Click here for an audio version of this blog post.
When the water in the skin was gone, Hagar put the child under one of the bushes.16 Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept. 17 And God heard the voice of the boy, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What troubles you, Hagar? Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is. 18 Up! Lift up the boy, and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make him into a great nation.” 19 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. 20 And God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness and became an expert with the bow. 21 He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt. – Genesis 21:16-21
We don’t always appreciate it. Sometimes it seems to intrude. It can seem stifling. It can even be embarrassing to an eighth grade boy. It is sometimes resented by the husband of a newborn baby. “It” is mother’s love. There is truly something special about a mother’s love. And while there is also something special about a father’s love, a mother’s love is often marked by a tenderness and lovingkindness unique to a mother. It’s not always the case, but at least sometimes a father’s love is a bit more of the tough love sort kind.
Hagar’s love for Ishmael is seen in her sobs and grief at the impending death of her child. Abraham’s love is not seen in this story. But the love of the Heavenly Father is seen. He sees Hagar crying, hears the child in distress, and intervenes. He tells Hagar to get up and take Ishmael by the hand. He opens her eyes to the well filled with water. He promises a great future to her child.
But the greater future is with the child of the promise: Isaac. Isaac will be the father of Esau and Jacob. Jacob will be the father of 12 sons – heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus will be from the lineage of Judah, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Jesus, ultimately, is the son of promise. And through him we find eternal blessing.
The love of a human being is a thing of great blessing. I am thankful for the love of my wife, family, brothers and sisters in Christ, and my friends. But human love – of a mother, sister, brother or even a spouse – has its limits.
The love of the Heavenly Father has no limits. He sees all. He knows all. And he is writing a narrative that stretches from Hagar to Abraham, to Isaac, to Jesus, and to you and me. Whatever plot lines or twists, the end of the story is of eternal blessings. Worth waiting for. Worth remembering. Even as human love fades and fails, God’s love conquers all.