Now the Angel of the LORD found Hagar by a spring of water in the desert--the spring along the road to Shur.
1. God provides them for the rest and refreshment of pilgrims.
2. God visits them to meet with wear), and afflicted pilgrims.
3. God dispenses from them life and hope to all repenting and believing pilgrims. Compare with the angel of Jehovah and Hagar at the fountain of Shur, Christ and the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well (John 4:6). - W.
1. Christ was the angel of Jehovah sent to the Church in old times. As here (Isaiah 63; Matthew 3:2).
Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? I.
PROVIDENCE FINDS THE OUTCAST AND MISERABLE.
1. There are occasions in human life when the providence of God specially manifests itself.
2. Providence finds us for a purpose of mercy.
3. Providence is minute in its care and knowledge.
II. PROVIDENCE TEACHES THE OUTCAST AND MISERABLE.
1. Lessons of reproof.
2. Lessons of instruction and guidance.
III. PROVIDENCE INSPIRES HOPE IN THE OUTCAST AND MISERABLE.
1. The lowest and most despised have some purpose of Providence to serve.
2. All who have consciously felt the action of a Divine Providence have some memorial of God's goodness.
In this very gracious appearance of the angel to Hagar, it is possible, I think, to detect a two-fold design. Through her connection with Abram, this handmaid had been providentially elevated into a position which carried on the one hand duties, and on the other honour.
1. In the first place, it was her present duty to return and place herself again under the heavy hand of Sarai, in order that Abram's son might be born and nurtured in Abram's home. This, therefore, was the hard command, which in the first instance the angel was commissioned to deliver. God's revelations commonly attach themselves to the working of men's own minds. It is impossible not to suspect that, as she sat to rest after her hasty flight, Hagar's conscience was already whispering words like these before the angel appeared: "Return to thy mistress and submit thyself!" But if any such feeling worked dimly in her own mind, it would certainly have failed to send her back, had it not been sharpened by this imperative command from heaven. On the other side, God graciously encouraged Hagar to such an unwelcome duty, by revealing the honours which her relationship to Abram would bring along with it. When God blesses any man, that blessing proves itself like the consecrating oil on the Jewish high priest: it flows from the head down to the skirts of the garment. In recompense for a mistress's cruelty, Hagar was to become the ancestress of a mighty race, which for countless generations has ever since dwelt in the presence of all its brethren.
HAGAR'S DISTRESS. Affliction and solitude often give persons time to think, and arouse a desire to pray. Misery is a voiceless prayer, which God understands.
II. GOD'S MESSENGER. An appearance of the Lord at Hagar's time of need and distress.
III. GOD'S MESSAGE.
1. A rebuke.
2. A command.
3. A promise.CONCLUSION: We see then in this narrative a valuable lesson as to God's Providence, and the way in which God is personally interested in the welfare and destinies of men. Moreover, the narrative suggests a kind of parable of God's grace. We may see in it the principles of God's dealing with sinful and sorrowing men.
1. He sees their misery and sin.
2. He visits them in their distress.
3. He hears their prayers.
2. God finds sinners usually when they lose themselves.
3. God's finding of them is usually when souls are brought to great extremity.
4. God sometimes meets sinners when they are flying to his enemies (ver. 7).
5. God will have order and relations owned when sinners' servants may reject them. Sarai's maid.
6. God expostulates in displeasure with sinners for being where they should not be, leaving the place of calling and flying to other places. Here, servants, learn your duties.
7. Souls, when God expostulates with them, are brought to acknowledge their errors and sins (ver. 8).
8. God counsels sinners in His way when He bath convinced them. Return.
9. God will have domestic order maintained and servants to submit to governors, and suffer sorrow, rather than sin, and leave their places (ver. 9; 1 Peter 3:18).
