Monday, October 13, 2008

Genesis 21:18-21 Action in Our Distress

Genesis 21:18-21: “Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him by the hand, for I will make a great nation of him." Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went and filled the skin with water and gave the lad a drink. God was with the lad, and he grew; and he lived in the wilderness and became an archer. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.

As we saw earlier, God does not only ask us, “What is the matter?” or even “What is the matter with you?”, but through His angel He goes on to assure us we need not fear because He has heard our cry. And then God gives us instruction as to what we are to do.

The angel tells Hagar to “Get up. Help your son get up and hold him by the hand.” God wants us to act when we feel distressed. First, we are to recompose ourselves. “Get up, get yourself together – you need not fear, I, God, have heard you”, God says. Secondly, we are to help the weaker ones to do likewise. “Lift up the lad”, God says. And then the promise, “Do this Hagar, because I will make a great nation of him.” “Hagar, I’ll bless him and through his blessing, you’ll be blessed.” God has a role for each of us to play in His plans for mankind, even as we feel the pressures of life and feel great distress.

Scripture then says, “God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.” Her immediate and real problem was lack of water for herself and her child. Water was what was needed right there and then and God provided it. God has a way of allowing the physical needs of life – safety, food, shelter, etc. to draw us closer to Him, to have us call on His name. But He usually does that for a greater purpose. He wants us to trust Him for something more. And when He’s made His point, He restores those things that we need to keep on living right there and then. But we best not forget the lesson of greater dependency on God that He wanted us to learn during those occasions.

So Hagar goes to the well, fills the skin Abraham had given her with water and gives Ishmael a drink. Ishmael is saved from dying of thirst and life goes on. But we’re told that God was with the lad as he grew, right there in the wilderness. He became a skilled archer. It’s interesting that the author of the text, Moses as most believe it to be, had referred earlier in the chapter to Hagar going a “bowshot distance” away from Ishmael when she wanted to cry out to God. Moses was aware of young Ishmael’s later success with archery.

And when Ishmael became of age, his mother (in the absence of his father Abraham) arranged for Ishmael to take a wife from Egypt. We will hear more of Ishmael’s family later in the text. The key point for us is to learn to trust God and depend on Him during our most difficult times.

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