Arise, lift up the boy and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation."
I. GOD'S NOTICE OF AND COMPASSION FOR HUMAN SUFFERING: our example, The object of pity apart from antecedents.
II. THE WORKING OUT OF DIVINE PURPOSES notwithstanding, and to some extent by means of, human infirmities, errors, and sins. Ishmael must be preserved, and has his part to play in the future.
III. Taken TYPICALLY, Hagar and Ishmael represent the life of man apart from the covenant of God, outside the circle of special privilege. There is God in the wilderness. The eyes which are darkened with ignorance and self-will may yet be mercifully opened to see the well of water. The angel of deliverance follows even the bondwoman and her son. But the way to God through the wilderness is a hard way, a way of suffering, a way of danger. God was with Ishmael. He was with him through Abraham, for Abraham's sake. The course of Ishmael's life illustrates the contrast between a truly religious career and one given up to natural impulse. Cf. Esau and Joseph's brethren. - R.
I. THIS PASSAGE TEACHES A LESSON TO PARENTS. It teaches that God is with us at our work; that the wilderness of life is full of Him; that in the waste of this world He is close beside us; that our children are His children; that He sees them under the shrub of the desert; that He has a property in them, a work for them, a work in them; that they are heirs, not of the desert in which they seem to be perishing, but of the many mansions of their heavenly Father's house. Believe that your children have been united to Christ; and that if you teach them to claim this union for themselves, its strength and its healing shall come out for them day by day as you seek to bring them up for Him.
And God heard the voice of the lad.
1. You should always address God by one of His names or titles, in a very reverent way. You have to thank God for His mercies; you have to confess to God your sins; you have to trust God to bless you; you have to ask for other people; then, to end all, "For Jesus Christ's sake." Tell God anything you like, only take care you ask it all in the name of Jesus, because we have no promise to prayer that God will hear us unless we add the name of Jesus to it.
2. Every boy and girl ought to have a form of prayer, though they need not always use it. A psalm is sometimes very good. But the more you practise, the more you will have to say out of your heart.
3. Wandering thoughts often trouble us in prayer. They are like the birds which flew down on Abraham's altar and spoiled the sacrifice. We must drive away these little birds; we must ask God to keep off the wandering thoughts.
4. When you are praying always remember that there is One who is offering up that prayer for you to God. That prayer does not go to God just as you send it up; but before it gets to the throne of God it gets much sweeter. Jesus puts His sweet incense into our prayer. So God will be pleased with us for His sake.
5. Pray always. You cannot always kneel down and pray, but little prayers in your hearts can always be going up. These little darts or ejaculations can be sent up anywhere, at any time.
(J. Vaughan, M. A.)
II. THIS PASSAGE CONTAINS INSTRUCTION FOR THE YOUNG THEMSELVES.
1. God saw the lad as he lay beneath the desert shrub. And He sees you, wherever you are, at home or abroad — His eye is ever on you. Learn this lesson first — God's eye is ever on the lad, and sees him wherever he is.
2. God was the true protector of the lad, and He is your true and only Friend. He sees in you the adopted children of Jesus Christ. Even from your helpless infancy has He thus looked on you, and had purposes of love towards you.
3. God had a purpose for the lad and a work in him. He meant him to become a great nation in these waste places. His casting out, dark as it seemed, was preparing the way for this; and so it is with you. Everything around you is ordered by God for an end. That end is truly your best spiritual happiness.
4. God heard the voice of the lad; and He will hear you in every time of your trouble. Ishmael was heard because he was the son of Abraham; you will be heard because you are the son of God through Christ.
(Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.)
I. We dwell on these words especially as teaching THE FATHER'S CARE FOR THE CHILDREN. DO not think of this event as occurring under a dispensation so different from ours that we can find in it no distinct teaching for to-day — very beautiful, but of little worth save for its beauty. These words mean a thousandfold more to us than they could do to Hagar. The Father had not then revealed Himself in the only-begotten Son. The Son of God went away into the wilderness; He shivered in the cold night-blast; He felt the pitiless beating of the storm. And now in all the world there is not one poor child shut out from His sympathy, for He Himself has lived a child of poverty and woe.
II. NOT TO ANGELS NOW IS THIS WORK OF RESCUE GIVEN. It is our high honour and prerogative to be the ministers of the Father's love. Angels may bring the tidings, perhaps, but only that we may obey. Angels shall reveal the means, but only that we may carry the blessing. Hagar must fill the bottle and give the lad to drink; she must lift him up and hold him by the hand.
(M. G. Pearse.)
