It Will Be Provided - Jehovah-jireh
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Early the next morning Abraham got up and loaded his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?” “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied. “The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ramcaught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place TheLord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” The angel of the Lord called to Abraham from heaven a second timeand said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son,I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.” Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.
A little girl noticed a cobweb hanging from the ceiling and pointed it out to her mother., “Look Mommy, there’s a spider web with no spider in it!“ Correcting her daughter, her mother replied, “No, sweetie, that’s a cobweb.” The girl thought skeptically for a moment, then asked, “Well then, where is the cob?” (Michael E. Hodgin. 1002 Humorous Illustrations For Public Speaking, an, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004, p. 251.)
Words that we use to describe things are peculiar sometimes, aren’t they? In a previous Hub, I started a series about descriptive words. That is, we began to look at some of the names for God that describe some of the aspect of who God is. We can think of these names as compound names, that is, God’s proper name along with a descriptive term that helps us understand more about God. In the last Hub, we looked at the compound name of God as Jehovah-elohim – rendered as “LORD God” in English. In this Hub, we will look at the name of God that reveals God as our provider.
Background Of The Story
Before we get too far along though, we need to take some time to review the background of this passage. Abraham was a God-worshiper who was born in the region of modern-day southern Iraq. When Abram (as he was known then) was 75 years old, God called to him and told him to leave his home, gather up his family and travel to a place where God would lead him. Abraham was eventually led to the region of Palestine and God told him that from him, God wouldmake a great nation.
The trouble with this promise from God was that Abraham and his wife Sarah did not have a child, and what’s more, they were not able to conceive one. But a child was born, whom they called Isaac (which means laughter), and Abraham and Sarah greatly enjoyed the presence of their miracle boy who was the child of Gods promise to form a great nation from Abraham’s lineage. Some time later, God put Abraham through a test: God told Abraham to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.
As v. 2 reads: “Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.””
Problems With The Passage
Here we can see some of the problems with this passage:
1) Why did God feel the need to test Abraham; hadn’t he demonstrated his faith to God sufficiently by then?
2) What is this business with God commanding Abraham to make a human sacrifice? Though this was a practice in the surrounding pagan cultures, this was a practice that God had specifically said should not be done.
3) When you think about this story long enough, you might begin to wonder about how much God seems to know; in reading the story it seems that God did not know how Abraham would react to this extreme command. Maybe Abraham might not pass the test.
4) Imagine Abraham’s anguish and confusion: His son was the child of God’s promise – the son through whom God said a great nation would descend. How could Isaac be the promised child if he was dead? How hard it must have been for Abraham to make the preparations to make the three day journey to Moriah. It’s interesting that the last thing that he did before leaving is cut the wood for the fire – it’s as if this was the hardest thing for him to do that he saved it for last.
This is not your ordinary bedtime children’s story, and if it was to be rendered into a video game, it would have to have an M rating for mature. So you see, I am disturbed by the issues that this story raises. Yet, I am also drawn to the conclusion of the story: that God is revealed as the God who provides. This story also asks some important questions about our understanding of God:
*Can God be trusted?
*Will God do what God said? These are questions well worth wrestling with for an answer. This story also asks important questions about us and our walk with God:
*What is the nature of faith?
*What does it mean to be obedient to God’s commands?
So we should not let ourselves get too distracted by the puzzles of this story and look instead to see what we can learn from it, and how it applies to us so many centuries after it was first told.
The God Who Provides
We all want to be assured that our needs will be provided. Every day we think and act in some way or another concerning the importance of having our needs met. -Our story concludes with the assurance that it is God who is the One who ultimately provides for our needs.
As our story continues, Abraham makes the preparations and travels to within sight of the mountain that God told him to go to make the sacrifice. Abraham left his servants behind and he went the rest of the way alone with Isaac. In v. 7 there is a heart-wrenching question from Abraham’s son: “Father, where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Listen to Abraham’s answer in v. 8 and see how it demonstrates his faith in God: “Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.””
So they reached the designated place, Abraham built the altar, and then Abraham laid his son on the altar and prepared to kill him as a sacrifice. Right at that critical moment, just before Abraham was about to plunge the knife into Isaac to kill him, God stopped him! The angel of the LORD called out to him, “Abraham, Abraham! Don’t lay a hand on the boy. Do not do anything to harm him.”
I remember reading this story from a children’s picture Bible with my son when he was little, and at that moment in the story my son and I both made the screeching brakes sound! [errrrrh!!] ffew! That was a close one!
So, Abraham passed the test. God saw that Abraham had not withheld anything from God-self – not even his only son. Then, surprise! At that moment, Abraham looked up and noticed that there was a ram with its horns caught in the thicket. So Abraham took the ram and offered it as a sacrifice instead of his son. In response to the way that God provided the substitute for Isaac, Abraham commemorated the place by naming it: “Jehovah-jireh”, which translates: “The LORD provides.”
Though we don’t see it in most English translations of the Bible or in the NIV that is quoted above, some versions translate this as: “The LORD will see.” The confusion comes from the multiple meaning of the Hebrew word “jireh”; it can mean both “to see” and “to provide.” This double meaning may seem strange, but the English word has this same multiple meaning contained in it: The word “provide” comes from two Latin words, “pro”, meaning before, and “videre”, meaning “to see”. The word originally meant to foresee a need and then to see to that need. The same meaning is woven into Jehovah-jireh: Our God is the One who sees our needs even before we do and then sees to those needs in advance of our even knowing we needed it. Maybe you’ve experienced a situation that seemed dark and hopeless and you did not know how it was going to work out. Yet somehow, mysteriously, your needs were met. I know it has happened to me on many occasions. And that’s when it seems to happen most often, when the need is greatest, the need seems to be met right at the last minute.
