseen all her life. She was used to being despised and looked down upon. She was in captivity literally.
Then one day, in the aftermath of being mistreated by Sarah because she is pregnant with Ishmael, she fled into the desert and who goes to find her but the angel of the Lord! If she had felt unseen, forgotten and lonely before, it is no wonder she calls God, “El Roi” (The God Who Sees) following this encounter! The angel tells her that "the Lord has heard of your misery” (Gen. 16:11).
Basically the angel is sharing with her that not one injustice, not one tear shed, not one moment of pain in her heart has gone unnoticed by God. Taking it even a step further, he tells her to name her son Ishmael which means “The God who hears.” If ever we doubt that God doesn’t see or hear our pain, this narrative tells us otherwise - God sees with eagle eyes!
David also refers to this truth in Psalm 94:9 - “Elohim created ears. Do you think He cannot hear? He formed eyes. Do you think He can’t see?” In this passage, however, David is referring to the arrogant who think they can get away with wickedness. So in another sense this vision of the eagle’s piercing gaze is a sobering one as well. What we think is hidden from God is actually laid bare before His eyes and ears. In the end, no injustice, sin or evil will be concealed from El Roi.
Following right in line with this revelation, I felt God reminding me of 2 Chronicles 16:9, "For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him." The Lord is looking now for those who are faithful in the unseen, hidden places - it will be these whom He can trust in this season to carry His heart and His words.
Another message I felt God was also wanting to convey through painting this majestic creature is His desire to defeat our enemy and carry us out of captivity. Exodus 19:4 says, “You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles wings and brought you to Myself.” In some seasons, it seems as though God, Himself, must be carrying us - doesn’t it? I remember distinctly times when, if God hadn’t been sustaining me, I wouldn’t have made it.
Yet, even though He supports us in those times, He doesn’t stop there. He wants is to learn to fly ourselves. Deuteronomy 32:11 says He is “like an eagle that stirs up its nest, hovers over its young, spreads its wings to catch them, and carries them on its feathers.”
When I first heard how this actually plays out in the real world of mother eagles and their young, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry for the irony of how it related to that season I was in. Mother’s eagles literally make their nests so comfortable that their babies would never leave and learn how to fly. Thus, the only way to get the process of flight started is for her to deconstruct the nest a bit, making it just unbearable enough to ensure they will begin the journey.
I feel like we are in that season once again. God is wanting to take us like the mother eagle does, stir up our comfort levels and challenge us to go higher than we ever dreamed was possible. In many ways I have felt like many of the things I have fallen back on in past seasons have suddenly been pulled out from under me this year. It’s time to learn how to fly!