What aileth thee, Hagar? —
1. First, let me come to you who consider yourself to be a Christian believer.(1) Believer, what aileth thee? You are not so happy as you were when first you gave your heart to God. In China, if a lady were to ask how it is she cannot enjoy a brisk walk, you would reply, "It is because you cramped your feet in tight shoes from childhood and have hindered their growth." Now, believer, faith may be compared to the feet on which a Christian stands; and if you have bound up your faith in the tight shoes of doubt, how can you expect to run and not be weary, or to walk and not faint? Have you not allowed your soul to be thrust in the prison of unbelief? Unshackle your mind from the fetters of that grim tyrant, Unbelief; end as your faith grows, so shall you enjoy the peace you have lost.(2) I go to another and say, Believer, what aileth thee? You reply, "Paul sang praises in the dungeon at midnight; but the least cross worries and frets me. How is it? "Well, I will tell you. My friend, you say you have done no harm; but the reason why little vexations worry you, is that you have not done much good. Let us be tender-hearted, cheerful-looking, and ready-helping Christians; and, like a pleasant flower, let us exhibit beauty of character and exhale perfume of blessings. A young man, up there in the corner, may say, "I want to do great things!" Ah, young Christian, first of all begin to scatter little seeds of kindness. Be more lovable and helpful at home than you have been. On a cold day we long for the sun, because it cheers us; likewise make yourself such a blessing that every member of your home shall long for you to come, because your presence cheers their path and soothes their soul.(3) Now, I go to another, and ask, What aileth thee? You reply, "I have not so much pleasure in prayer as I used to have." Well, the reason is, that you have neglected prayer.(4) Let me pass on to another believer, who, I see, bears the look of anxious care in his face. Friend, what aileth thee? You reply, "I have to pass through much trouble, and I fret, and am in despair." Now, why should you allow worrying care to destroy your peace? Let me tell you a tale to comfort you. Some time ago, a father and his little daughter were travelling in the train to London. After rushing rapidly on for many miles, the train came to a sudden stop. The little child was anxious, and said, "Father, let us jump out!" The father looked out through the window, and seeing the signal ahead indicated that the line was not clear, he replied, "No, my dear; we are quite safe." The child exclaimed, "But, father, what are we stopping here for? I am so afraid! I wish I could get out." The father tried to explain, but the child could understand nothing except that the train stood still, and that she wanted to go on. Now, like that little child, you are perplexed as to certain stoppages of the wheels of the circumstances of your life; but you cannot understand it until later on. After a long time, the train, of which I have told you, went on and slowly passed an overturned engine, which had been thrown off the rails. The father said, "See, my dear, if we had gone on as you wished, we should have run into that train, and have been smashed up." Christian friend, when we reach our mansion in paradise, we shall see that the unpleasant stoppage, which we thought was against us, and that great crash, which prevented us from becoming rich, were directed by a gentle hand, a wise mind, and a loving heart.
2. I intend, now, to go to another class amongst you. I find here a person who makes an outward profession of religion, but who is not a sincere Christian. What aileth thee, professor? You reply, "Well, though I profess to be religious, I am not religious in all things."
3. What aileth thee, backslider? You reply, "The Lord has withdrawn from me." Ah, you judge the Lord as if He were human. I come to another backslider, and ask, "What aileth thee?" You reply, "I cannot return to God; for He must be disgusted with my character." Let me tell you of a man who had a foul disease. He was taken to the hospital in Piccadilly, but his breath was offensive and his body so full of pollution that few could bear to be near him. He was placed in a spare bed; but though he had a disease of such a disgusting nature, the doctor smiled kindly upon him, and did all in his power to heal him. As the gentle surgeon did not turn from that wretched man, so the Lord will receive you, and heal your backsliding.
(W. Birch.)I. Now first, "WHAT AILETH THEE, HAGAR?" And to that question we give three answers. The first answer is this — she thought her son was given over unto death. Poor Hagar had a grief that swallowed up all other griefs. She had a sorrow that made all other sorrows appear utterly insignificant. What cared she if she had lost an Abraham's home? She was losing her boy, that was something infinitely worse. What did it matter to her if all her hopes for the future were blighted and blasted? What a picture we have here of the anxious inquirer — the experience of the sinner when first awakened to the consciousness of his soul's danger. The grief of the anxious inquirer is a grief that swallows up all other griefs. How little does it matter to him whether he has trouble in business or not. The trouble of his soul has made him oblivious to all other trouble. The one all-absorbing thought of the anxious soul, the thought that drives all others out of the mind, is — not "my son," but "my soul is dying." But observe, that Ishmael was her only son, and this added to her trial. If she had had another boy, it would have been bad enough, but poor Ishmael — if he was gone, her all was gone. No other hope. Lose him, and she had lost everything. Here again I see the sinner's sorrow, for he also argues, I have but one soul, and if that is lost, it is a loss indeed. I think there was a third drop of bitterness in her cup, and that was her previously bright expectations. I do not know what exact future Hagar pictured for her boy, but doubtless it was a happy one. He was Abraham's son; he would be Abraham's heir. Likely enough, that often before Isaac was born, she used to pat the head of Ishmael, and say, "Ah, my boy, you are born to a fortune; you will never have to slave for your bread like some poor wretches. Thank God you are not like others." And so the sinner, when convinced of sin, feels the painfulness of his condition all the more because of his previously bright expectations. Ah, he used once to think his soul was so well to do, it could never be in want. Often would he say, "Oh, soul, thank God thou art not as other souls. Thou art a good, moral, well-meaning soul, and thou needst never have a doubt about resting in the bosom of father Abraham above." But, oh, when the light of God streamed into his soul, then he saw how utterly deluded he had been.
