Bible Society of South Africa

The Question is: What is the matter, Hagar? – 6 July 2022

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

17God heard the boy crying, and from heaven the angel of God spoke to Hagar, “What are you troubled about, Hagar? Don't be afraid. God has heard the boy crying.

Genesis 21:17GNBOpen in Bible reader

When hardship strikes, through circumstance or our own making, we may feel desperate, lonely and rejected and think that there’s no way out of our pain. Hagar did; she thought death was inevitable for her and her son, but, when she was at her lowest point help came.

Today’s verse speaks to anyone who doubts that God sees and knows our pain, or that He cares for all people. This scene in the desert shows God calling from heaven to a homeless Egyptian maidservant in response to her son’s crying. Dehydration and fear of dying had gripped him, and Hagar had moved away because she couldn’t bear to watch him die. Does God care?

“God has heard the boy crying …‘What’s the matter, Hagar? Don’t be afraid.’”

God calls Hagar by name; He knows her and has helped her before. He cares about what’s happened to her in her complex situation and reassures her that Ishmael won’t die. “Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” (Genesis 21:18) Then He “opens her eyes” and shows her a well of water. (Genesis 21:19)

Does God care?

Ishmael had only been born because of Abraham and Sarah ‘helping’ God fulfil his promise to Abram that, through his offspring, He would make him, “a father of many nations … very fruitful … kings [would] come from [him]…” (Genesis 17:6-7) When Sarah still didn’t conceive, she and Abraham used Sarah’s maidservant to have a child, a common practice at that time, but often very difficult for all concerned.

In many family problems it’s seldom that only one person is to blame. The complexity of the issues and personalities involved often complicate the situation, implicating everyone and causing jealousy, misunderstanding and disagreements, as happened here. Hagar conceived, but she then scorned the barren Sarah, who, infuriated, blamed Abraham for the problem; he merely vindicated himself and refused to be implicated!

At that time Hagar ran away into the desert because Sarah ill-treated her as a result of her behaviour, but this time she was banished by Abraham, on Sarah’s instruction, after Ishmael had mocked Isaac during a special celebration in his honour. Clearly Sarah could tolerate the situation no longer. Hagar and Ishmael would have died in the desert had it not been for God; some food and a skin of water was little help and even less comfort.

God is the only One who can save us in any situation – He can even save us from ourselves. He cares about us, whoever we are, regardless of what we have done. Wherever we are, He hears our cry and is mighty to save. Trust in the only true Hero.

Where are you today?

Prayer: “Listen, LORD, to my prayer; hear my cries for help. I call to you in times of trouble, because you answer my prayers. You are mighty and do wonderful things; you alone are God. Teach me, LORD, what you want me to do and I will obey you faithfully; … I will praise you with all my heart, O LORD my God; … How great is your constant love for me!” Psalm 86:6-13, GNT) Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.18.6
Find us on