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Genesis 21:9-21


Intro: The Bible is a book of hope. It is a book filled with stories of love, power, faith, and glory. It is a book with a message of grace, peace, salvation, redemption, and miracles.


Yet, the Bible is a book filled with impossible, hopeless situations. Stories appear on the pages of God’s Word, and many of them are impossible situations. In many of those stories, there seems to be no solution, no way out. Storms, needs, deaths, sicknesses, and many other problems appear, that to the human mind are impossible and hopeless, yet time after time these impossible, hopeless situations are handled with ease by the sovereign power of God.


One of those stories is in the text we have read today. Let’s look into this passage that details a hopeless situation in the life of a woman named Hagar.


The story opens in the home of a man named Abraham.


Abraham may have been the father of the faithful, but His family life was a shambles!


Ill. The context of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar and Ishmael.


According to Gen. 16, this arrangement did nothing but cause trouble for Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. Sarah was jealous of Hagar and her baby; Hagar was jealous of Sarah and her relationship with Abraham; poor Abraham is caught in the middle trying to please two women: an absolute impossibility!


By the way, our world is still paying the price for their foolish choices!


In our text, things have come to head. There is all out civil war in Abraham’s tent. As a result, Hagar finds herself in a desperate situation. In the midst of that terrible time, she has a powerful, personal encounter with Almighty God. Out of Hagar’s pain comes a ray of hope for all those who find themselves in the hard, harsh places of life.


Regardless of the arena of life, I want you to see that God can take your hopeless situation and turn it around for His glory.


I want to focus in on the question the Lord asks Hagar in verse 17, “What alieth thee?” If you have an ailment, regardless of what it may be, God has a word of hope for you in these verses.


There is a remedy for your reversal. There is a plan for your problem. There is a cure for your condition. Let’s consider the lessons that present themselves in this passage as we examine The Case Of The Broken Hearted Mother.



Things had been tense in Abraham’s tent for many years. In this passage, Isaac is about three and Ishmael is about seventeen. They are celebrating as Isaac matures from a baby to a little boy, v. 8. Things come to a head during this feast and Hagar faces a terrible time of rejection.

A.  v. 9-10  The Reasons For This Rejection – Ishmael was mocking and making fun of Isaac and the festivities. The word “mocking” is a strong form of the word “Isaac”, which means “laughter”.


      Ishmael saw all his hopes of inheritance dashed in Isaac.

•  He knew that Isaac was the son of promise and that he was just the son of a slave.

•  He realizes that he will never be anything more than he is right now.

•  He is jealous of Isaac, so he acts out during the feast.


      Sarah sees this and blows her stack and demands that Hagar and Isaac be sent away! The phrase “cast out” means “to drive away


      I would just mention that “to mock” Isaac was a serious matter to the Lord. To “mock” him was to:

•  Mock God’s People - Isaac was the one through whom the nation of Israel would come.

•  Mock God’s Promise - Isaac was the son of promise. He was the miracle baby.

•  Mock God’s Power - Isaac came into the world because God’s was greater than old age, dead wombs, and the abilities of men.

•  Mock God Provision - It would be through Isaac that the Messiah would come into the world.


B.  v. 11-14  The Realities Of This Rejection – Abraham is reluctant to do what Sarah is demanding that he do. After all, it would be against all human sensibilities and against all the norms of decent society. Yet, God  tells him that it is part of His plan for both Isaac and for Ishmael. For Abraham this is as real as it gets. He is forced to send away his oldest son and that son’s mother. It broke his heart to have to send them away.


      The word “Grievous” means “to tremble or quiver.” This event shook Abraham to his very foundations. There is no doubt that he loved Ishmael, and that he certainly had feelings for Hagar.


      This was a hard morning for Abraham, but an even harder morning was coming!

•  In the next chapter God will command Abraham to sacrifice Isaac on Mount Moriah, Gen. 22.

•  Abraham honored the Lord is both cases and did what the Lord told him to do.

•  Sending Ishmael away was merely preparation for greater service.

•  If Abraham had refused to give up Ishmael, he would have never given up Isaac.


We all know that life can be like that at times. Things are going well one moment and the next, we are on on our backs, looking up, wondering how we got there. This life is filled with hard realities and heartbreaking moments. Ill. Job - Job 1:6; 2:1 - “And there was a day!”


•  Sickness comes

•  People die

•  Relationships fall apart

•  Churches disintegrate

•  Finances fail

•  Depression rears its head

•  Difficulties arise

•  Troubles dog our steps


That is the reality of life! Ill. Job 14:1; 5:7; John 16:33. Of course, God said it would be this way, Ill. Gen. 3:17-19. Some of you have been there. Others are headed in that direction.