2. The second thing that ailed Hagar was, that she was powerless to aid him. Not only was the case bad, but she could not make it better. All human resources had now failed. The bottle is as dry as the desert itself, and she has flung it aside in despairing rage. The dry sand rattles in it unmoistened, and the skin is cracking in the heat. Here again I see the sinner's case exactly photographed; all his hopes frustrated, and all his wonderfully clever expedients proving utterly futile. There was a time when he managed to satisfy or stupify his soul with the expedients of formal worship — outward reformation and life alteration. But there comes a time when he gets to the end of all his old resources, and a blessed time it is, although he does not think so.
3. The third thing that ailed Hagar was that she was stupefied with despair. Frantic effort had given place to despairing quiet; and that was a more fatal sign. "If the boy is to die, let him die, and I cannot help it." So she takes the poor, emaciated lad and casts him down in the sand, saying, "Let him have the little benefit that the shadow of a shrub can give, and I will go and sit with my back towards him, for I cannot see him die." She is so stupefied with her sorrow — so utterly benumbed by it, that she could not even pray. Is this thy case? Has frantic effort with thee given place to the quietude of despair? Art thou now found saying, "There is no hope for me, I am the man with the unclean spirit in me. Better I never can be. Saved I never shall be. It may be said of many a sinner who thinks he is dumb with despair, "God has heard the crying of thy soul." Your lips could not pray, but, unconsciously to yourself, your heart did.
4. Now, we observe here, that sad as was the case of Hagar, yet there were many favourable signs about her, using her as an illustration of the sinner; and the first favourable thing I notice is that all indifference was gone. If there ever had been any it was clean gone to the winds now. Indifference! Why Hagar was ready to die for the salvation of her boy. Art thou like Hagar? Is thine indifference broken through? It is a grand moment when a man finds out he has a soul. And the next hopeful thing I observe in Hagar was — she was completely humbled. What a difference between that broken-hearted woman sitting under the shrub, and the jaunty maid of Sarah. Who would recognize in her the one that used to be so pert and quick with her answers, and who gaily laughed at her mistress? Sinner, is that the case with you? There was a time when you had plenty of excuses to offer about yourself. And then we notice that a third favourable sign was — she had come to the end of her own resources. When Hagar came to the end of the bottle, she was very near finding the well; and he who comes to the end of his own expedients is very near finding out God's grand plan of salvation.
II. HAGAR AILED A GREAT DEAL MORE THAN SHE NEED HAVE DONE. She need not have been so miserable after all. And the first reason why she need not have ailed so much is this: Her son was not appointed to death, he was appointed to life. God had said to Abraham, "I will make of him a great nation." When a broken-hearted sinner says, "My poor soul is appointed unto death," we say to ourselves, "He is mistaken; God has not appointed his soul unto death, but unto life." She ailed more than she need have done, for the very thing that she wanted was already prepared. "What aileth thee, Hagar?" She answers, "Want of water." Why, Hagar, there it is. And oh, blessed truth, dear anxious soul, everything you want is already prepared. Do you want an atonement? The atonement was made eighteen hundred and seventy-two years ago. Do you feel you need cleansing? There is the blood already shed. Do you need forgiveness? There are with our God plenteous pardons. And observe next, the water for which her son was dying was within — what distance? Why, within a bow-shot of her — nearer than that, for I am inclined to think that the well was just between Ishmael and Hagar, and that was the reason she did not see it. Oh, friend, Christ is nearer to thee than the well was to Hagar.
III. I conclude by showing you HOW HAGAR LOST ALL HER AILMENTS.
1. She lost them I think, first, through prayer. "I have heard the cry of the lad." These are the sighings of a soul that God can understand, and He saith to thee, poor, despairing sinner, to-night, though you say you cannot pray, "I have heard the praying of thy soul."
2. And then notice, He opened her eyes to see what was already provided. He did not strengthen Hagar to do anything fresh, He only opened her eyes to see what was already done. And that is just how God deals with souls now. He does not ask the sinner to do anything further, but simply says, "Look this way." At the command the sinner's eyes are turned into the right direction, and the soul says what in all probability Hagar said, "Why, there it is! — there is what I want — there is the well — there is the water." Yes, there it is; and oh, why did not the sinner see it before?
3. And then, lastly, God used her pitcher. The very thing that had been no use came in very handy now. While she trusted to the pitcher it was a worthless thing, but the moment she made it subservient to the well it became valuable. It was useful as a means. Do not trust in the sermon, or you will be like Hagar, trusting to her bottle. Do not rest on the service; you will be as bitterly disappointed as she was when that bottle, all dried and cracked and sandy, lay at her feet. But, oh — may God open thine eyes to see the well, and may He make the words of tonight the pitcher to carry the water to thy dying soul! God grant it for Christ's sake! — Amen.
(A. G. Brown.)
(S. W. W.)
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