And while he was dwelling in the Wilderness of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from the land of Egypt.
I. THE CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH BROUGHT HER INTO THIS SITUATION,
I. BY PRESERVING HIS LIFE. He heard his cry in distress. He knew his needs. God always knows our needs; whence to supply them, and where to find us even in the wilderness. A well of water is unexpectedly pointed out to the mother. Her eyes were opened to see its whereabouts. So God teaches many a mother, that she may lead her children to the well of living water. Every life preserved is only through the mercy of God. "In his hand our breath is" (Daniel 5:23). There is a well for bondsmen as well as free. God's living well is to be reached in any position of life. It is near to us when we think it far off. "The word is nigh thee, in thine heart," &c. (Romans 10:8). If we are to see the treasure, our spiritual understanding must be quickened, our "eyes opened" by the Holy Spirit. If we desire to know the way and well of life, we can pray for that opening. Only as we have this spiritual sight and life can we rejoice in the present existence, in our preservation. God preserved Ishmael that he might know him.
II. GOD ADVANCED HIM IN LIFE. He was with him as he grew up, and gave him favor in the sight of others. God is ever seeking by his Holy Spirit to mould the character of the worst for good. If we have any prosperity and grow up to influence, we should remember that it is from God. The darkest hour for Ishmael had ushered in the dawning of the brightest day. God knew what he would do with Ishmael. Ishmael is to found a nation. It is remarkable that he was the ancestor of the same number of tribes as was Israel (Genesis 25:16). He found various scattered people in the Arabian desert, but the tribes descended from him seem to have absorbed all others. What an honor to be the founder of a house, a dynasty; how much more of a nation! This God granted to an Ishmael.
III. GOD GAVE HIM SKILL. "He became an archer." He had to learn to defend himself, and secure for himself, by God's help, a position. The fighting power is not the highest, but man has always had to protect himself before he could make progress in civilization. Alas, when he supposes himself to be civilized he often clings to the old habit, and still loves the fighting. The archers, like Ishmael, have their sphere as well as the shepherds, like Isaacs. The fiery defenders of faith and the controversial champions of the truth have their sphere as well as the pious, plodding pastors of Christ's flock. If men have skill for the one thing, let them not despise the powers of others. We have all to learn to appreciate diversity of talents, and to remember that skill in any work is the outcome of independence, resolution, and energy. Ishmael had been endowed with these by God.
IV. GOD FURNISHED ISHMAEL WITH A PLACE OF HABITATION. He gave to him the desert for his domain. Here he might roam and pitch his tent at his own suggestion. God knew that the hot blood of his Egyptian mother, which coursed in his veins, would find its most fitting sphere in the desert. Instead of mingling with gentle herdsmen, he had to dwell among the fierce and untrained spirits of the desert. He became an ancestor of those who despised town life, and who were hardy and frugal enough to exist where others would have perished. Thus to Ishmael, the desert, with its widespread, sun-scorched sands, its scant herbage, its infrequent wells and scattered oases, became a fitting home. God chose for him his dwelling-place, and defined for him the bounds of his habitation. And is it not best for us to leave ourselves in God's hands? He knows best where to place any of us, and what work to give us to do, what sphere to fill. We might prefer the green pasture and hills flowing with milk and honey of the Canaan of prosperity, but the desert of trial and loneliness may be the best for training our spirits. We may have losses to endure outwardly, but if we can acquire a spirit of content and faith, that is great gain. That spirit will lead us to say, "He shall choose our inheritance for us."
