God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” Genesis 21: 17 – 18
Don’t we all sometimes wonder if God knows or cares what we are going through? There is no better example of just how much He does, than in this story from Genesis 21. One of the most amazing things about the Bible is that God is not reluctant to let us see the best and worst in the most honored men and women of faith.
We all remember the story of Abraham, “the Father of God’s people”, whom God made a covenant with, to make his descendants into a mighty nation. But in this story, his role as a loving father is put into question as he sends his son, Ismael, away with his mother, Hagar, into the desert. Yet, within the story we can find the assurance that God is always aware of our circumstances and our needs, and He is always with us.
We learn early on in Scripture, in Genesis 12: 2 – 3, that God tells Abraham to leave His people and that He will bless Him with a great nation, and that all people on earth will be blessed through Him. He does so, taking his wife, Sarah, his nephew, Lot, all his possessions and servants, and they set out for Cana.
After many years, Sarah had failed to bear a child, so she gives her maid servant, Hagar, to her husband to be his wife. Through this union, Hagar conceived a child, whom she named Ismael.
But God still reminded Abraham and Sarah of His promise to give them a son, which he did years later. They named this child Isaac. The boy grew, and on the day he was weaned (around 3), Abraham held a great feast. During the celebration, Sarah saw that Ismael (around 13 or so) was mocking Isaac, and she told her husband that he must get rid of the slave woman, Hagar, and her son, for she was determined that this child would never share in the inheritance of her own son, Isaac.
Abraham was deeply distressed, for he loved this son who was being sent away. God, however, told Abraham to do as Sarah had asked, for it was through Isaac that his offspring would flourish into a great nation. And He also assured Abraham that He would also make Ismael into a nation (many believe his descendants were Arabs)
Early the next morning with a saddened heart, Abraham gave some food and a skin of water to Hagar and sent her and her son off into the desert of Beersheba. Hagar must have felt so frightened, torn away from everything familiar and her family. She must have felt such rejection, humiliation, and even betrayal.
She had no doubt heard Abraham on many occasions through the years affirming to her his love and hope for Ismael. Perhaps she could understand how Sarah might have felt about her, but Abraham, she had trusted. Not only did she suffer the emotional pain, but she and her son were exposed to the elements of weather and the threat of wild animals. She had no way to protect her child or give him the provisions that he would need to survive. Nor could she even find the strength or faith to pray to God for help. She gave in to her condition and waited for the worst.
With their water supply gone, she placed her weakened son under a bush and went a little farther away from him, sobbing, knowing she could not watch her son die. She had no resources left, nowhere to turn, and her spirit was broken.
When she needed it most, God heard her and sent His angel to minister to her. He opened her eyes and she saw a well of water that God had provided before she had even told Him of their needs. He asks her, ”What is the matter, Hagar?”
With this one simple question, Hagar knew that God had known of her circumstances, had not lost sight of her, and most of all, He cared. God had His eye on her the entire time. He knew her sorrow and He wanted to know about all her pain, all the broken promises made to her, and about all her unfulfilled dreams for herself and her son. God reminds her that she is never forgotten. She is always present before Him, just as we are, and she was given the GRACE at the time it was needed, just as He will provide for us.
Imagine the God of the Universe asking us “What is the matter, my child? Tell me all about it. What can I do for you?” And yet, even before we answer, He already knows, and has placed before us exactly what we need. His eyes are always on us. His grace is sufficient for all our needs. What a sovereign and loving God He is!
Dear God, thank you for such stories from Scripture to show us of your love and sovereignty over our lives. We thank you for the grace, provisions, and care you always give. Amen