()We have here a dramatic incident in the early Hebrew history. An Egyptian handmaid belonging to Sarai, the wife of Abram, was found by the angel of the Lord near a fountain of water in the wilderness. The angel's greeting is a recognition; he names her and defines her in three words: "Hagar, Sarai's maid!" he says, and the girl hears the searching voice and looks up to see a face of commanding majesty and sweetness. "Whence camest thou?" the angel demands. Was not the question superfluous? Do not the words already addressed to her show that the angel needed no information? If he knew her name and knew that she was Sarai's maid, he knew whence she had come. But questions are often wisely asked, less for the benefit of the questioner than of the questioned. For many a man, drifting on in a course of evil conduct that he has never stopped to define, it would be a good thing if someone, by a pointed question, could, get him to say out, in plain words, just what he is doing. If he would only honestly state it to himself, he would shrink from it with horror. Always when one is going in questionable ways it is well to pause and put the thing he is doing into a clear proposition. I am engaged in some business transaction and a good angel stands by my path and asks me, "What are you doing?" If the operation, though nominally legitimate, is really fraudulent, and if I, though sometimes a little too eager for profits, am not an ingrained rascal, it may be good for me to have the question put to me in just that way. For, on reflection, I shall be forced to answer: "I am endeavouring to get the money of my neighbour without giving him a fair equivalent." And, having been brought to put the matter into such plain words, I shall be forced, if I am not a rascal, to withdraw from the operation. Not only for clearing away the haze that often obscures an unworthy purpose, but also for removing the fog in which good purposes are sometimes involved, a pointed question may serve us. There are those whose intention to do right, to live the highest life, is rather nebulous. There are men who really mean to be the servants of Christ, but they have never said so, even to themselves. Their intention lies there, cloudy, crepuscular, in their mental horizon, but it is there. It influences their lives, not seldom; it ought to have far more power over them than it has, and would have, if it could only get from themselves a frank and clear statement. If some question could be put that would lead them to say right out in words what they mean to be — to objectify their purpose in language, so that they could look at it and understand it — the process would be most salutary. There is a deceitfulness of sin that sometimes hides from a man his own deepest and purest purposes; and if these could in some way be clearly discovered to himself, it would be a great service to him. Whether a man is good or bad at heart it is well for him to know the truth about himself; and any question, whether it come from the lips of angel or of mortal, that helps him to a clear self-revelation, is no doubt divinely spoken. Hagar answered the angel's question, "Whence camest thou?" honestly. "I flee from the face of my mistress, Sarai," she said. The girl was running away from home. It was a home by no means perfect, according to our standards, from which she was bent on escaping. But this home from which she had gone forth, in spite of all the enormities wrought into its structure, was about the best dwelling place on the earth in that day. She was turning her back on a better society, a purer life, a larger opportunity than she could find anywhere else in the world. This was the fact to which the angel's question, "Whence earnest thou?" at once recalled her. But this was not all. There was another question. "Whither wilt thou go?" the voice demanded, Hagar was going down to Egypt. And what was there in Egypt that could give her peace? It was a land of darkness and moral degradation; a land where the soul of man was held in hopeless subjection to the things of sense. This, then, is the simple fact that the angel's questions bring into the light of the girl's consciousness. Hagar was running away from the household of Abram, friend of God, and she was going down to Egypt. She was leaving a very light place, for a very dark one. Behind her were perplexities and discomforts, but great hopes also, and inspiring associations; before her was no relief for her trouble and no hope for her future. It was more than doubtful whether she would ever reach Egypt; she was far more likely to wander in the wilderness and perish by the way; but the goal, if she reached it, showed no prize worth striving for. It furnishes us a pertinent analogy. For there are other wanderers, in other wildernesses, to whom some good angel might well put the questions that Hagar heard by the fountain Lahai-roi, "Whence camest thou, and whither wilt thou go?" I suppose that I may be speaking to some whose feet are pressing the shifting sands of the wide wilderness of doubt. Their religious beliefs are in an unsettled and chaotic condition. They are only certain of one thing, and that is that they are not certain of anything. They are agnostics. Now there are subjects on which most of us can well afford to be agnostics. An agnostic is one who does not know. Well, there are quite a number of things that I do not know, and it seems to me the part of wisdom to say so. There are not a few subjects concerning which the Lord of light has seen fit to leave us in darkness. But while there are subjects of this nature, about which we do well to confess our ignorance, there