When The Bottle Is Empty

Bible Book: Genesis  21 : 9-21
Subject: Provision, God's; Water; Trouble; Hardships; Faith

It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where life is simple and everyone lives happily ever after? Imagine living your life with no problems to solve; no struggles concerning your finances; divorce is never mentioned because it doesn’t exist; disease is not an issue because our bodies are in perfect health.

Imagine every home being surrounded with a white picket fence where life is filled with joy and fun. Think about how wonderful it would be to wake up every morning with new energy to face each day because you know that nothing is going to go wrong and everything is going to fall into place. Imagine being able to go to bed every night and go right to sleep because you didn’t have anything to be concerned with or to worry about. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know that all of us are going to live happily ever after?

Now, you and I know that all we can do is ‘think’, and ‘imagine’ and ‘wonder’ and “dream” about how this kind of life would be. We know that life such as this doesn’t exist.

Let me describe the kind life that we see every single day. (This is what we call the “Real Life”.) The average person you come in contact with has dealt with things such as “broken dreams”; “grief”; “stress”; “disappointment”; “having a broken heart”; “discouragement”; “feeling forsaken”; “being emotionally drained” “feeling lonely”; “experiencing deep depression”; and “sorrow”.

For some, “heartache” and “confusion” seem to be their closest companion. Like a ten pound sledge hammer, their heart keeps pounding, putting them dangerously near desperation. The light they see at the end of their tunnel is like the headlight of an oncoming train.

There are people living at this moment on the brink of a nervous breakdown. They see no help in sight; feeling as if life is really not worth living.

Most of the time a person cannot hide what they are feeling and what they are going through. You can see the fear on their face; their shoulders are drooping; their eyes look heavy and tired. This tells the story of the weighty burdens they are carrying. You could say that “Their bottle is empty.”

Many times when I am having a bad day, I think about the little children’s book that I found several years ago in a used book store entitled; “Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.”

It is a story about a little kid named Alexander. He is a boy, probably about 7 or 8 years old that has what he considered a ‘terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.’ I mean, nothing goes right for him. He has back-to-back-to-back disappointments.

Listen to his story. “Take for example when he wakes up in the morning. He said; ‘I went to sleep with gum in my mouth and now there’s gum in my hair. When I got out of bed this morning I tripped on the skateboard and by mistake I dropped my sweater in the sink while the water was running and I could tell that it was going to be “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.”

“After a terrible day at school, a horrible visit to the dentist and a no-good stop at the shoe store, Alexander slumps in his chair at his supper table. “There were lima beans for dinner; and I hate lima beans. There was kissing on television, and I hate kissing.”

“My bath was too hot; I got soap in my eyes. My marble went down the drain; and I had to wear my railroad pajamas; and I hate my railroad pajamas.”

“When I went to bed, Nick took back the pillow he said I could keep and the Mickey Mouse night light burned out and I bit my tongue. The cat wants to sleep with Anthony, and not with me. It has been a ‘terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day.”

It is no surprise to find our little friend sigh at the end of his day and say; “I think I will move to Australia.”

I want to get very personal with you for just a moment. Is there someone in this building that would admit to themselves and to the Lord and say in your heart; “My life is running on empty; I am struggling with pressures and problems. I am weighted down with burdens and disappointments. I have a major decision to make in my life, but I feel so empty and discouraged that I am not in the right frame of mind to make them. My life feels empty because it is empty. What can I do now?”

The passage of Scripture before us gives us a story about a Woman whose life was empty. Her bottle was empty. The woman that I am referring to is Hagar.

The background to this story is that Abraham and Sarah were running ahead of God and coming up with their own idea about how to have a son that God had promised them. The years had passed and both were getting up in age so they came up with the idea of having a son by a surrogate mother.

This is found in (Genesis 16:1-3)- "Now Sarai Abram's wife bare him no children: and she had an handmaid, an Egyptian, whose name was Hagar. [2]- And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai. [3]- And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife."

Hagar, the Egyptian handmaid, bore a son for Abraham; they named the child, Ishmael. Instead of waiting on God, Abraham and Sarah took matters into their own hands. All the unrest and troubles in the Middle East today are due to the failure of Abraham and Sarah to wait on God and let Him fulfill His promises in His own way and time.

It was 14 years later when God gave Abraham and Sarah a child, his name was Isaac. A feast was held to celebrate what God had done for them. But the festive occasion was marred when the older half-brother Ishmael “mocked” the new child, Isaac. He was teasing, and picking on Isaac.

