God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
In our most desperate times of need a friend you can talk to or a family to support you is like a balm of medicine. It helps, it comforts, and it calms us and helps us find a way out.
Psalm 46:1 talks about a God who is our refuge. The word “refuge” means “a place of trust”. It tells us of a God whom we can trust and a God who is strong when we are weak. And because He is our strength, we become strong.
The same verse also talks about an ever-present help in trouble. The word “present help” means “a very accessible help, one easy to be found”. It signifies someone who is always there, someone who never leaves your side. Someone who never rejects you and accepts you for who you are. That’s the kind of friend God is. That’s the kind of father He is.
One of those stories in the Bible that illustrates God’s deep and personal care and provision in a time of trouble is the story of Hagar and her son Ishmael.
In Genesis 21 we find that Abraham ’s son Isaac was weaned and in this occasion Abraham held a great feast. Being “weaned” in this context means the passage from being a baby to becoming a boy. However, during the festivities of the occasion Sarah saw that Ishmael the son of Abraham from the Egyptian maid was mocking Isaac. The word “mocking” is a strong form of the word “Isaac”, which means “laughter”.
Ishmael had his own reasons for acting this way: he knew that Isaac was the son of the promise and that he was just the son of a slave; his inheritance in Abraham’s estate is on a shaky ground.
Sarah did not like what she saw that day and demanded that Hagar and Ishmael be sent away. Abraham is reluctant to do what Sarah demanded for him to do. After all, it would be against all human sensibilities and against all the norms of decent society to drive away a helpless boy and his mother. And yet, He is forced to send away his oldest son and that son’s mother. And it broke his heart.
However, unknown to Abraham, sending his oldest son Ishmael away is just a preparation for greater and impeccable obedience to the LORD. We know that in chapter 22, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mount Moriah. If Abraham had refused to give up Ishmael, he would certainly refuse to give up Isaac.
In Genesis 21:14 we find that Abraham rose early in the morning to send them away. They had a skin of water and a little bread (verse 14). The rest of their needs is now in the hands of the LORD. Abraham trusted God to keep His promise to make Ishmael into a great nation (Gen. 21:13).
After Hagar and Ishmael left Abraham’s tent, they are on their own. Hagar realizes that they are in a desperate situation! Can you relate? Sometimes the burdens that life gives to us is more than we can bear. But we should not be discouraged because even when the burdens of life exceeded our capacity to bear them, they never exceeded God’s (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).
For a loving mother, Hagar’s heart is broken as it broke Abraham’s. In the wilderness, she leaves him under a bush and she goes away because she could not look and see him die. They are out of bread and out of water and out of hope. Hagar leaves Ishmael there and she goes off to weep (verses 15-16). Hagar found herself in a difficult situation she could not fix nor escape. And she felt desperate.
Earlier, Hagar had the promise of God that He was going to make Ishmael the father of a great nation (Gen. 16:10-11). It was certain that Ishmael was not going to die out there in that wilderness. But in that moment of desperation, she relied on her ability to sort things out instead of holding on to God’s wonderful promise. She was so overcome by her grief that she could not see the solution that God has provided right there before her eyes.
The same is true for us. WIthout a doubt God has a plan and sometimes it involves getting us out of our comfort zone. God never makes mistakes where He is leading us; He knows what He is doing. Until you walk through the dark valley, you cannot appreciate the beauty of the mountain top. God may not make you into a millionaire or a billionaire, but He will certainly take care of you – that’s a promise from the LORD (Matt. 6:25-34; Phil. 4:19; Psa. 37:25).
Hagar felt the hopelessness in her heart and she cried out. Ishmael, the boy, cried too. God heard the boy cry and the angel of God called to Hagar in verse 17, “What troubles you, Hagar”? (English Standard Version)
In verse 18, God re-affirmed His promise to Hagar to make Ishmael into a great nation and commanded Hagar to arise. When she opened her eyes, she saw God’ provision that had been right in front of her all along! The Scriptures says, “Then God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water. And she went and filled the skin with water and gave the boy a drink.” (Genesis 21:19, English Standard Version)
The word used here refers to a “dug well.” It could mean that at some point in the distant past, God moved the heart of some random traveler or travelers to dig a “well” right on that very place. God did that because He knew that Hagar and Ishmael would be in that spot on that very day, and that they would need the water from that “well”!
We are reminded today that before we wake up tomorrow, God is already there ahead of us. And when we get “there,” we will find Him, and the provision that He has left for us.
So, what troubles you today? Whatever it is, we have a God we can trust to help us in our time of need. We have a God who provides.
-Benjie Novia Bensing / Tripoli, Libya