That is why Joseph Parker, a London Pastor in the 1800’s said: “Speak to the suffering, and you will never lack an audience. There is a broken heart in every crowd.”


  I.  It Was A Time Of Harsh Rejection



A.  v. 15  There Were Problems – Ill. Context - Verse 14. Why did Abraham send them away with just a bottle of water and a little bread when he had the resources to see that all their needs were met? I think he it because he was taking God at His word. He simply released Ishmael and Hagar into the sovereign hand of God, He trusted God to do right by them.


      They are in a desperate situation! But, that’s how life can be at times.


      Consider 2 Cor. 1:8. The word “measure” in that verse means “to throw beyond

•  God took Paul beyond what Paul was able to handle within himself.

•  Sometimes the burdens of life really are more than we can bear.

•  Even when the burdens of life exceed our ability to bear them, they never exceed His, 2 Cor. 1:9-10.

•  Praise the Lord, even when the load gets heavy, remember, He is in the yoke with you, Matt.11:28-30.


B.  v. 16  There Was Pain – Hagar’s heart is broken. She is sure Ishmael is going to die. She leaves him under a bush and she goes away because she does not want to witness the death of her son. A “bowshot” is about 1000 feet. Hagar leaves Ishmael there and she goes off to weep. She found herself in a situation she could not fix and from which she could not escape.


      Have you ever been there?

•  Most of us have!

•  David found himself in a hopeless place and he wanted to fly away, Ill. Psa. 55:1-8.

•  Most of us like to be in control of our lives, when we can’t control it or fix it, we get desperate!


      Of course, Hagar shouldn’t have worried. She had the promise of God that He was going to make Ishmael the father of a great nation, Gen. 16:10-11. He wasn’t going to die out there in that wilderness. In that moment of desperation, Hagar’s pain blinded her to God’s promise. Have you ever been there?


      The fact is, sometimes life hurts, and sometimes it hurts real bad! When it does, we want to run away from our problems and for our pain. What we fail to see is that our pain is the path God is using to fulfill the promises He has made to us. If you can learn to trust Him, even when you can’t trace Him, He will grant you His peace in your times of pain, Phil. 4:6-7.


C.  v. 16-17  There Was Prayer – We don’t know whether Hagar prayed or not, but we that Ishmael certainly did. God heard him and moved to help him. By the way, the name “Ishmael” means “God Hears”.


      Prayer is an ever-present resource for the believer. We can run to Him anytime, anywhere, for any purpose and He has promised to hear us and help us! Ill. Matt. 7:7-8; Jer. 33:3; Phil. 4:6-7. Prayer should always be our first priority, not the final straw!


Here’s the truth:

•  Problems are going to come in our lives.

•  When they do, they will come unwanted and unannounced.

•  When they come, they will hurt us deeply at times.

•  When they come, we must not delay, but we must run to the Lord. He will hear us and He will help us.

•  He may change the situation, more often, He will change us in the situation, 2 Cor. 12:7-11.

•  The difference between Paul's attitude in trouble and my own is that I have not yet reached the place where I openly welcomed trouble. Maybe I should!


Many years ago, A.W. Tozer said, “The devil, things, and people being what they are, it is necessary for God to use the hammer, the files, and the furnace in His holy work of preparing a saint for true sainthood. It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.”


If the Lord is going to develop you into the image of Christ, which is why He saved you in the first place, He will do so through the events of your life. He will send you exactly what it is going to take to transform you into the person He saved you to be. Ill. Rom. 8:28-29; Eph. 4:13-14.


  I.  It Was A Time Of Harsh Rejection

 II.  It Was a Time Of Hopeless Realities



When Hagar went through this time of terrible tragedy, she was enveloped by some very precious hidden resources. She didn’t realize it, but God was there and He had just what she needed to see her through. She was so overcome by her grief that she could not see the resources that were right there before her eyes. Ever been there?

A.  v. 12-13  God’s Providence – God had a plan in all of this. In Gal. 4:21-31, Paul speaks of this episode as an illustration of salvation.

•  Sarah is a picture of the grace of God.

•  Hagar is a picture of the law of works.

•  Isaac is a picture of faith.

•  Ishmael is a picture of the flesh.


      The lesson in Gal. 4 is clear.

•  Grace and Law are incompatible, and so are the flesh and faith.