Look at (21:9-10)- "And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. [10]- Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac."

The mother instinct of Sarah rose to defend her son, Isaac. She reached a boiling point and so she spewed her feelings at Abraham.

The prejudice in Sarah’s words and her hostility toward Hagar and Ishmael were very hurtful to the heart of Abraham. (21:11)- “And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son.”

Ishmael was not God’s choice; he was not the promised seed, but still it was Abraham’s son. What was Abraham to do?

Notice (21:12,13)- "And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. [13]- And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.”

Strange as it may sound, God had a purpose in the sibling rivalry and Sarah’s reaction. God knew that Ishmael would continue to cause contention in the family and seriously hinder God’s purposes if he were allowed to remain.

Abraham’s heart must have been deeply broken the next morning as he carried out God’s instructions. With a touch of tenderness and compassion, Abraham took bread and a bottle of water and gave it to them; putting it on Hagar’s shoulder.

As they began their journey, Hagar’s bottle became depleted and empty. But God provided water for her and Ishmael in their difficult times.

I want us to learn a great lesson from this story of Hagar. We are going to learn what Hagar did when her bottle was empty.

I. The Wilderness That Was Faced

Notice (21:14)- “And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away, and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba.”

We are told that the very first place that Hagar and Ishmael had to face on their journey was the Wilderness. I can see them as they are assaulted by the hot sun. They are completely exhausted; their walk turns into stumbling; and their physical condition becomes weak.

There are at least 2 things about their Wilderness experience that we should not overlook.

A. They Were Placed In The Wilderness

In (21:12-14) we find that Hagar and Ishmael were forced to leave Abraham’s house; so we can actually say that they were placed in the wilderness.

If you look at this story from an [earthly point of view] it would seem that this was all Sarah’s wishes being carried out. But if you look at this story from a [Heavenly point of view] this was actually God’s Will being carried out.

You see, Sarah may have [appointed] Hagar to leave, but it was God who (allowed) it to happen. Sarah may have [ordered] it, but it was God who (ordained) it.

There may be some in this building that are thinking that Hagar didn’t deserve to be kicked out of Abraham and Sarah’s house. This seems so cruel. I believe what makes this story seem so bad is that from an earthly point of view Hagar wasn’t the only one at fault.

Let’s think about something. Who first came up with the idea for Hagar to have Abraham’s child? Who came up with this plan? Sarah was the one who thought of this idea first. God, for some reason allowed Abraham and Sarah to be childless for quite some time. So Sarah probably thought that she would help God out by having a child through Hagar, her maiden. So we could say that Sarah was the instigator to the beginning of this problem that Hagar was facing.

Now, I understand that Hagar didn’t have to bare Abraham’s child. She could have refused to become Abraham’s wife and have his child. But Hagar listen to a woman who was supposed to be living by faith, following God’s plans and purposes for her life; and so she did as she was told.

*After Hagar conceived, Sarah became very jealous because she couldn’t bare Abraham a child. Sarah for years had jealously and resentment building up on the inside. So Hagar was forced and driven out into the Wilderness.

(21:10) Sarah told Abraham to “Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.”

*The word “cast” means “to drive out”. This literally means that Sarah wanted Hagar to be driven and forced out of her sight.

Now here’s the point that I want you to get. Hagar was not in the Wilderness by accident. She was placed there. It was arranged for her to be in the Wilderness. Hagar may not have understood all that was going on; all she realized was that her world had been turned up-side-down.

Do you know someone like Hagar? Do you feel your life is like Hagar? Do you feel that your life has been turned up-side-down for no particular reason? Do you feel that your life has been driven to a place like the Wilderness; a place where it is spiritually dry and dreary? Do you feel that your life is facing difficulties for no apparent reason? You may just be one of many who don’t understand what is going on in your life.

B. They Were Prepared For The Wilderness

Abraham didn’t send Hagar out into the wilderness empty handed. He gave her “bread” for her hunger, and “water” for her thirst. This was not the first time Hagar had been on a journey. She knew that she would need certain things as she traveled.

More than likely she had it in her mind that she would have to be on the move again. After all, she had watched as God had moved Abraham from place to place. This time, however, she was going to be on her own. She had to be prepared for the journey that was ahead.

You and I need to understand that our lives are not going to stay the same forever. The longer we live, and the more we want to do ‘in’ and ‘with’ our lives, we must learn that our lives will change. And what we need to do is prepare for our next journey.