V. GOD ALSO INSURED ISHMAEL'S HONOR AMONG HIS BRETHREN. He was to "dwell in the presence of his brethren" (Genesis 16:12). Though cast out by Abraham, he was not cast off by God or cut off from all interchange with others. We find (Genesis 25:6) that Abraham gave portions to the sons of his second wife, Keturah, and sent them away. Doubtless he gave a portion to Ishmael, for we find him uniting with Isaac in the funeral obsequies of his father (Genesis 25:9). The two sons were not at enmity now. Further, he seems to have kept up his union with his brother, for his daughter Bashemath (Genesis 36:3) married Esau, Isaac's son. Thus two families in the line of promise, but who had cast themselves out - Esau by his indifference, and Ishmael by his mocking - were united. Thus, although of fierce and fiery nature, Ishmael "dwelt in the presence of his brethren." God was with him. He had a shorter life than Isaac. Ishmael died at 130 years old, Isaac at 180. Evidently the active, restless, wandering, hazardous life was more wearing and consuming than the calm and meditative life of the pastoral Isaac. But when he died God cared for him as well as for Isaac, only his purposes with respect to Isaac were different. Isaac Was an ancestor after the flesh of the Messiah, but Ishmael had not that honor. Still we must not think that God had cast off Ishmael, and left him utterly and everlastingly to perish. Our God cares for those outside the pale of the Church, even as for those within. The former have not taken up their privileges, nor seen how Christ loves them. They are suffering great loss, and are in danger of further loss, but God cares for and pities them. He wills not the death of a sinner. He pitied the people of Nineveh, sent them a warning, and gave them space for repentance. He healed a Naaman; sent his prophet to dwell with a woman of Sarepta, and so conferred honor upon her; and he brought a Nebuchadnezzar to his right mind by a judicious infliction. All this was mercy shown outside the pale of Israel to those who would be accounted as Ishmaelites. Oh, how much more widely flows the channel of Divine mercy and love than we imagine I How little we conceive the depth of the Father's love to all his creatures I In every heart he is seeking to find a reflection of his image. By the side of every soul, however much of an Ishmaelite, he is seeking by his Holy Spirit to walk, that he may win back to the fold of love and mercy. Oh, ye who think yourselves too sinful to have a share in the Divine compassion, see God's treatment of an Ishmael. Remember that Christ came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." God is merciful even to thoughtless sinners, and gives streams in the desert. If this be the spirit of our God and Savior, should it not teach us to take an interest in all? As the sun when setting in the west throws his golden and purple rays not only over the broad ocean, but on the dank ditches of the meadows and the puddles of the street, so should we remember that there is no heart so depraved but the love of God in Christ may light it up. If only we looked at our fellows thus, with deeper sympathy, we should see them won to Christ. - H.
God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water.
I. How CAME THE WELL TO BE THERE, JUST WHERE AND WHEN IT WAS WANTED? The Arab shepherds who dug it never meant it for wandering travellers, but for their own flocks. God guided the steps of Hagar to it. Life is full of hidden wells — stored-up blessings, ready at the right moment to supply the answer to prayer. God foresees our prayers as well as our necessities.
II. OUR ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAY IS NOT OUR OWN GOODNESS, BUT GOD'S. We plead not the name of Abraham, or of any earthly parent or friend, but the name of Jesus, God's own dear Son.
III. Learn from this story NOT TO THINK LITTLE THINGS OF NO IMPORTANCE, and not to be afraid to pray to God about little things as well as great. There are two reasons which prove that God does not disdain to attend little things:(1) He has made many more little things than great, and has made the greatest things to depend on the least;(2) God is so great, that the difference between what we call great and little is to Him as nothing; and He is so wise, that nothing — not a thought or atom — is small enough to escape His eye.
IV. Prayer itself is a hidden well; a secret source of strength,and joy, and wisdom, not only in times of trouble, but always.
(E. R. Conder, D. D.)
The Homiletic Review.I. HUMANITY SEEDS LIGHT.
II. GOD GIVES THE LIGHT.
III. LIGHT IS BENEFICENT.
(The Homiletic Review.)
II. THE EFFECT PRODUCED ON HER BY THE DESOLATE SITUATION INTO WHICH SHE IS BROUGHT.
1. It was despair in opposition to God's plain promises. "Let me not see the death of the child," she says. Why, the Lord Himself had spoken to her from heaven years ago, and told her that that very child should live to be a man and a powerful and great one. And this promise He had renewed but a short time before to Abraham, who would naturally mention the renewal of it to her. But in this hour of seeming danger, Jehovah's words are nothing to her; she either does not think of or she disbelieves them. "My child must die," she says, and east him down to die. How like ourselves in some of our trials!
