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Verses 14-21

Here is, I. The casting out of the bond-woman, and her son from the family of Abraham, Gen. 21:14. Abraham's obedience to the divine command in this matter was speedy?early in the morning, we may suppose immediately after he had, in the night's visions, received orders to do this. It was also submissive; it was contrary to his judgment, at least to his own inclination, to do it; yet as soon as he perceives that it is the mind of God he makes no objections, but silently does as he is bidden, as one trained up to an implicit obedience. In sending them away without any attendants, on foot, and slenderly provided for, it is probable that he observed the directions given him. If Hagar and Ishmael had conducted themselves well in Abraham's family, they might have continued there; but they threw themselves out by their own pride and insolence, which were thus justly chastised. Note, By abusing our privileges we forfeit them. Those that know not when they are well off, in such a desirable place as Abraham's family, deserve to be cashiered, and to be made to know the worth of mercies by the want of them.

II. Their wandering in the wilderness, missing their way to the place Abraham designed them for a settlement.

1. They were reduced to great distress there. Their provisions were spent, and Ishmael was sick. He that used to be full fed in Abraham's house, where he waxed fat and kicked, now fainted and sunk, when he was brought to short allowance. Hagar is in tears, and sufficiently mortified. Now she wishes for the crumbs she had wasted and made light of at her master's table. Like one under the power of the spirit of bondage, she despairs of relief, counts upon nothing but the death of the child (Gen. 21:15, 16), though God had told her, before he was born, that he should live to be a man, a great man. We are apt to forget former promises, when present providences seem to contradict them; for we live by sense.

2. In this distress, God graciously appeared for their relief: he heard the voice of the lad, Gen. 21:17. We read not of a word he said; but his sighs, and groans, and calamitous state, cried aloud in the ears of mercy. An angel was sent to comfort Hagar, and it was not the first time that she had met with God's comforts in a wilderness; she had thankfully acknowledged the former kind visit which God made his in such a case (Gen. 16:13), and therefore God now visited her again with seasonable succours. (1.) The angel assures her of the cognizance God took of her distress: God has heard the voice of the lad where he is, though he is in a wilderness (for, wherever we are, there is a way open heaven-ward); therefore lift up the lad, and hold him in thy hand, Gen. 21:18. Note, God's readiness to help us when we are in trouble must not slacken, but quicken, our endeavours to help ourselves. (2.) He repeats the promise concerning her son, that he should be a great nation, as a reason why she should bestir herself to help him. Note, It should engage our care and pains about children and young people to consider that we know not what God has designed them for, nor what great use Providence may make of them. (3.) He directs her to a present supply (Gen. 21:19): He opened her eyes (which were swollen and almost blinded with weeping), and then she saw a well of water. Note, Many that have reason enough to be comforted go mourning from day to day, because they do not see the reason they have for comfort. There is a well of water by them in the covenant of grace, but they are not aware of it; they have not the benefit of it, till the same God that opened their eyes to see their wound opens them to see their remedy, John 16:6, 7. Now the apostle tells us that those things concerning Hagar and Ishmael are allegoroumena (Gal. 4:24), they are to be allegorized; this then will serve to illustrate the folly, [1.] Of those who, like the unbelieving Jews, seek for righteousness by the law and the carnal ordinances of it, and not by the promise made in Christ, thereby running themselves into a wilderness of want and despair. Their comforts are soon exhausted, and if God save them not by his special prerogative, and by a miracle of mercy open their eyes and undeceive them, they are undone. [2.] Of those who seek for satisfaction and happiness in the world and the things of it. Those that forsake the comforts of the covenant and communion with God, and choose their portion in this earth, take up with a bottle of water, poor and slender provision, and that soon spent; they wander endlessly in pursuit of satisfaction, and, at length, sit down short of it.

III. The settlement of Ishmael, at last, in the wilderness of Paran (Gen. 21:20, 21), a wild place, fittest for a wild man; and such a one he was, Gen. 16:12. Those that are born after the flesh take up with the wilderness of this world, while the children of the promise aim at the heavenly Canaan, and cannot be at rest till they are there. Observe, 1. He had some tokens of God's presence: God was with the lad; his outward prosperity was owing to this. 2. By trade he was an archer, which intimates that craft was his excellency and sport his business: rejected Esau was a cunning hunter. 3. He matched among his mother's relations; she took him a wife out of Egypt: as great an archer as he was, he did not think he could take his aim well, in the business of marriage, if he proceeded without his mother's advice and consent.

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