God has something for you in the days ahead. As you follow God and listen to Him, you will be made aware that God will take you on a journey through life that will take you to where you need to go. (I’m not saying that God is going to make you pack up your things and literally move out of town.) But spiritually speaking, God wants you to see certain things; and He longs for you to do certain things for Him. And in order to do so, you are going to have to be spiritually prepared to go wherever is necessary for you to go.

One of the places that God may lead you through is a ‘spiritual wilderness.’ God may be getting you ready to journey through some very tough times. It may be a place that is “spiritually barren” and “dry” for a while. God may be getting you ready to test your faith so you can learn how to completely trust Him.

Hagar found herself in the hot, dry, dreary, barren wilderness, but then things began to get worse.

II. The Weariness That Was Felt

Look at the last part of (21:14b,15)- “And she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beer-sheba. [15]- And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.”

The word “wandered” means "to stray, be out of the way." She found herself just wandering around, lost, confused, and helpless in a dry, hot, barren waste land. She must have felt weary.

*There were 2 things she did when she became weary out in the wilderness.

A. Her Condition Revealed Her Distress

Look again at (21:15) “And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.”

Hagar was alone with Ishmael. This was new to her. There was no one to help her; no one to seek advice about what she needed to do. We are told that she “wandered in the wilderness”; this means that she had no real direction. She didn’t know where she was going or what she was going to do.

We See That Her Resources Were Depleted. We are told that her bread had run out and her bottle was empty. Her resources had run dry.

(1.) She was hurting because there seemed to be no direction. (2.) She was hungry because there seemed to be provision.

Hagar knew that it would be just a matter of time before they would die. The sun was bearing down on them; there is no food in her back pack; now there is no water in the bottle. (There is nothing like a cool glass of water.)

We See That Her Response Was Demanded. We are told that (21:15)- “and she cast the child under one of the shrubs.” Now, this was not an act of a cold-hearted mother trying to get rid of an extra burden. This statement describes the condition of the wilderness. The heat of the wilderness not only depleted her resources, it demanded her to respond.

We are not told the exact condition that Ishmael was in; but her reaction seems to suggest that the heat was getting to him. He may have collapsed, and so she lovingly placed him under the shade of the shrub to protect from the harsh heat. Ishmael was not in the best condition at that moment because Hagar prayed to God that her son would not die.

Then we are told in (21:16)- “And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept.”

After Hagar put Ishmael under the shrub, she went off at a distance from him so she could be alone for a moment. She had to think about what she was going to do next.

(Let me tell you what was going on in Hagar’s life at this moment.) God had allowed Hagar and her son to come to the point to where they could no longer endure in their own strength and in their own ability.

Hagar was weary. She was now at the end of her rope. Her bread is gone; her bottle is empty. She and Ishmael are out in the middle of a dry, barren wilderness with no direction to go in and no strength to go on. Her bottle was empty.

There is someone in this building right now that is at the point in your life where you don’t know what to do; you have no direction in your life; your resources seem depleted and dry. You feel weary, empty, you are clueless. Everywhere you turn your life seems dry, barren, and empty. Have you thought about the fact that God has allowed you to come to the point to where you can no longer go on in your own strength and ability?

B. Her Cry Revealed Her Desperation

Hagar’s bottle is empty and she has no where to go. She is trapped in a wasteland. Her situation is inescapable. A ‘good night’s sleep’ won’t help her. A ‘grin and bear it’ attitude won’t solve her problem. ‘Positive thinking’ won’t fill her empty bottle.

All Hagar could feel was the sun beating down on her. All she could taste was the dust that was blowing in the wilderness. The only thing she knew to do was weep and cry out to God. She said: “Dear God; don’t let me see the death of my son. Help Me God! Help My Son!”

“If the world from you withholds, of it’s silver and it’s gold; And you have to get along with meager fare. Just remember in His Word, how He feeds the little bird. Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

If your body suffers pain, and your health you can’t regain; And your soul is almost sinking in despair. Jesus knows the pain you feel, He can save and He can heal. Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.

When your enemies assail, and your heart begins to fail; Don’t forget that God in Heaven answers prayer. He will make a way for you; and will lead you safely through; Take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.”

The name Van Gogh is no stranger to the art world. From 1880 to 1890 the Dutch painter created more than 1,600 paintings and drawings.

