Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.
Hagar's experience of being sent into the desert with her young son is found in Genesis 21:14-21 even though Hagar's complete story is found earlier in the book of Genesis. Some might think Hagar received a raw deed, but she was part of God's bigger plan.
The story of Hagar is one that should provide help for the helpless and hope for the hopeless.
If you know anything about deserts, you know that they are hot, dry, dusty, with plenty of sand, and without any water in them at all. It is impossible in the natural for water to be in a desert. However, in the story about Hagar and her young son, God showed her not a puddle of water or a little hole with water in it or a little stream. It was a well of water. It was more than enough for Hagar and Ishmael.
So, how did the well get there? That is what we are going to explore. But first, let get some background information about Hagar and how she ended up in the desert with her son.
Hagar was the handmaiden of Sarah. She was given to Abraham and Sarah as a gift from Pharaoh when they left Egypt. At first, the two women got along well. In the meantime, Sarah had become impatient waiting for the son God had promised her and Abraham on two separate occasions. That was almost 25 years ago. So, Sarah asked her husband to sleep with her handmaid so Hagar could give them a child.
After Hagar got pregnant she and Sarah didn’t get along. Sarah treated her handmaiden so badly that pregnant Hagar left and went into the desert. The angel of the Lord spoke to her and told her to return to her mistress and submit to her authority.
That was the last thing Hagar wanted to hear. She didn’t want to go back into a hostile environment where she was mistreated. Being pregnant and hearing what the Lord wanted her to do, Hagar returned to the home of Abraham and Sarah and submitted to her mistress.
Ishmael and Isaac
Hagar had a son for Abraham when he was 86 years old. He named him Ishmael. Hagar and Sarah got along a little better. Then Sarah got pregnant just as God had promised her and Abraham 25 years earlier.
That means Hagar’s and Sarah’s sons grew up together. The boys began to do what little boys do. They played together, but at times the older boy teased the younger one. Sarah didn’t like the way Ishmael was treating Isaac. So, she asked Abraham to send Hagar and Ishmael away.
Possible Reasons the Well Was in the Desert
Everybody knows under usual circumstances wells aren't seen in the desert. That's an unlikely place for water of any amount to be. It wasn't a small watering hole or a ditch. It was a well that appeared at the exact time that Hagar and her son needed it.
Therefore, it is safe to say that God is an "on-time God" as well as saying that God is El-Shaddai which means "God is more than enough."
Some still question how a well could miraculously appear in the desert for the single woman with her child. A close look at the scripture cause some readers to suggest that the well was there the entire time, but Hagar did not see it until God opened her eyes, according to Genesis 21:19.
Others like to think God did a favor for Hagar and put it there just for her when she really needed it. After all, Hagar was obedient. Remember when she left on her own, and the angel of the Lord told her to return and be under Sarah’s authority, she did return. Even though she did not want to do it, she was obedient to God. Then she was faithful under Sarah’s authority. Therefore, God could have rewarded her with the well because of her obedience and her faithfulness.
Perhaps the well was there the whole time, but Hagar didn’t see it because she was caught up in her own distress. Perhaps she was too sad to look around and see what was right in front of her. Perhaps she was too distracted with the cares of the world. Perhaps God waited until she reached her point of need before He opened her eyes to see the well when it meant the most. Remember she had a bottle of water that Abraham had given her even though It was small in comparison to what God gave her.
So, how did the well get in the desert, an impossible place for it? God can do the impossible and we serve a God who specializes in impossibilities. What we see as impossible, God sees as possible. What we see as improbable, God sees as probable. Is anything too hard for God? Nothing is too hard for God!
We learn from the scriptures that Abraham gave Hagar a bottle of water and a piece of bread and sent her and their child into the hot desert to fend for themselves. Surprisingly, God sanctioned what Abraham had done.
Even though it looked bad at that point, God knew what was ahead for Hagar. He had a bigger and better plan for her and her son.
Hagar thought her son was going to die when the water ran out. Remember Abraham had given her only one skin of water for the two of them. It was not until the water was used up that God intervened. When the water ran out, God heard the cries of the Hagar. Then He heard the cries of her son. God opened Hagar's eyes and she saw a well. She was able to give Ishmael water to save his life. Notice that God did not open her eyes until the water was gone. That shows we should use the provisions and be good stewards over what we already have.
Also, it shows us that what man can give us is puny in comparison to what God can and will give us if we are obedient to Him. Man will give us something as small as a bottle of water. On the other hand, God can give us a well even in the desert.
The story of Hagar is one of hope for women who have been mistreated. It proves that survival is possible even under the hardest conditions. Hagar is an example for all single mothers and all women who are struggling and suffering.
Hagar wasn’t the only one whose eyes were opened at the appropriate time. According to Luke 24:13-34, after Jesus had been crucified on Calvary’s cross, two disciples were walking on the Emmaus Road. They were sad and downtrodden.
A stranger came up and walked alongside them. With their heads bowed down, they told him the whole story of what had just happened. When they reached their home, they invited the stranger in to eat with them. The stranger took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized that it was Jesus what had walked with them, and talked with them and listened to their dismay.
Lessons From Hagar's Experience
So, what are we to learn from Hagar’s experience? What does Hagar’s story have to do with us today? What lessons are there for us?
- When she took it upon herself to go into the desert at a time when she was pregnant, God sent Hagar back. Going back demonstrated her obedience to God. Be obedient to God even when you don’t understand His plan.
- The angel of the Lord told her to submit to her mistress which she did. That shows she was submissive and under authority. Be under authority to those over you.
- Hagar continued to do what she was supposed to do when she worked for Sarah. That shows she was faithful in spite of her frustration. Be faithful at all cost.
- When Abraham sent her and her son into the desert with only a piece of bread and a bottle of water, Hagar was grateful for it. That shows that even though it was such a small ration, she used the resources she had. Notice it wasn’t until she had used them up that God supplied more. Use what you have first before expecting God to supply more.
- This is the main point I want you to see from Hagar’s experience. God will open your eyes to see what you need to see at the exact moment you need it. Hagar participated in her own blessings by opening her eyes and seeing the well. God put it there, but she had to open her eyes to see it. Then she had to go over to it, fill the bottle with water and give her son water to drink. God will do something for us, but we must also do something for ourselves. We must participate in our own blessings.
Often we forget that Jesus is Emmanuel, that means God is with us. When we are in trouble, we forget that God is showing us our well in the desert.
Just as God opened Hagar's eyes and she saw a well in the desert, He will do the same for you. He will show you your "well in the desert!"