SET UP FOR A BLESSING                                                                                                               Andy Hollifield 3-13-19

Psalms 23:3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (KJV)

Years ago, Southern Gospel singer/songwriter Dottie Rambo wrote a song called “He Restoreth My Soul (in the valley).” I love that song no matter who sings it because of the story it tells. Thinking about that song made me start wondering about some of God’s people in the bible that received help in the valley. I know I have friends that are walking through a deep dark valley in their lives where it is a chore just to put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you want to go out in the woods and scream and other times you want to just go off by yourself and bawl your eyes out. Other times you want someone to just sit and listen and not say a word and other times you want to just sit in the quiet and let God just speak to your heart. Contrary to what some so-called preachers and wanna be theologians might have you to believe, you are not always in that place because of sin. Sometimes that is your boot camp where God gives you what you need to fight your battles. I have always believed that there are some things that you can’t learn any other way except to go through the valley. But, once you go through it and learn what God needs you to learn, those are lessons you will never forget.

Some people wind up in those valleys not of their own doing but because of the decisions of someone else. Hagar is one example of that. This was a case where God’s people got ahead of him and tried to make his will come to pass without waiting on him. As a result, Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian maid was given to Abram to be his wife by Sarai his first wife to bear children for him. As soon as she had conceived, she began to despise Sarai. This put Abram in the middle but he just left it up to Sarai to do with Hagar as she wanted. At that time, it don’t seem like Abram was being much of a man and an even worse husband. What kind of man would let that kind of bickering continue without putting a stop to it, and especially when it meant sending his wife and unborn son off into the wilderness to fend for themselves. I know the bible calls him a friend of God but at this time he wasn’t acting very godly. Genesis 16:7 says that “…the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain in the wilderness…” When Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled into the wilderness. A lot of times when we wind up in those wilderness places or our own personal valleys; God is just setting us up for a blessing. I use the term “setting us up” because in those times, it may look like there is no possible way it is going to end good for us. I am sure when the angel told her to return and submit to Sarai, Hagar probably thought it wasn’t going to go very good for her. But then in verse 10, right in the middle of her wilderness, God blessed her. He promised to make her seed without number and give her a son. Ishmael wasn’t going to have an easy life, but he was going to dwell among his own people. Little did Hagar know that Abram had been praying for Ismael and God heard him and promised to make of him a great nation and he would beget 12 princes.

In Genesis 18:14 is a question we would all do well to remember when we are in those hard places: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” I don’t know about anyone else but I can give you an example of my prayer in those times. It would go something like, “God I know you can but I just can’t see how.” I’m just being honest. When I’m in that valley, my faith ain’t what it should be. It isn’t until chapter 21 that we see Hagar again. Think about this; in chapter 17 God makes the covenant with Abram and changes his name to Abraham. In chapter 18 he promises Isaac and tells Abraham about the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and even agrees to spare Lot and his family which he does in chapter 19. In 20, we find Abraham deceiving Abimelech about Sarah only being his sister. Then in 21 Isaac is born and once again Sarah has pushed Abraham into making here leave. As good as Abraham wound up being, in some of these chapters he sounds a lot like us don’t he? That’s because he was flesh just like we are.

Hagar again leaves and we can only imagine that she must be thinking in her mind, “What happened to the promise of the Lord?” Have you ever been there? Here she was again looking at circumstances that made God’s promises look impossible. Now, her water had run out, her teenage son was about to die, and it looked as if it was all going to end right there in the wilderness for them. As she has moved away from Ishmael so she wouldn’t see him die, all out of hope, she just weeps and cries out. Verse 17 says, “And God heard the voice of the lad…” The one you would least expect in his desperation has gotten the Lord’s attention. There is something about the rest of that verse that, even though she is once again in the wilderness but in worse shape than years before, just screams victory. Nothing has changed, no one has come to their rescue but the angel makes it sound almost like he can’t understand what all the crying is about. It goes on to say, “…and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar?” Did you catch that? He just asked Hagar in so many words, “What’s your problem?” His next words are “fear not.” How many times have we heard that and still being in the same circumstances, are still filled with fear? He then tells her why she don’t have to fear, “For God hath heard…” That should be good enough for us but when we are already defeated, we sometimes need a little more. I like the rest of that verse really well; “hath heard the lad where he is.” You may think that don’t mean much but it means everything. God didn’t make him come to him or do anything but he heard him right where he was. In verse 18 he says in so many words, I am going to bless him and keep my promise. Then he gave Hagar the hope she had been looking for. Verse 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 to drink.” Isn’t that how we are in our wilderness? It’s good to hear God speak and know he is aware of our situation and even that he is going to fix it but yet we still want to see that physical proof. Here’s another thought for you: Where did they go from here? Nowhere! God met their need and blessed them and brought his promises to pass right where they were. Right there in the same wilderness that Hagar was sure was going to be their death, God kept his word. Verse 20 says about Ishmael, “…and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness…”

The point is that God can bring deliverance and victory to you right where you’re at. Right there in your valley or dark time he may just be setting you up for a blessing. One more thing; guess what you find in chapter 25: the twelve sons of Ishmael that God had promised to Hagar there in the Wilderness of Shur the first time she ran away. Now for a play on words: if God says it you can know for sure it will come to pass. By the way, the answer to Genesis 18:14; No, there is nothing too hard for the Lord. Not for Hagar and not for you. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!


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