A situation like this plagued the 17th century poet and musician named Georg Neumark. He struggled to finish his schooling and to make a living, but the ravages of the 30 Years War made life extremely difficult for him. At one point in his life he became ill and was destitute; to try to raise some money, he pawned his cello. Overcome with grief at the thought of parting with his beloved instrument, he asked if he could play the instrument one last time. He played a tune he had written, and also sang the words of a hymn he had written to go with the tune. As he left the shop, he stumbled into a person who had been listening at the door to him play and sing. The man asked Neumark about the words and the music of the tune he had been playing, and Neumark told the stranger his tale of woe. As it turned out, the person listening at the door was employed by a nobleman who was in need of a private secretary. Almost immediately Neumark was employed and was able to pay off his debts. (See: James Lange. Pulpit Legends: Two Hundred and Eighty Titles and Symbols of Christ, Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1994, p. 269.) Listen to the words of the hymn he wrote:
If thou but suffer God to guide thee,
and hope in God through all thy ways,
God will give strength, whate'er betide thee,
and bear thee through the evil days.
Who trusts in God's unchanging love
builds on the rock that naught can move.
Only be still, and wait God's leisure
in cheerful hope, with heart content
to take whate'er thy Maker's pleasure
and all-discerning love hath sent;
we know our inmost wants are known,
for we are called to be God's own.
Sing, pray, and keep God's ways unswerving;
so do thine own part faithfully,
and trust God's word; though undeserving,
thou yet shalt find it true for thee.
God never yet forsook at need
the soul that trusted God indeed.
What We Learn About God
From the story of Abraham and Isaac, we learn some important things about God:
1) God is trustworthy – What God says God will do, we can trust and believe that God will do it. God promised that he would bless Abraham through a son that he would have through his wife Sarah. That’s what God did. In the same way, God’s promises to us can be taken to the bank!
2) God is willing to be vulnerable and risk with the likes of sinful and fallible human beings. When God put Abraham to the test, God didn’t really know how Abraham would respond. Abraham could have chosen not to follow God’s command. God is trustworthy, but we are not. We mess up, make mistakes, forget and often are unfaithful and unreliable. Yet God doesn’t give up on us and chooses to work with us.
3) God is the God who provides, and sees to our needs. Though we sometimes don’t see how God is providing, and the provision doesn’t always come in a way that we would like, God is the provider. God always provides the right things at the right time and at the right place. God is never late and does not cater to our timetable.
There are also some things we can learn from this story as to how God provides:
*God’s provision seems to come most often when our need is greatest. God provided the substitute sacrifice just in time to spare Isaac.
*God’s provision comes in ways we don’t expect. Abraham didn’t ask for the ram as a substitute, it was a provision that God came up with.
*God’s provision comes from God, even when other circumstances are the wa that God provides. Though someone brought that bag of groceries when you didn’t have enough money for food, it was God who worked things out.
What We Learn From Abraham’s Response
We can also learn some things from Abraham’s response to God’s test:
1) Abraham responded in obedience. He didn’t understand what was going on, but he responded to God’s command by making the preparations to do what God said. How often do we know that God is telling us to do something and we procrastinate, argue and rationalize away our obedience to God’s commands? Though God doesn’t demand blind obedience, what we think God is telling us has to be linked with faith in who God is.
2) Abraham responded in faith. When he told the servants to wait, he said that they both would return. When Isaac asked about the sacrifice, he said that God would provide it. We see this in Hebrews 11:17-19:
“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
3) Abraham responded in worship. This can be overlooked in the story, but what Abraham was doing all through the story was worshiping God through his faith-filled obedient actions. We need to remember that worship is not confined to what we do only on Sunday morning but that our whole life and conduct is worship to God.
Jesus Christ In The Old Testament
There’s one last thing we can learn from this passage, and that is what we learn about Jesus Christ. How is Christ involved in the story, you might ask. In this story Abraham and Isaac are a type of Christ – a reflection of who Jesus is. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his “beloved” son but the son was spared because of a substitute sacrifice. Jesus is also referred to as God the Father’s only beloved Son. Where Isaac was spared because of the substitute, Jesus was the substitute for all of humanity. In this way, we see another element to the imagery of Jehovah-jireh: God provides us with so much more than our physical needs. God’s provision comes in the form of providing a way to take away our sin.
Jesus Christ is the symbolic sacrificial lamb. In Christ, our sacrificial lamb, our sins are forgiven and taken away when we trust our lives to Jesus as our Savior.
In the middle of the night a family had to flee their house when it caught fire. All of the family got out except the little girl who became trapped in her upstairs bedroom. As she leaned out her window, her father on the ground called, “Jump and I’ll catch you.” Afraid, the girl replied, “But I can’t see you!” Her father called back, “That’s okay, I can see you. Jump and I will catch you.” The girl in obedience, trust and faith in her father’s instructions jumped into the dark – and was safely caught by her father. (Source unknown.)
God sees your need today. God knows your need long before you do. God will provide exactly what you need. There’s a camp song based on this story that goes: “Jehovah-jireh, my provider, His grace is sufficient for me…” Indeed, Jehovah-jireh – our provider, God’s provision is sufficient for us.