Saturday, October 11, 2008

Genesis 21:15-17 God Hears You Where You Are

Genesis 21:15-17: When the water in the skin was used up, she left the boy under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him, about a bowshot away, for she said, "Do not let me see the boy die." And she sat opposite him, and lifted up her voice and wept. God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, "What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.”

We do not know at this point how long Hagar and Ishmael wandered in the wilderness before the water that Abraham had given them was all used up. We can imagine it wasn’t long – maybe days, at the most a week or so. But clearly enough time elapsed to make the young lad very thirsty and weak for the lack of water, and perhaps food. Now, using our chronological timeline, we know that Ishmael was about fourteen years old at this time. Then distressed, Hagar leaves Ishmael under a bush and she goes away from him the distance that an arrow can be shot with a bow. Depending on the ability of the archer and the type of bow and arrow used that could be anywhere from about 145 meters up to 450 meters or so, but more likely Hagar was closer than that. When she sat down she faced her son and lifted her voice up to God and wept. She did not want to see her boy die. Here was a mother pleading for God to save her son’s life. But she was also pleading for herself as she asked God to not let her actually see Ishmael die. That would be too hard for her. Any parent can fully understand that feeling and fear.

Scripture tells us that God heard Ishmael crying, perhaps from pain or possibly from fear. And right away He dispatched His angel from heaven to Hagar with a message. As I write on this verse, I am reminded of two things. First, I marvel at how quickly God’s will is carried out by His angels in heaven. God heard the lad cry and the very next part of that sentence indicates His angel went to Hagar. What amazing servants God has in heaven. Oh, that His servants here on earth would follow instructions so effectively and efficiently and with the joy we can imagine the angels have in serving Him.

Secondly, I am filled with a great sense of awe when I realize that this same God and His angels are available to you and me today as we face life’s most distressing moments. When I am at a point that God feels I can no longer bear the pain, He hears and He sets His angels in action – quickly and effectively.

In Hagar’s case the angel asks a rather strange question to begin with. “Hagar, what’s the matter with you?” That’s probably the best direct translation. Others have the question couched in words like “What’s the matter?” or “What is troubling or ailing you?” Yes, God is there to deal with what troubles us, but there comes a time when I believe He can legitimately ask us “What’s the matter with you?” This is especially true when He has already proven to be trustworthy with our lives. This was the case for Hagar as we had learned back in Genesis 16:13. At that point, because God had comforted her then, she had declared Him to be “the God who sees.” Did she forget? Yes, Hagar, should have known better.

Nevertheless, the angel of God reassures her once more. He tells her not to fear, “for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.” Hagar, it’s going to be all right. It’s going to be all right “for God” (a version of my favorite phrase in scripture) has heard her. It’s interesting here to note that God heard the cry of the one in pain and yet sent His angel to the one that pleaded on his behalf. I have often noticed that God’s rescue plans are put in place not so much for the one that needs rescuing but for the one -- the mother, the spouse, the child, the brother, etc. – that either does depend already, or the one who needs to learn to depend more, on God. “Hagar,” says the angel, “Do not despair for God has heard the lad” and then scripture adds three little words – “where he is.” What a comfort to know that God sees our need and hears our cry, “where we are”? We do not need to change and pretend to be someone else; we do not need to make a physical pilgrimage; or even to go to a priest or minister to be heard or noticed. God sees us where we are and hears us in the same place. What a God we have. He’s available to you today.

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