Vincent Van Gogh in spite of his success as an artist was a man tormented by severe depressions and hallucinations. At one time, after an argument with a fellow artist, he cut off his right ear. In May 1890, he moved just outside of Paris. He continued to suffer depression. In late July he decided he could stand it no longer. *On July 27 he took a revolver with him to a field and the 37 year old artist shot himself in the chest. He died at 1 A.M. on July 29 and his last words were: "There is no end of sorrow."

Vincent Van Gogh expressed in his words what so many people feel in their heart; even though they won’t express it with words. They feel that there is no end of their sorrow and desperation.

In their time of distress and desperation, Hagar cried out to God; Ishmael cried out to God; and God heard their prayer.

There are many verses found in God’s Word that speaks of those who cried out in their time of distress and desperation:

(Psalm 18:6) - “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and Cried unto my God: He heard my voice out of His temple, and my Cry came before Him, even into His ears.”

(Psalms 30:2) - “O Lord my God, I Cried unto thee, and Thou hast healed me.”

(Psalm 34:15,17)- “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and His ears are open unto their Cry. [17]- “The righteous Cry, and the Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles.”

(Psalms 40:1)- “I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined unto me, and heard my Cry.” (Psalms 55:17)- “Even, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and Cry aloud: and He shall hear my


(Psalms 56:9)- “When I Cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; God is for me.”

(Psalms 77:1)- “I Cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and He gave ear unto me.”

(Psalms 72:12)- “For He shall deliver the needy when he Crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no

(Psalms 107:4-6)- “They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. [5]- Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. [6]- Then They CRIED unto the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses.”

(Psalms 107:27,28)- “They reeled to and fro, and staggered like a drunken man, and are at their wits end. [28]- Then they Cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He bringeth them out of their distresses.”

(Psalms 138:3)- “In the day when I Cried Thou answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul.”

Have you noticed that our Lord is attracted to people who are hurting; who are weary; who are empty? God has a way of letting us know that He is going to take care of us.

God told Hagar to “fear not”. He assured her that He had heard her prayer and the prayer of Ishmael. God also assured her that He was going to make through Ishmael a great nation. Hagar then took Ishmael by the hand and walked with him. She was going to show him the way that God had prepared for them.

I would like to remind you of 3 important truths that God has recently brought back to my mind and engraved upon my heart.

God Sees Your Problems God Hears Your Prayers God Keeps His Promises

III. The Well That Was Furnished

Notice (21:19-21) “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 drink. [20]- And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness, and became an archer. [21] And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: and his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”

As we conclude our study, I would like for us to take a moment and look closely at this Well that was furnished by God.

A. The Provision That Was Made

Her bottle was empty and God provided her a well. The particular word “well” refers to a pit or well that has been dug. God dug her a “well”. We are not told when the ‘well’ was dug before Hagar ever stepped foot in the Wilderness, but when God opened her eyes, He was letting her know that He was going to provide her every need.

God didn't give her another bottle that would be exhausted in a few hours or at the most a few days. He gave her an endless supply of water. God showed Hagar that she couldn’t make it any further unless she had Supernatural help.

When God opened up her eyes and showed her a well, she had to do 3 things:

(1)- She Had To Draw The Water

(2)- She Had To Drink It Herself

(3)- She Had To Pass The Bottle To Her Son

The “well” would have been no good to Hagar if she had just looked at it. When she saw the “well” she had to go to the source that God had provided for her and fill her bottle. Then her responsibility was to share it with her son.

When we find ourselves in the wilderness and our bottle is empty, God will provide a well. It is up to you to go to the “well”; fill your bottle and drink. Then you are to go to someone and give them the provision that they need to make it through their wilderness.

B. The Persistence That Was Manifested

We are told that Hagar and Ishmael remained in the Wilderness. God didn’t change Hagar’s location, but He gave her strength to face each day. Hagar knew that God would provide for her every day that she was in that Wilderness. As long as Hagar was in the Wilderness, the “well” gave water to her. God kept her bottle full. God Was Enough For Hagar!


I think about a poor woman from the slums of London that was invited by some friends to go with them to the ocean. She had never been out of London and had never seen the ocean. When she saw the ocean for the first time, she broke out into tears. They asked her why she was crying, she pointed out to the ocean and said, "This is the only thing I have seen that there was enough of."

God will give you a “well” that is enough for you. He will help you! He will provide what you need when you need it. We read in Psalm 84:6, “Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”

Whether you are in a valley or a wilderness, God will provide a well. Cry out to the Lord and you will see His wells.