Most likely, we have all heard the story of the woman at the well. It has been the subject of many sermons and many songs…yet, have you ever noticed how many other women in the Bible ended up by a well when they were hurting, weary, or when something important was about to happen in their life? For some reason, wells were the pit stops in Scripture for many people! So lets take a moment and look at a different woman who was “weary at the well.”
Our “pit stop” is in Genesis 21:14-20. We may recall that it is in this chapter that Sarah bears Abraham a child in her old age and calls his name Isaac. If we look at verse 8, we see that Abraham made a great feast for Isaac, and during the feast Sarah saw something that greatly disturbed her, “And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. Wherefore she said unto Abraham, ‘Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.’” (Verses 9-10) So, the next morning Abraham gave Hagar a bottle of water, a loaf of bread and sent her away.
“And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.
And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bow shot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice and wept.
And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What ailth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.
And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.”
Now lets think about this for a minute…Hagar was a slave, and considering the fact that she was one of Sarah’s handmaids, she was probably a good one. Abraham wasn’t poor and he was a God fearing man – for a slave, Hagar most likely had a good life serving Sarah….Until the couple became impatient over the fact that they didn’t have a child. Then, life changed dramatically. Hagar was forced to play the role of a concubine and bore Abraham a son. That was fine…until now. Suddenly, Hagar found herself kicked out, with nowhere to go, responsible for caring for her child and not enough supplies to live off of. Now, she didn’t ask for any of that to happen, did she? She was a slave – she did what she was told to, that was her job. If her employer schemed a plan and it didn’t end the way she wanted…well, that wasn’t any of Hagar’s fault, was it? She was a slave, not exactly in charge of her own life. Yet, look at where life had brought her. She lost everything. Life left her in the middle of a desert with nothing but an empty bottle. Hardly fair, eh?
You know what? I think the “desert experience” was good for Hagar. You know why? Because she learned three important things about Jehovah.
1 She learned that when you’re hurting and crying out from the depths of your soul…there’s Someone listening. Verse 18 says that a voice came out of heaven and assured Hagar that their (her and Ishmael’s) cries were heard. I think that there are a lot of people out in the world today who feel like they are sitting in the sand with nothing but their grief. Like Hagar, they see no hope for a better future. Everything is gone. There’s nothing to do but sit and weep. Maybe you feel like that? If you do, let this passage encourage you that God hears your cries. He’s listening…
2 Jehovah called her by name and said, “What aileth thee, Hagar?” Even though she was a slave (not a very important person in the world’s eyes), the Lord not only heard her weeping, but pursued it. What a precious thought – He heard her cry and responded to it. He did it in a personal way too, He called her by name and said “Fear not…” Sometimes it is difficult to understand how such a powerful God would be interested in our little human troubles – but He is. So we see, that Hagar learned that not only did Jehovah hear her, but He was interested in what she had to say. He cared…
3 The Lord spoke to Hagar. Hagar probably thought she was alone out there in the wilderness, but she wasn’t, even in the wasteland, He was there. David said in Psalm 139:7-8 “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from they presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: If I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” Sometimes we get to a point where we feel so disconnected (whether in our relationship with the Lord, other people, or life in general), that we feel like there is no possible way that God is with us or willing to help us. Hagar probably felt like that, don’t you think? Guess we’ll never know, but I know that I’ve felt that way before! Well, what happened to Hagar? God talked to her right in the middle of her problem! Not only did He speak, He offered her a solution to her plight. Let this remind us that no matter how we feel or what’s going on around us, we can know for certain that the Lord knows right where we are and He has a plan…He’s ready to talk!
Now…about that bottle of water! This has to be my favorite part of the story! Abraham gave her a bottle of water when he sent her away – but it didn’t last very long. I believe there is a reason for that. For all of Hagar’s life, she depended on the people she worked for to take care of her. She depended on mankind. As a slave, she never really had a reason to depend on God. She did as she was told and her masters provided food and clothing. Well, now she didn’t have any masters…and she didn’t have any food or clothing. If she were to live, where in the world would she find the basic necessities of life? Since we find her weeping, crying over the death of her baby, I guess it’s safe to say that she didn’t plan on finding any! She couldn’t depend on others and she couldn’t depend on herself – her only option was to depend on God. I see this so clearly contrasted in verses 14, 15, and 19…
14- “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.”
15- “And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.”
19- “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.”
Funny, isn’t it, the water man gave her didn’t last very long – but the water that God provided restored life. Wow. Now that’s a picture! Life is like the wilderness of Beersheba, isn’t it? We all have traveled through it sometime or another. The difference of how you’ll survive?…depends on where you get your water from. When I read those three verses, this is what I see…
The Bottle From Man…
Emptiness, hopelessness, temporary relief, death.
The Well From God…
Abundant provision, hope, lasting satisfaction, life.
Water that man offers will run out, it’s temporary, it is not enough for the whole journey. But the water that God gives is from the well…that means there is a never ending supply! There is no need to fear if your bottle is empty when there is a well around. No matter how long your desert experience is, with the well, you’ll have what you need for you’re WHOLE journey. It will give you hope, like it did this lady. It saved her sons life…
My conclusion is this: Hagar’s life was complicated – so is ours. She had a lot of bad things happen to her – and so do we. She had nowhere to go…until God opened her eyes, then she saw a well of water. Through it all, Hagar learned that Jehovah heard her cries, that He was interested in her problems and had a solution for her situation. We’re a lot like Hagar, and through her example we see that when we feel like we have nowhere to go, we can go to God. If we’re in the wilderness, He’ll send us a well. If we cry out to Him, He’s listening. If we listen, we’ll hear Him call our name and ask us, “What ails thee?” And then, like the Almighty God He is, He’ll have a solution for our problem. For if He can take a slave and her son – who were so poor that they wandered in a wilderness with nowhere to go, nothing to drink and nothing to eat – and made that little boy into a nation…He can take care of you and me too. So if you’re weary, don’t depend on the bottle…depend on the well!
(I’m sorry I couldn’t find a video for this song! But you can find it on the Mark Trammell Trio’s 2007 release, Once Upon A Cross – track 8!)