God Our Provider (Jehovah Jireh)

Genesis 22:14

February 6, 2005 | Brian Bill

You may have heard about the guy who fell off a cliff and on his way down he was able to grab onto a tree branch jutting out from the face of the rock.  As he hung there reviewing his options, he started yelling, “Is anyone up there?”  He was surprised to hear a voice say to him, “Yes, this is God.”  The man was greatly relieved, and quickly stuttered, “God, can you save me?”  “Of course I can, responded God.”  The man was really happy now and shouted out, “Great!  What should I do?”  The answer from the Almighty was not what he was expecting: “Let go of the branch.”  After a long period of silence, the man replied faintly, “Is there anyone else up there?”

We’re like that man sometimes, aren’t we?  We want God to help us but we don’t always want to do what He says.  Specifically, we’re not always interested in letting go of those things that we think are holding us up.  It’s tough to release our grip and give control of our lives to God.  We kind of know that God will provide but maybe we’re not really sure He’ll come through for us.  And so we hold on, and wonder if there is someone else who can help us.

We’ve been reminded in this series so far that God goes by the name of Elohim (Creator), Adonai (Lord), and Jehovah Shalom (The God of Peace).  As we learn to call Him what He goes by, our knowledge and awe of the Almighty will grow and our faith will deepen.  This morning our focus is on another name for God.  He is Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider.  We know from the Bible that God loves to meet the needs of His people.  He counts every hair on our heads and he sees the sparrows that fall to the ground.  And because of that, He will take care of us (Matthew 10:29-30).  God provided for Daniel when he was in the den of lions, He came through for David when a piece of tiny gravel wiped out a great giant, he provided manna for the Israelites in the wilderness, he met the needs of a widow, and he delivered Gideon from the mighty Midianites.  God loves to come through for His people, but often not until they “let go.

Perhaps the most moving and heart-wrenching account of God’s provision is found in Genesis 22.  Let me give some background.  Abram was called by God when he was 75 years old from the area that is now Iraq.  In Genesis 12, he is told to leave what he had always known and live in a land that God would later show him.  To let go of all that was familiar to him demonstrated incredible faith.  God then promised him that the entire world would be blessed through his offspring.  But when time passed and Sarah was still not pregnant, Abram took things into his own hands and fathered a child by his wife’s servant.  He compromised then but he was also courageous when he went on a rescue mission to get his nephew Lot back from the bad guys.  Abram demonstrated a lot of positive qualities like appealing with God to not destroy Sodom but we also know that twice he lied about his wife in order to protect her.  Finally, after 25 years of waiting, the son of promise was born to them.  When he and Sarah got the news they both started laughing, and so God gave the boy the name Isaac, which means laughter.

Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, which means “father of a multitude of nations.”  Now the promises of God could be fulfilled through Isaac.  I imagine that the household was filled with laughter and joy.  According to Genesis 21:32-34, Abraham was even experiencing shalom with his neighbors.  But God still had some things he wanted to teach Abraham.

1.The Promise Tested (1-2). 

Look at verse 1: “Some time later God tested Abraham.”  When we finish chapter 21, Isaac is still pretty young.  Now he is about 15-years-old, which means Abraham is around 115.  God is now ready to “test” Abraham.  This word literally means “to test completely through a demonstration of stress” and was often used in the Old Testament of God testing the faith and faithfulness of His people.  In a similar way the “Underwriters Laboratory” tests thousands of products, not to break them, but to demonstrate that they are good and reliable. 

Later, in Deuteronomy 8:2, we read that God led His people into the desert for a specific purpose: “…To humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.”  Keep in mind that God does not tempt us as Satan does; He tests us in order to bring out the best.  Someone has said that “temptations often seem logical while trials seem very unreasonable.” Real faith is not believing in spite of the evidence but obeying in spite of the consequences.

Abraham had passed some tests earlier in his life and he had failed some other ones.  He is about to face an extreme exam, the likes of which he had never encountered before.  Don’t miss this obvious point: We are never exempt from the challenge of faith and we are never too old to be used by God.  Sometimes the most trying tests come after years of following God faithfully.  Abraham may have been on cruise control spiritually, but that was all about to change because God wanted to know what was in his heart.  God calls out to him, “Abraham!”  Like a true servant, he spontaneously replies, “Here I am.”