2. The despair of Hagar was despair in opposition to her own experience. This was not the first time she had been in a desert (see Genesis 16). And there, we might have expected, the Lord would have left her to reap the fruit of her rashness; but not so. He is observant of her there. In admiration of the Lord's goodness, she calls the place where she had experienced it by a name implying, "Thou God seest me." But this is now clean forgotten. Ourselves again, brethren. "I know whom I have believed. The experience I myself have had in days past of my Saviour's love and faithfulness encourages me, nay, compels me, to trust Him now." The Lord brings us into a desert and appears for us there. "I can never forget this," we say. "The remembrance of this mercy will be a stay to me all my life long." But we get into the desert again, and what do we say then? All the many proofs we have had of the Lord's power and faithfulness, are as much out of our thoughts as though we had never had one of them.
3. Hagar's despair was despair in opposition to fact also. It was despair in the very midst of abundance.
III. Let us look now at THE INTERPOSITION OF GOD IN BEHALF OF THIS DESPAIRING WOMAN, the mercy He showed her. It consisted, you observe, in this one simple thing, He "opened her eyes." He did no more for her, for no more was needed. Wondering, happy woman! we say; but not more wondering or more happy than many a despairing sinner has been, when the Lord has opened his eyes and discovered to him His great salvation, His abounding mercy, the fountain of living waters He has provided for him in Jesus Christ.
(C. Bradley, M. A.)1 Samuel 23:27). The angel calls to Abraham, and shows him another sacrifice, just when his hand was giving the fatal stroke to Isaac (Genesis 22:10, 11). A well of water is discovered to Hagar just when she had left the child as not able to see its death (Genesis 21:16-19). Rabshakeh meets with blasting providence, hears a rumour that frustrated his design, just when ready to give the shock against Jerusalem (Isaiah 37:7, 8). So when Haman's plot against the Jews was ripe, and all things ready for execution, "On that night could not the king sleep" (Esther 6:1). When the horns are ready to gore Judah, immediately carpenters are prepared to fray them away (Zechariah 1:18-21). How remarkable was the relief of Rochelle by a shoal of fish that came into the harbour when they were ready to perish with hunger, such as they never observed either before or after that time. Mr. Dodd could not go to bed one night, but feels a strong impulse to visit (though unreasonable) a neighbouring gentleman, and just as he came he meets him at his door, with a halter in his pocket, just going to hang himself. Dr. Tare and his wife, in the Irish rebellion, flying through the woods with a sucking child, which was just ready to expire, the mother, going to rest it upon a rock, puts her hand upon a bottle of warm milk, by which it was preserved. A good woman, from whose mouth I received it, being driven to a great extremity, all supplies failing, was exceedingly plunged into unbelieving doubts and fears, not seing whence supplies would come; when lo! in the nick of time, turning some things in a chest, she unexpectedly lights upon a piece of gold, which supplied her present wants till God opened another door of supply. If these things fall out casually, how is it that they observe the very juncture of time so exactly? This is become proverbial in Scripture. "In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen" (Genesis 22:14).
( J. Flavel..)I. Taking HAGAR'S CASE first, I shall address myself to certain unconverted ones who are in a hopeful condition.
1. Taking Hagar's case as the model to work upon, we may see in her and in many like her a preparedness for mercy. In many respects she was in a fit state to become an object of mercy's help. She had a strong sense of need. The water was spent in the bottle, she herself was ready to faint, and her child lay at death's door; and this sense of need was attended by vehement desires. It is quite certain that, in Hagar's case, the will was right enough with reference to the water. It would have been preposterous indeed to say to Hagar, "If there be water, are you willing to drink?" "Willing?" she would say; "look at my parched lips, hear my dolorous cries, look at my poor punting, dying child!" And so with you; if I were to propose to you the question, "Are you willing to be saved?" you might look at me in the face and say, "Willing! oh, sir, I have long passed beyond that stage I am punting, groaning, thirsting, fainting, dying to find Christ." All this is hopeful, but I must again remind you that to will to be rich does not make a man rich, and that to will to be saved cannot in itself save you.
2. In the second place, mercy was prepared for Hagar, and is prepared for those in a like state. The water was near to Hagar; and so is Christ near to you, my dear friend, this morning. The mercy of God is not a thing to be sought for up yonder among the stars, nor to be discovered in the depths; it is nigh thee, it is even in thy mouth and in thy heart.