are other subjects of which faith ought to give us a strong assurance. Agnosticism does well for certain outlying districts of our thought, but not for the great central tracts of religious belief and feeling. The navigator may acknowledge without shame that he does not know the boundaries or the channels of those Polar seas where man has never sailed; but you would not take passage with a captain who declared that he knew nothing of the way out of the harbour where his vessel lay, and nothing of the way into the port to which you wanted to go, and did not even know whether there were any such port. Just so in the religious life. All wise men know that there is much that they do not know; it is the beginning of wisdom to discern the limitations of knowledge; but the theory that all is uncertainty in the religious realm; that there is no sure word of promise, no steadfast anchor of the soul, no charted channels, no headlands of hope, no knowledge of a port beyond seas, is a bewildering, benumbing, deadening theory; out of it comes nothing but apathy and despair. This land of doubt is a wilderness, treeless, verdureless, shelterless, a dry and thirsty land where no water is. This is a truth — if it is a truth — that admits of no argument. It is a fact of experience; if none of you know that it is true, then it is true for none of you; if any of you do know it, you do not need to have it proved; the simple statement of it is enough. To all such wanderers, I bring the question of the angel to Hagar in the wilderness, "Whence camest thou?" You were not always in this wilderness; whence did you come? Do you not look back to a home from which your thought has wandered, a house of faith in which you once abode in confidence and peace? I am speaking now in parables, remember; it is not of the literal home where your father and mother dwelt of which I am speaking, but rather of that edifice of sacred thoughts and firm persuasions and earnest purposes and joyful hopes in which your soul was sheltered and comforted in the days of your childhood. Was there not for you, in those earlier days, a spiritual tabernacle of this sort, a house not made with hands, in which you found protection and peace? Was there not, I ask you, in the Christian faith of that past time, not only a comfort and a solace, but an inspiration, an invigoration, a bracing energy that you do not find in the dim and dismal negations of the present time? O wanderer, astray in the bleak wilderness of doubt, whence camest thou? But this is not the only question. "Whither wilt thou go?" Tarry here you cannot: here is no continuing city. Agnosticism is not the end, barren and profitless as it is. The road that you are travelling leads down to Egypt, — to "a land of darkness as darkness itself, and where the light is as darkness." You have turned away from the old faith of Christian Theism, and there is nowhere for you to go but to Pantheism or to Atheism. And these are only different names for the same benighted land. There is no light in either of them. They will not satisfy your heart. They will not satisfy your imagination. They will not satisfy your reason. And if the mental darkness into which they conduct us is so dense, what shall we say of the moral darkness in which they envelop us; of the blotting from our sky of every star of hope; of the quenching of that torch of Bible truth by which our feet are guided through this land of shadows; of the extinguishment of our faith in the infinite love of God, which is the inspiration of all our holiest endeavours? No, my friend, I tell you truly, you who have lost your hold on the great spiritual verities and are wandering in the wilderness of spiritual doubt, you cannot tarry where you are; you must go further; and every step you go in the path that you are now travelling takes you nearer to a region where there is no ray of light or hope, a land of darkness and of the shadow of death. Can you not see, is it not clear, that you would better turn your face toward the spiritual home from which you have been wandering? Perhaps the old spiritual house in which your youth was nurtured may need enlargement in its intellectual part. Enlarge it, then l There is room on its strong foundations to build a house of faith large enough for the amplest intelligence. If there are gloomy corners in it into which the light ought to be let, let in the light! If there are chinks through which the bitter winds of a fatalistic dogmatism blow, stop them! If there are poisonous vines that have fastened on its walls, strip them off! It is the faith that we cherish, and not its flaws, nor its parasites. It is a precious faith, a glorious hope, a mighty inspiration that the old Bible offers still to those who will take it in its simplicity and rest in its strong assurances.
()1. The nature of angels is spiritual (Hebrews 1:14). This characteristic ranges over the whole chain of spiritual being from man up to God Himself. Being spiritual, they are not only moral, but intelligent. They also excel in strength (Psalm 103:20). The holy angels have the full range of action for which their qualities are adapted. They do not grow old or die. They are not a race, and have not a body in the ordinary sense of the term.
2. Their office is expressed by their name. In common with other intelligent creatures, they take part in the worship of God (Revelation 7:11). But their special office is to execute the commands of God in the natural world (Psalm 103:20), and especially to minister to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14; Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:10; Luke 16:22).