Abraham is ready to hear from God and probably eager to know what God’s message is.  Perhaps God was going to announce another blessing or have him move to another exotic location or get him ready for a big battle.  This is the seventh time that we know God has spoken to him, but this time God is going to demand something out of Abraham that will be extremely costly and exceedingly confusing: “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”  

Notice the four phrases God uses – your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love.  God is making it very clear who he is talking about and He is putting His finger on the fact that Isaac was everything to Abraham.  And that was part of the problem because God alone should be everything to him.  God was saying, “We’ve walked together for many years and now you have the son you’ve longed for.  Tell me, Abraham; is this son more important to you than your relationship with me?” 

Total commitment will always be costly

The three words – take, go, sacrifice – must have taken Abraham’s breath away.  Once again, Abraham is commanded to go somewhere he had never been.  When Abraham had left Ur years earlier, he sacrificed his present security and now God seems to be telling him to sacrifice his future security.  There was no doubt what he was being asked to do.  A burnt offering was a total sacrifice, with the offering being completely consumed by fire and signified the complete dedication of the one making the sacrifice.  There was no way the offering would be walking back from the altar.  Total commitment will always be costly as David said in 2 Samuel 24:24: “I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”  

This was Abraham’s opportunity to demonstrate whether He loved the Lord with all his “heart, soul and strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).  I want you to notice that God gives no explanation; just an expectation that Abraham would obey this staggering command.  Sometimes we are not given reasons either because God just wants us to faithfully follow Him.  This was costly to Abraham and it was also confusing because “Isaac was the crucial foundation stone for the fulfillment of the promise that Abraham would become the father of many nations.” 

2. The Preparation Taken (3). 

When Abraham received this tough test of faith, he didn’t argue with God and notice that he also didn’t check with others.   Not one word of objection is recorded in the entire text.  Instead, he practiced immediate obedience: “Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled 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.” Friends, delay almost always turns into disobedience.  If you know what God wants you to do, and you put it off, then you are not obeying Him.  James 4:17 puts it this way: “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”

Abraham obeyed immediately and he also made preparations to obey.  

  • He got up early
  • Saddled his donkey
  • Took two servants
  • Got Isaac ready
  • Cut wood for the offering

As someone has said, “prior preparation prevents poor performance.”  By being prepared Abraham couldn’t get to the mountain and say, “I don’t have any wood, I guess I can’t make the sacrifice.”   In a similar way, we need to be prepared for worship.  That may mean going to bed earlier on Saturday.  That may mean setting your clothes out the night before so you can save time in the morning.  That may mean that you get up earlier and read your Bible and pray so that your heart is ready to receive what God has for you.  You may also want to arrive in the auditorium early and close your eyes for a few minutes (so you don’t do it during the sermon).  The players for the Super Bowl have spent countless hours preparing; shouldn’t we get ourselves ready to meet with the Supreme Being?

3. The Persistence Typified (4-6).

When the promise to Abraham was tested, he immediately made some preparations to obey.  What we see next in verses 4-6 is that he was also persistent: “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.”  The journey to Moriah covered about 50 miles and took three days to get there.  Can you imagine what must have been going through Abraham’s mind?

Once again, we see that Abraham was determined to obey God when he told his servants to stay with the donkey.  He didn’t want them to talk him out of what he knew he needed to do.  This is the principle of separation.  Sometimes we need to get away from those who will lead us down the wrong path.  Actually, we should separate ourselves from anything that will draw our attention away from God.  

Abraham has the faith to believe that both he and Isaac will return after they worship!  Notice the pronouns: “We will worship…we will come back.”  In this first instance of the word “worship” in the Bible, we’re brought up short in our weak definition of worship.  At its heart, worship involves a willingness to surrender all to God, holding nothing back.  It is obediently giving God what He wants and trusting Him to provide whatever we need.

Abraham has the assurance that Isaac will return with him.  Think about this.  Abraham is prepared to sacrifice his son, so how can he come back?   Hebrews 11:17-19 fills in the blanks for us: “By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice.  He who had received 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 raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

It didn’t make sense to sacrifice his son but he was prepared to do it because God said so.  God would somehow work it out to maintain his promise to bless the world through Isaac, even if he had to raise him from the dead.  What is stunning about Abraham’s declaration of faith is that in the previous 21 chapters of Genesis, there is no mention of resurrection.  Somehow Abraham knew that God could do this, even though it had not been done before.  Abraham then took the wood and put it on Isaac’s shoulders and like a condemned man he walked to the hill of sacrifice.  Abraham carried the knife that must have become extremely heavy in his hand.  He also brought the hot coals that would be used to start the fire that would cremate his son.

