First let me say that I did not realize Hagar "has come to be seen as a sort of guardian angel for African American women." (pg. 122) I reckon that shows how out of touch I am with black culture. Hmmm. Did you know this?
Finally I got to the chapter that explains the title of the book. I could have figured it out sooner if I'd just reread the Biblical account of Hagar in Genesis chapter 16. Hagar had been given to Abraham so that he could have an heir, she'd become pregnant and Sarah started mistreating Hagar. So Hagar fled into the desert. And an angel of the Lord spoke to her there by a spring.
The author writes that when Hagar named God El-roi (according to Hebrew scholar Reuven Hammer it could mean, "God of seeing, that is, the all-seeing God. Also, God of my seeing, that is, whom I have seen; and God who sees me"), she did something "unique." Although we are familiar with a God who sees and hears all and is involved in our lives, "in ancient times, that God could "see" Hagar -- take note of her -- was a revolutionary idea, as it demonstrated that He was unlike the other deities of the ancient world, who routinely ignored their followers unless they were coaxed and fed expensive delicacies by specially trained priests. [Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel anyone?] Hagar's God...was actually concerned about a poor woman."
Remember also that Ishmael means "God hears." Contrast these names El-roi and Ishmael and their meanings to "other deities 'with [their] mouths that cannot speak and eyes that cannot see.' (Psalms 115:6)." (pg. 140)
The author concludes this chapter by saying,
Hagar's relationship with God is one Abram and, for that matter, any of God's chosen might well envy. With her, God was direct, clear and highly detailed, and most of what He foretold happened without delay. He even gave a specific reason for His actions: He had seen her suffering and was now comforting her. With Abram, God had offered no such guidance. His chosen man would never know why God selected Him, nor could he predict when God would finally enact His promises.
Indeed it would be much later that angels would announce to Abram the imminent birth of another child - information Abram could have used much earlier on. Hagar, not Abram, receives the first divine annunciation of a son's birth. Conventional hierarchies are overturned. The slave woman gets to hear the news her master has been waiting for all of his adult life. (pg. 143)
When I read this last line I couldn't help but think of this time of year and how when Jesus came to earth, the Bible records that lowly shepherds in the field were contacted. His birth wasn't announced to the important government officials or the Head of the Religious Establishment for all to celebrate. Instead the angels told shepherds, the common, blue-collar workers of that era. Makes me think of Paul's words where he declares there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, men and women, those who are slaves and those who are free. (Galatians 3:28). The same Lord is rich to all who call upon His name (Romans 10:12).