3. The angel of Jehovah. This phrase is specially employed to denote the Lord Himself in that form in which He condescends to make Himself manifest to man. For the Lord God says of this angel, "Beware of Him, and obey His voice; provoke Him not, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in His inmost" (Exodus 23:21), that is, My nature is in His essence. Accordingly He who is called the angel of the Lord in one place is otherwise denominated the Lord or God in the immediate context (Genesis 16:7, 13; Genesis 22:11, 12; Genesis 31:11, 13; Genesis 48:15, 16; Exodus 3:2-15; Exodus 23:20-23 with Exodus 33:14,15). It is remarkable at the same time that the Lord is spoken of in these cases as a distinct person from the angel of the Lord, who is also called the Lord. The phraseology intimates to us a certain inherent plurality within the essence of the one only God, of which we have had previous indications (Genesis 1:1, 26; Genesis 3:22). The phrase, "angel of the Lord," however, indicates a more distant manifestation to man than the term Lord itself. It brings the medium of communication into greater prominence. It seems to denote some person of the Godhead in angelic form.
()1. In the story of Hagar and her slave-wifehood we have an emblem of the Mosaic Dispensation, which God interposed parenthetically during the long waiting of His Church for the coming of Christ (Romans 5:20; Galatians 3:19).
2. "Hagar is a symbol of the expedients we make use of to win for ourselves what God seems unwilling to bestow — expedients not always glaringly sinful, but, though customary, yet not the best possible. And this episode warns us that from a Hagar can at best spring an Ishmael" (Dods).
3. This narrative solemnly calls us to guard against two apparently opposite sins which Abram and Sarai committed in the matter of Hagar, and which often meet still as temptations to the believer — the sin of distrust, and that of presumption.
4. In the appearance of the Angel of Jehovah to Hagar we have a beautiful example of God's tenderness towards the erring, and of His gracious readiness to forgive.
5. From Hagar's subsequent submission to her mistress we learn that while it is not in nature to rejoice in trial and persecution on their own account, yet so soon as we become persuaded that it is the Lord's will that we drink of this cup, and that there will be an abundant recompense hereafter, it does become possible for us to "glory in tribulations also."
6. Let us write upon our hearts this name of the Lord: "Thou God seest me." To do this is the sum of all religion, the centre of all security, and the source of all happiness. The God who sees us, and who permits us to look upon Himself, is the Angel of the Covenant, our Divine and Human Redeemer. May our eyes meet His every day!
()In calling Hagar "Sarai's maid," he seems tacitly to disallow of the marriage, and to lead her mind back to that humble character which she had formerly sustained. The questions put to her were close, but tender, and such as were fitly addressed to a person fleeing from trouble. The first might be answered, and was answered: "I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai." But with respect to the last, she is silent. We know our present grievances, and so can tell "whence we came," much better than our future lot, or "whither we are going." In many cases, if the truth were spoken, the answer would be, from bad to worse. At present, this poor young woman seems to have been actuated by mere natural principles, those of fleeing from misery. In all her trouble, there appears nothing like true religion, or committing her way to the Lord: yet she is sought out of Him whom she sought not.
()The angel did not say "fight it out and let the strong one win." He advised submission, and this is the first instance in which such advice is given in the Scriptures. It is a great Christian law we know, but it is early to find it in Genesis! "Submit yourselves one to another for the Lord's sake," is a lesson which reads well in the church; but Hagar heard it not under a Gothic roof, half-chanted by surpliced priest, but" by a fountain of water in the wilderness, in the way of Shur," — she the only hearer, the angel the priest of God! A good church, too, in which to learn the lesson of submission. I see Hagar taking a draught of the fountain, and trudging home again on weary feet; going back to work among the sharp thorns, and to have words keen as stings thrown at her all the day long. A sorry fate, you say, to be pointed out by an angel! But wait. You do not know all. Who could bear all the ills of any one human life without having some help, some light, some hope? A wonderful word was spoken to the woman — "I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude." As if he had said — "If thou didst know thy destiny, thou wouldst think little of Sarai's mocking; it is but a momentary pain; bear it with the heroism of silent patience." And, truly, this same angel speaks to us all. He says, "If you will walk in the way of the Lord you shall have blessing after sorrow, as the flowers bloom after the rain; persecution you cannot escape, nor slander, nor cruel words; but your light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. One hour in heaven will banish every sad thought of earth; submit, be patient, and return not evil for evil." Oh, listen to the angel; it is God's angel: it is God Himself.
