A sermon on Genesis 16 v.1 -15 and 21 v. 8 – 20, first published in the Baptist Times on January 7th 2010

Sermon Summary

Hagar was running away again.  History was repeating itself.  Just as she had run away into the desert wilderness when she was pregnant with her son, Ishmael, so now she was doing it all over again years later– this time driven out by the father of her child.  Whilst her particular circumstances are unusual, the feelings associated with them are not.  We have all had the experience of feeling lonely even when our nearest and dearest are right beside us.  We have all known the bitter taste of loneliness, even when our own actions have made it inevitable.

 We have to trust God in the midst of the loneliness, rather than after it is over or despite it.  We must believe  that with over six billion voices to listen to, God can nonetheless pick ours out from the crowd.  Men like Ezekiel in his refugee camp or Daniel in his lion’s den had to do this, often despite evidence to the contrary.  In the garden of Gethsemane we witness the Lord Jesus Christ himself locked in a titanic struggle to trust God in his loneliest hour.

 There are times, too, when we must do something about the cause of our loneliness.  In Genesis  16 Hagar was told to go back and face the music, and in Genesis 21 she was told not to give up but to carry on with her journey – and thus the Arab nation was born.  Loneliness is not  insurmountable, and can lead us to God, rather than away from Him, so long as we handle it in the right way.

 Scriptural issues

  •  Since we would not condone Hagar sleeping wither master in order to provide a child, how do we feel about her running away?
  • Note the striking comparisons between this passage and the story of Elijah’s ‘revival’ in 1 Kings 19.  What does the comparison tell us?

Current issues

  •  Can it ever be pastorally right or helpful to point out that somebody’s loneliness is their own fault?
  • In today’s church we tend to run from solitude, whereas many of our spiritual forebears would have embraced it for spiritual gain. Why?

 ‘Her mother-eyes, which had watched his first step, smiled at the first awkward word, blinked at the first flash of brilliance and winced at the first grazed knee could watch no longer.  For the first time ever she turned away.  The boy made little crying sounds into the unforgiving sand, barely a whisper from his parched throat – a crumpled voice for a ragged end.  But someone heard.  From the farthest end of the universe where stars are born and aeons sleep God, the one his mother nicknamed ‘ole-good-eyes, the God who sees’, heard and stepped in.’