3. We pass on, then, in the third place, to notice that although Hagar was prepared and mercy was prepared, yet there was an impediment in the way, for she could not see the water. There is also an impediment in your way. Hagar had a pair of bright beaming eyes, I will be bound to say, and yet she could not see the water; and men may have first-rate understandings, but not understand that simple thing — faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Simple trust in Jesus has this difficulty in it, that it is not difficult, and therefore the human mind refuses to believe that God can intend to save us by so simple a plan. What blindness is this! So foolish and so fatal. The main reason I think, however, why some do not attain early to peace is because they are looking for more than they will get, and thus their eyes are dazzled with fancies. Again, I am afraid some persons, with the water at their feet, do not drink it because of the bad directions that are given by ministers.
4. I feel certain that there are some here upon whom the Lord intends to work this morning; so we will speak, in the fourth place, upon the divine removal of the impediment. Hagar's blindness was removed by God. No one else could have removed it. God must open a man's eyes to understand practically what belief in Jesus Christ is. But while this was divinely removed, it was removed instrumentally. An angel spake out of heaven to Hagar. It matters little whether it be an angel or a man, it is the Word of God which removes this difficulty.
II. Oh that the Spirit of God would give me power from on high while I try to talk to the saints from THE SECOND CASE, viz., that of the apostles in Luke 24:31. This is no Hagar, but "Cleopas and another disciple." They ought to have known Jesus for these reasons.
1. They were acquainted with Him, they had been with Him for years in public and in private, they had heard His voice so often that they ought to have recollected its tones.
2. They ought to have known Him, because He was close to them; He was walking with them along the same road, He was not up on a mountain at a distance.
3. They ought to have seen Him, because they had the Scriptures to reflect His image, and yet how possible it is for us to open that precious Book and turn over page after page of it and not see Christ.
4. What is more, these disciples ought to have seen Jesus, for they had the Scriptures opened to them.
5. There was another reason why the disciples ought to have seen Him, namely, that they had received testimonies from others about Him. Now what is the reason for this? Why do we not see Him? I think it must be ascribed in our case to the same as in theirs, namely, our unbelief. They evidently did not expect to see Him, and therefore they did not discover Him.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. How true this often is in providence with Christian people. We have known them to be in sore alarm at some approaching ill, or in the most fearless distress on account of some troublous circumstances which already surround them. They have said, "We don't know what we shall do to-morrow." They have inquired, "Who shall roll us away the stone?" They wot not that God has already provided for to-morrow, and has rolled the stone away. If they knew all, they would understand that their trial is purely imaginary. They are making it by their unbelief. It has no other existence than that which their distrust of God gives to it.
2. Though this is true of providence, I prefer rather to deal with the matter of spiritual blessings. It often happens that souls are disturbed in spiritual matters about things that ought not to disturb them. For instance, a large proportion of spiritual distresses are occasioned by a forgetfulness or an ignorance of the doctrines of the Bible. Sometimes, holy Scripture has its well near to the troubled heart, not so much in the form of doctrine, as in the form of promise. There was never a trouble yet in human experience among God's people, but what there was a promise to meet it. At other times the well appears in the form neither of a doctrine nor of a promise, but in the shape of an experience of some one else. Perhaps nothing more effectually comforts, under the blessing of God, than the discovery that some undoubtedly good man has passed through the same state of heart in which we are found. And, beloved, sometimes it pleases the Holy Spirit to open a well of living waters for us in the person, and work, and life, and sympathy, and love, of our Well-beloved, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus suffers with thee, O thou child of God, — suffers in thee. Thou art a member of His body, and therefore He endures in thee. Thou art making up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ for His body's sake, which is the Church. Besides, once more, our sorrows often arise from our not observing the Holy Spirit.
II. I think I hear some one say, "I have no doubt, sir, that God has provided a supply for necessities, but may I partake of that supply? may I participate in the provisions of Divine love?" I will answer thee by saying, in the second place, that THIS SUPPLY IS FOR YOU.