()The following extract from Mr. Burleigh's graphic account of the march of the British columns from Korti to Metammeh and the Nile, gives a picture of the deprivation of water in the desert, which plainly shows what our soldiers have had to endure in this particular. "We started about three a.m., and succeeded in reaching Abu Halfa Wells at noon. We had turned into a ravine in the Galif range to get to the springs. Our first sight of them was dreadfully disappointing. At the foot of a low ledge of rock near a clustering of dying down palms in a black basin of mud lay a little pool of pea-green water, covered with scum. The pool was not more than 20 feet long and 10 feet wide, and a sounding taken with a pole showed it was not over 10 inches deep. The murmur of satisfaction with which we were prepared to greet the blessed water died away in our throats, and we all sadly gathered around the soupy substance that was to serve horse and man for drinking purposes. Inwardly many of us vowed never again, if we lived, to grumble again at the quality of the London supply. Our guide excitedly shouted there was water enough for all, and that it was of excellent quality. Slipping down from his camel he made for a hole three or four feet deep, in which lay, limpid and cool, ten or twenty gallons of good-looking water. A stern sense of duty had impelled Colonel Barrow to place guards over the pool and this well hole, so that the apparently scant supply might be equally distributed, and our guide was driven off. He went, however, but a few feet away, and began digging a hole in the sandy gravel with his hands, and soon unearthed a flow of muddy water. Then it was our faces all brightened, for surely the little watercourse was full of hidden drink. Pannikins, canteens, water bottles, and horse buckets were soon at work, and the men took their turn at dipping and drinking the greenish liquid. The taste was not unpleasant, in spite of its old turtle-soupish appearance and consistency. Before all, it was water, and we drank large draughts until our thirst was quenched. The horses received two bucketfuls each, which they quaffed even more greedily than ourselves. Had we given ten to each animal I believe they would have swallowed every drop and whinnied for more. The clear water in the well was left untouched for the sick, and we found that as we drew from the pool, and reduced its depth a few inches, that quite pellucid springs began to flow in, refilling it almost as rapidly as we used it. The steady drain and the constant dipping into our own tank disturbed the mud, so that in a short time the green tinge merged into brown, and ultimately into black, such as you see in the London gutters after heavy rain. With an unquestioning faith in its virtues we continued to drink the thickened water, inwardly blessing the Arabs for not having poisoned the wells by throwing dead cattle into the pool. That afternoon and night the whole force had abundance of beverage, and coffee and tea flowed once more around our bivouac fires.""I have read," says an old divine, "of a company of poor Christians who were banished into some remote part, and one standing by, seeing them pass along, said that it was a very sad condition those poor people were in, to be thus hurried from the society of men, and made companions with the beasts of the field. 'True,' said another, 'it were a sad condition indeed if they were carried to a place where they should not find their God; but let them be of good cheer, God goes along with them, and will exhibit the comforts of His presence whithersoever they go. God's presence with His people is a spring that never fails.'"A little boy, the only child of a poor woman, one day fell into the fire by accident, during his mother's absence from the cottage, and was so badly burned that he died after a few hours' suffering. The clergyman of the parish did not hear of the accident until the child was dead. He went, however, to try and console and comfort the mother. To his great surprise he found her very calm and patient and resigned. After a little conversation she told him how that God had sent her wonderful comfort. She had been weeping bitterly as she knelt beside her child's cot, when suddenly the boy exclaimed, "Mother, don't cry; don't you see the beautiful man who is standing there and waiting for me?" She told the clergyman that she thought it must have been the Lord Jesus. The angels in heaven care for, wait upon, and minister unto Christ's people below.A Sunday school teacher with the movable alphabet put together the sentence, "The Lord is good to all," and required his class to repeat it. One little fellow refused. The teacher asked his reason. He said because it was not true. "God is not good to father nor to me. He has taken my little brother away, and father is home crying about it." The teacher explained that God in love had taken the little brother to a better home, and would take him and his father to join him if they loved the Saviour. The child said, "Oh, I'll go and tell father," and at once ran to him with his lesson and comfort. It consoled and benefited both father and child.
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