•  Ishmael represented the efforts of the flesh, and he had to go so that the son of faith, Isaac might obtain his rightful place.


      The pain and the suffering were both a part of God’s eternal plan. Both in the short term, and in the long term. God was using these events in the life of Abraham and Isaac, and He is still using them to teach us about His plan to save sinners.


      The same is true for us. God has a plan and sometimes it involves us walking through some hard places. He knows what He is doing. Until you walk through the valley, you cannot appreciate the mountain top.


      Ill. Elijah, Widow of Zarephath; Three Hebrews; Daniel; Disciples on boat; 5,000 plus hungry folks; Mary and Martha; etc.


      God was working in every one of those situations to bring glory to His name and to accomplish He eternal purpose. Ill. Isa. 55:8-9; Rom. 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17.


      Ill. Thank God He is behind the scenes pulling all the strings of life, Psa. 37:23; Psa. 115:3. There are no accidents, Eph. 1:11.


B.  v. 17a  God’s Presence – She didn’t know it, but God had been there the whole time.


      By the way, He won’t leave you either, Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. You will never live one second, or take one step in this world as a child of God without Him! Ill. Deut. 31:8; 1 Sam. 12:22; Isa. 41:10; 43:2.


C.  v. 17b  God’s Peace – God called her by her name. Notice the contrast between verse 17 and verse 10. God was concerned about her problem. God spoke peace to her heart.


•  God knows – Job 23:10.

•  God cares – Heb. 4:15-16.

•  God can speak peace to your heart – John 14:27; Phil. 4:7. Ill. Disciples on storm and “I AM” – John 6:19-21.


D.  v. 18  God’s Promise – Ill. He may not make you a great nation, but He will take care of you – Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:19; Psa. 37:25.


E.  v. 19  God’s Provision – He opened her eyes and showed her what had been right in front of her all along! The Bible says, “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water...”


      There are two words in the Old Testament referring to “well”. One word speaks of an “artesian well, or a spring of water.” This kind of “well” occurs naturally. 


      The word used here refers to a “dug well.” Think about that! At some point in the past, God had moved on the heart of some traveler to dig a “well” right here.


      God did that because He knew that Hagar and Ishmael would be in that spot on that very day, and that they would need the water that “well” had to offer them. Hallelujah!


      I just want to remind you that we have a God Who works on both ends of time to accomplish His purposes. Ill. Elijah - 1 Kings 17:4, 9.


      God is already in your tomorrow. He is already in your “there,” and when you get “there,” you will find Him, and what He has already left there for your provision.


      I just want to remind you that:

•  He is “El Olam”, “the eternal GodDeut. 33:27.

•  He is “Yahweh,” the “I AmEx. 3:14.


      He is the God Who is “ableEph. 3:20. The evidence can be found throughout the Bible! Ill. Daniel; 3 Hebrews; Widow of Zarephath; Disciples in ship; Job; ME!


      Ill. Our problems blind us to His provisions. He can open our eyes and show us that He has everything we could ever need. He has what you need, if you will come to Him, you can have that provision!


Conc: What aileth thee? Whatever it is, listen again to the words of the Savior: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” Matt. 11:28.


Look at verse 19 for a moment. God gave Hagar a “well” and she is still trying to live off the “bottle


That’s just what we do, isn’t it? God has given us unlimited spiritual resources in Himself, and we settle for so much less. Its time to throw away your bottle and jump into the well. God haas everything you need. Come to Him and trust Him to provide it.


Beloved, “There is a well!”

•  Of salvation for the lost - “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Rom. 10:13.

•  Of hope for the hopeless - “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Pro. 3:5–6.

•  Of power for the weak - “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me,” Phil. 4:13. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind,” 2 Tim. 1:7.

•  Of joy for the brokenhearted - “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy,” 1 Pet.4:13.

•  Of peace for the troubled - “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” Phil. 4:6–7.

•  Of provision for the needy - “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” Phil. 4:19.

•  Of forgiveness for the fallen - “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness,” 1 John 1:9.

•  Of restoration for the broken - “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,” Luke 4:18.


“What aileth thee?”


Bring it to Him now and let Him show you that:

•  He knows who you are, John 10:14, “I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.” John 10:27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”


•  He knows the path you are walking, Job 23:10, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”


•  He knows what’s happening in your life, Matt. 10:30, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”


•  He knows what you need, Matt. 6:25-34, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”


•  He loves you, Jer. 31:3, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”


•  He cares for you, 1 Pet. 5:7, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”


•  He has a plan to help you, Jer. 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”



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