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Genesis 21:9-21                  WHAT AILETH THEE?

Intro: 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.

      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.

      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. 


  I.  v. 9-14              IT WAS A TIME OF HARSH REJECTION

(Ill. 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. 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. (Ill. 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. So he is jealous of Isaac and he acts out during the feast. Sarah sees this and blows her stack and demands that Hagar and Isaac be sent away!

B.  v. 11-14  The Realities Of This Rejection – Abraham is reluctant, but God tells him that this is part of His plan for 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 Abraham’s heart to have to send them away.  Ill. Hard morning for Abraham, a worse coming! (Ill. “Grievous” = “to tremble or quiver”)


(Note: We all know that life can be just like that at times. We are enjoying ourselves one moment and the next; we are on the bottom, looking up, wondering how we got down here. This life is filled with hard realities and heartbreaking moments. Sickness comes; people die; relationships fall apart; 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. Ill. Gen. 3:17-19. Ill. Some have been there; some are there and some are going there.)


 II.  v. 15-16         IT WAS A TIME OF HOPELESS REALITIES (Ill. Context)

A.  v. 15  There Were Problems – The water ran out, the sun beat down and Hagar gave up! (Ill. Life is like that at times – 2 Cor. 1:8 – Sometimes, the burdens are more than we can bear! But, they are never more than He can bear – 1 Cor. 1:9-10. Ill. Matt. 11:28-30 – He is in the yoke with you!)

B.  v. 16  There Was Pain – Hagar’s heart is broken. She is sure Ishmael is going to die. (Ill. “bowshot” – Probably about 1000 feet.) She does not want to witness the death of her son, so she leaves him under a bush and goes off to weep. She found herself in a situation she could not fix and from which she could not escape. (Ill. Ever been there? David was – Ill. Psa. 55:1-8.) (Ill. Most of us like to be in control of our lives, when we can’t control it or fix it, we get desperate! Ever been there?)

C.  v. 16-17  There Was Prayer – Hagar may have prayed: Ishmael certainly did. God heard him and moved to help him. (Ill. “Ishmael” = “God Hears”)(Ill. 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 be our first priority, not the final straw!


(Note: 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.)



(Ill. While 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 they 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. (Ill Ishmael represented the efforts of the flesh and he had to go, so the son of faith, Isaac, might obtain his rightful place.) The pain and suffering was part of God’s plan. (Ill. The same is true in your life and mine. 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.) (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.)

B.  v. 17a  God’s Presence – She didn’t know it, but God had been there the whole time. (Ill. He won’t leave you either – Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20. (Ill. Deut. 31:8; 1 Sam. 12:22; Isa. 41:10; 43:2.)

C.  v. 17b  God’s Peace – Called by name/ concerned about her problem/ spoke peace. (Ill. 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! Ill. We are blinded to His provisions by our problems. 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! (Ill. The miracles and power of our God. He has more and can do more than you can imagine – Eph. 3:20!)


Conc: What aileth thee? Bring it to the Father today!

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