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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 21

Sermon Bible CommentarySermon Bible Commentary

Verses 1-34

Genesis 21:0

In the story of Hagar and Ishmael, we notice:

I. The outcast. As Abraham is the father of all the faithful, so the Arab Ishmael is the father of all our outcasts. He was an impudent boy, who mocked his betters, and became "a wild ass of a man," whose hand was against every man. Do not despise the poor outcast children of our cities. Respect them for their sorrows; take them into your pity; let them find a home in your heart. For are we not all outcasts, the children of Adam the outcast? Are we not the followers of Him who makes the outcasts of earth the inmates of heaven?

II. The God of the outcast. The highest kindness is to be personally interested in us and to meet our wants. And God showed such kindness to Ishmael. Notice, it was the voice of the lad, not of the mother, that God heard. God pities most those who most need pity; and so should you. When Ishmael is before you, try to be godlike.

III. The angel of the outcast. It is part of angels' work to cheer and save the outcast. A church near Dijon contains a monument with a group of the Bible prophets and kings, each holding a scroll of mourning from his writings. But above is a circle of angels who look far sadder than the prophets whose words they read. They see more in the sorrows than the men below them see. The angels see the whole of the sins and sorrows of the young, and so rejoice more than we can do over the work of God among them. The orphans of society are cast upon the fatherhood of God, and He wishes them to be the children of the Church and the children of our adoption.

IV. The allegory of the outcast. Look at that lad in the desert perishing of thirst and a fountain at his side. Are you not a spiritual Ishmael to-day, a wanderer upon life's highway, perishing of thirst at the side of the fountains of living water? Earth is a sandy desert, which holds nothing that can slake your soul's thirst. But Jesus Christ has opened the fountain of life, and now it is at your very side.

J. Wells, Bible Children, p. 19.

References: Genesis 21:0 F. W. Robertson, Notes on Genesis, p. 50; R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 346; M. Dods, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Genesis 21:6 . Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 167. 21:0-12. R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i., p. 356. Genesis 21:14 . Parker, vol. i., p. 231.Genesis 21:20 . Homiletic Magazine, vol. xiii, p. 25.

Verses 15-19

Genesis 21:15-19

In this hidden well, which Ishmael's prayer uncovered, lies many a true lesson, if only we have the right sort of pitcher to dip and draw.

I. How came the well to be there, just where and when it was wanted? The Arab shepherds who dug it never meant it for wandering travellers, but for their own flocks. God guided the steps of Hagar to it. Life is full of hidden wells stored-up blessings, ready at the right moment to supply the answer to prayer. God foresees our prayers as well as our necessities.

II. Our encouragement to pray is not our own goodness, but God's. We plead not the name of Abraham, or of any earthly parent or friend, but the name of Jesus, God's own dear Son.

III. Learn from this story not to think little things of no importance, and not to be afraid to pray to God about little things as well as great. There are two reasons which prove that God does not disdain to attend to little things: (1) He has made many more little things than great, and has made the greatest things to depend on the least; (2) God is so great, that the difference between what we call great and little is to Him as nothing; and He is so wise, that nothing not a thought or atom is small enough to escape His eye.

IV. Prayer itself is a hidden well; a secret source of strength and joy and wisdom, not only in times of trouble, but always. Do not wait for trouble to drive you to prayer, but say, like the Psalmist, "O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee."

E. R. Conder, Children's Sermons, "Drops and Rocks," p. 25.

Reference: Genesis 21:16 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 974.

Verse 17

Genesis 21:17

A minister once said to a boy, "Can you pray? How did you pray?" He said, "Sir, I begged." He could not have used a better word: praying is begging of God.

Prayer is very much like a bow. The arrow is a promise; the string is faith. You use your faith; with your faith you send a promise up to the skies. David said, "I will make my prayer and look up, " look up and see where the arrow comes down again.

There are a great many things to think of in prayer. Let me tell you of one or two.

(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 spoilt 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 be always going up. These little darts or ejaculations can be sent up anywhere, at any time.

J. VAUGHAN, Sermons to Children, 5th series, p. 105.

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.

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.

S. Wilberforce, Sermons, p. 115.

Homeless, helpless: is there any sight more pitiable than this a child in the wilderness? Think of the hundreds about us, pinched with hunger, perishing in sore need; the young life passing away neglected, to appear before the throne of God, there by its presence to plead against us, or else rising up in this wilderness to avenge our disregard, "a wild man, whose hand shall be against every man, and every man's hand against him."

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, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 303

References: Genesis 21:17 . Bishop Walsham How, Plain Words to Children, p. 90. Genesis 21:19 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii., No. 681; vol. xix., No. 1123; vol. xxv., No. 1461.Genesis 21:22 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 416. Genesis 21:22-33 . R. S. Candlish, Book of Genesis, vol. i.,

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Genesis 21". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/genesis-21.html.
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