III. Now to our last point. IT IS AVAILABLE WITHOUT ANY EXTRAORDINARY EXERTION. Hagar went and filled her bottle with water, and she gave her child to drink. No hydraulic inventions were required; no exceedingly difficult pumping, no mechanical contrivances to obtain the water when the spring was perceived. She did a very simple thing: she held her bottle in the water till it was full, poured out into the child's mouth, and the dilemma which had perilled life was over. Now, the way by which we get a hold of Christ is faith.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. Our first head shall be that IF OUR EYES WERE FURTHER OPENED THE RESULT TO ANY ONE OF US WOULD BE VERY REMARKABLE. We are at present limited in our range of sight. This is true of our natural or physical vision, of our mental vision, and of our spiritual vision; and in each case when the range of sight is enlarged very remarkable discoveries are made. God has been pleased to open the natural eyes of mankind by the invention optical instruments. What a discovery it was when first of all certain pieces of glass were arranged in connection with each other, and men began to peer into the stars! Equally marvellous was the effect upon human knowledge when the microscope was invented. We could never have imagined what wonders of skill and taste would be revealed by the magnifying-glass, and what marvels of beauty would be found compassed within a space too small to measure. Our physical eyes thus opened by either glass reveal strange marvels, and we may infer from this fact that the opening of our mental and spiritual eyes will discover to us equal wonders in other domains, and thus increase our reverence and love towards God.
1. Suppose, that our eyes could be opened as to all our past lives. Our childhood — how different that period would now appear with God's light upon it. Our vision will be strengthened one day, so that we shall see the end from the beginning, and then we shall understand that the Lord maketh all things work together for good to them that love Him.
2. And now suppose, again, our eyes should be opened upon the future. Ay, would you not like to spy into destiny? Ah, if your eyes could be opened as to all that is to happen, what would you do? If you were wise, and knew your future, you would commit it unto God; commit it to Him though you do not know it.
3. If our eyes were opened, again, on another point, as to the existence of angels, we should see marvels. If the Lord opened the eyes of His greatly beloved servants to see how many of these mighty intelligences are silently guarding then., they would cease to complain of loneliness while in the midst of such a thronging ministry of willing friends.
4. And what, once more, if your eyes could be opened to look into heaven?
II. IN SOME THINGS OUR EYES MUST BE OPENED. Those I have spoken about are desirable in a measure, but these are absolutely necessary. For instance, as to the divine salvation, our eyes must be opened.
III. IN OUR PRESENT CASE IT IS VERY DESIRABLE THAT OUR EYES SHOULD BE OPENED. To many it is imperatively needful at this moment, for if not now recovered from their blindness they will die in their sins.
1. First, we would have opened eyes that we may see Jesus to be very near us. Do not think of Him just now as if He were far away in heaven. He is there in his glorious personality, but His spiritual presence is here also.
2. We desire that you may have your eyes opened to see what you are in Christ. You complain that you are black in yourselves; but you are most fair in Him.
3. Lastly, may the Lord open your eyes to see what you will be in Him. Certain of us are nearer heaven than we think. Let our hearts dance for joy at the bare thought of such speedy felicity. Let us go on our way blessing and magnifying Him who has opened our eyes to see the glory which He has prepared for them that love Him, which shall be ours ere long.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
PeopleAbimelech, Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Phichol, Sarah
PlacesBeersheba, Egypt, Gerar, Paran
TopicsDwelleth, Dwelt, Egypt, Got, Paran, Taketh, Waste, Wife, Wilderness
Outline1. Isaac is born, and circumcised.
6. Sarah's joy.
8. Isaac is weaned.
9. Hagar and Ishmael sent away.
15. Hagar in distress.
17. The angel relieves and comforts her.
23. Abimelech's covenant with Abraham at Beersheba.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesGenesis 21:21
LibraryCompassion for Souls
Behold the compassion of a mother for her child expiring with thirst, and remember that such a compassion ought all Christians to feel towards souls that are perishing for lack of Christ, perishing eternally, perishing without hope of salvation. If the mother lifted up her voice arid wept, so also should we; and if the contemplation of her dying, child was all too painful for her, so may the contemplation of the wrath to come, which is to pass upon every soul that dies impenitent, become too painful …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 17: 1871
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