I ran across this neat little quote the other day. Luther is describing the situation that Hagar found herself in in Genesis 16. She had been raised up unexpectedly when Sarai gave her to Abram so Hagar would have children that Sarai could count as her own. In this way God’s promise would not fail. God had other plans in mind, however. If you want the full story, I recommend reading Genesis 16 and what follows.
This quote caught my eye because Luther really nails something here. What he says is so beautiful because it’s so true. Only someone who has been convinced that, because of the trials they’re suffering, God must surely have turned His back on them, and yet they can look back later and praise God humbly and glorify Him for what He accomplished through their pain, could possibly understand what Luther means here. “Surely it was for my benefit that I suffered such anguish. In your love you kept me from the pit of destruction; you have put all my sins behind your back” (Isa 38.17 niv).
Luther comments on Genesis 16:13:
This, therefore, is the hymn of the whole church. With Hagar it sings: “Here I have seen Him who sees me. I have seen Him from behind”; that is, God first turned His back to me, for during trials we come to the conclusion that we are being neglected by God. Eventually, however, we realize that what we saw from behind was the true face of God and that the Lord not only saw us, but that we also saw Him.
Luther, M. (1999, c1961). Vol. 3: Luther’s works, vol. 3 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 15-20 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther’s Works (3:72). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.