Genesis 21 tells the story of Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant. Through no fault of her own, she has been involved in Sarah and Abraham’s crazy scheme to “help” God out by taking pregnancy matters into their own hands. Now, some 14 years later, Hagar and Ishmael (her son by Abraham) have been cast out of their home. Sarah has had a son of her own in the intervening years and she does not want Ishmael around as a rival to Isaac. And so Hagar and Ishmael have been turned out into the desert with a loaf of bread, a bottle of water and the clothes on their backs.
This, by any definition, would be considered dire straits. Having no hope of rescue, Hagar and Ishmael have sat down in grief to await their deaths.
I wonder if you’ve ever felt that way. Abandoned. Alone. Without options. Without resources. Rich in anguish, but poor in every other way. Life lately has been quite difficult and strange. COVID-19, loss of jobs, illness, injury, death of loved ones, financial difficulties, relational stress, more questions than answers. And in the face of those circumstances, visitors have come calling. Their names are Despair, Discouragement, Confusion, Anger, and Fear. Perhaps you’ve met them.
There is another visitor, though. His name is Holy Spirit, and He tells a different story. It’s the same story we find in Genesis 21: 17
“And God heard the voice of the youth, and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven and said to her, ‘What troubles you, Hagar?”
Let me interrupt the story long enough to say this. Really? I mean, really!!!! On the surface, this looks like a very unobservant angel. Does he really have to ask Hagar what troubles her? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? She’s homeless, destitute, betrayed, abandoned, and anticipating not just her own death, but the death of her son. And this makes the angel’s next sentence all the more astonishing. “Fear not.”
I don’t know about you, but this seems the perfect time to be afraid. If not now, when?
But the angel isn’t finished with the sentence. “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the youth where he is.” Ah. This is a “but God” moment.