Under a pitilessly hot sun, a slave woman called Hagar and her son Ishmael slowly walked away from the life they had known into the harsh reality of a wilderness. With each step, a son was being ripped further from his father who loved him. For Hagar, each moment led her deeper into unanswered questions.
As they walk, they drink the cool water from the water skin Abraham had provided. Before long, the skin is feeling much lighter. The water is low. That horrible moment comes when there is merely a mouthful left. Perhaps along with me you also wonder who was refreshed by that last drop under the hot sun.
Despair turns to desperation. Hagar can not bear the thought of her dehydrated son growing weaker and then dying. So she places her son beneath a bush. Then she walks off about a bow shot, seeking her own refuge from the elements. As far as Hagar knows, it is now just a matter of time. A mother’s worse fears are being lived out before her eyes.
Is Hagar close enough to hear her son’s voice? Has his young voice begun to grow weak? We do not know for sure. What we do know is that God heard the boy crying.
It is after the water bottle is empty, after her heart is broken and she has been sobbing that God responded with cool refreshment for her soul. God opened Hagar’s eyes to see a source of water. God strengthened her spirit by reaffirming the promise that her son would grow to have many descendants.
Why did God wait until the water bottle was empty? Did Hagar need to hit bottom before she would look up to God? I do not know. What I do know is that even when Hagar was absolutely convinced there was no hope, even when she might have felt all alone, God was with her. God provided for her to fulfill his promise. God was faithful.
While I might bristle at the thought of being allowed to hit bottom, it is wonderful to know that God is there, too. We may not always understand what God is doing. But there is comfort knowing that even in what appears to be hopeless situations of despair, God can rescue us.
“Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (2 Corinthians 1:9-10 NIV).
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