Hagar & Her Son: A Difficult Story To Digest

Read Genesis 21:14-19

This can be a difficult part of Abraham’s story to understand. Abraham, a father of the Judeo-Christian faith, is sending his son and the child’s mother out into the desert. It looks as if he’s discarding them, as if Hagar and her son represent Abraham’s plan B. He’s exploited his slave girl, got her pregnant and then abandoned her and their child.

Is this Abraham’s attempt to take the reins of God’s plan and create the descendants he’d been promised but was tired of waiting for? But Hagar’s son, Ishmael, was never God’s plan B. God always saw him, just as he has always seen us. In an earlier part of Hagar’s story, she names God, ‘the God who sees me’ (Gen 16:13). She’s already been given a revelation of God’s character and in this story, God doubles down. He not only sees Hagar, he sees her young son because he sees all.

No Child Is God’s Plan B

This story delivers a powerful truth for rejected, oppressed women and their ‘unwanted’ children. It delivers a powerful truth to anyone whose story took a sharp turn they could not have predicted, to anyone who has felt abandoned and alone. If you have ever doubted God sees you, this story is for you. You were never God’s plan B.

Like Hagar, our distress can overwhelm us. We can feel powerless whenever we see children in pain. But God speaks to us, as to Hagar, and reminds us he is in charge. He says–I have a plan for these children, get up, give them a drink–and then he provides the water. This story declares that no child is ever God’s plan B! No life is outside the range of his attention. This is a profound hope for families suffering injustice and poverty around our world. And this hope keeps us engaged with children on the margins. Because no matter how broken our world appears, God has a plan, and he is at work.

Pointing To The Promise

The story of provision in Hagar and Ishmael’s moment of distress draws our attention to the promised hope of Jesus. God’s heavenly kingdom is one where every child has what they need to not only survive but to thrive. Where thirst is quenched by living water. With the birth of Jesus came a Living Hope that does not only meet an immediate need but meets all our needs. (See Revelation 7:16-17 for more.)

Dig Deeper

  1. Why do you think Hagar calls God, ‘the one who sees me’?
  2. Can you think of a time when you or someone you know felt invisible or overlooked until God provided something (or someone) to change the circumstance?
  3. How might God be calling you to come along side children who might be in need of care, support, prayer and water?


Father God, who sees us, thank you for your all-knowing nature. We pray for children around our world in situations as precarious as Ishmael’s. And we trust you to provide for them through us, that they would not merely survive but thrive. Amen

This is one day from our ten-day devotional, A Child Shall Lead Them. To receive the full devotional series, download your copy now.