4. The Profession Testified (7-8). 

As Abraham and Isaac walked up the mountain 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?’” Oh, how these words must have sliced right through a devoted dad’s heart.  

Abraham then answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”  Notice that “God himself” will provide the sacrifice.  The sacrifice will come from Him.  The word “provide” is the word Jireh and has a very rich meaning.  It is translated as “to see” and as “provision.”  God sees beforehand what it is that He will provide.  Abraham knew that God would somehow see to it that everything would work out.  He would be able to worship because God would provide the offering for the sacrifice.

5. The Presentation Trusted (9-10). 

Abraham testified that God would provide and he trusted God enough to continue to obey by presenting his son for sacrifice: “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.”

God had a specific place in mind and when Abraham was given the location, he constructed an altar and put the wood on it.  Then he took his son, tied him up and laid him on the altar.  To complete his obedience, “Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.” Abraham had every intention of following through on his commitment to completely obey.

6. The Provision Transacted (11-14). 

With the knife hovering in the air, an angel of the Lord calls out, “Abraham!  Abraham!”  Once again, Abraham responds as a servant, “Here I am.”  Then Abraham breathes a huge sigh of relief as he hears these words: “Do not lay a hand on the boy…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 had passed the test but he still needed to complete the sacrifice and so God made provision for him in verse 13: “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.  He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.” 

God’s timing is incredible, isn’t it?  Some shepherd lost a sheep that day and it somehow wandered over to the exact spot where Abraham could see it.  Notice also that it was caught by its horns, meaning that it was not bloodied or beat up.  This lamb needed to be without imperfection according to Leviticus 22:21: “it must be without defect or blemish to be acceptable.”  Abraham went over and got the ram, killed it and lit the fire to complete his worship.  According to Genesis 22:13, Abraham offered this lamb “instead of his son.”  The ram took the place of Isaac; it was a substitute offering.

Abraham passed the test and as a result, he called that place “The Lord will Provide.”  This is the name Jehovah Jireh.  At just the right time, God came through for Abraham.

He is a provider and He always supplies the right thing at the right time and at the right place.  He is never late but He is seldom early and He certainly does not cater to our timetable.  God tests us to grow our faith, to keep us focused, and to make us fruitful.

What Are You Giving Up?

Maybe you’ve never experienced God’s provision because frankly you don’t think you have any needs

It strikes me that before we can know Jehovah Jireh, before we can experience God as Provider, we must first be willing to obey Him fully.  Maybe you’ve never experienced God’s provision because frankly you don’t think you have any needs.  

If you want God to provide you must be prepared for Him to do so.  We don’t have to fully understand in order to surrender but we do need to fully trust.  It’s like the story I heard of a house on fire.  The little girl was trapped in her upstairs bedroom.  As she leaned out the window, her father, who was on the ground said, “Jump.  I’ll catch you.”  The little girl was afraid and replied, “But, I can’t see you!”  To which the Father shouted, “That’s OK.  I can see you.”  She jumped to safety not because she could see but because she trusted the voice of her father who told her to jump.  She was willing to let go.  And it was in letting go that she was ultimately provided for.

Is there anything you’re holding on to today?  What is your Isaac?  It may be your career. It might be a relationship or a possession.  Perhaps it’s your retirement or your college plans.  Maybe it’s a child or a parent.  It’s time to put it all on the altar.  Shortly after I became a Christian, the Lord prompted me to take a look at how much I loved my motorcycle.  It was beautiful and I took great care of it.  It had a metallic blue gas tank that I kept shined and I even used an old toothbrush to scrub away any hard-to-reach grime.  I thought about my bike all the time.  One day I prayed out loud and said something like this: “Lord, this bike is yours.  If you want me to get rid of it, I will.  If you want me to keep it, I will.  But it now belongs to you.”  Shortly after that I sensed the Lord telling me to sell it so I did.  I was then able to use this money to pay for a summer school class at Moody Bible Institute.

I’m not implying that all of our possessions are bad and we should get rid of them.  But I am saying that if we’re not careful they can end up possessing us.  Whenever we have an “Isaac” that we have lifted up, God will eventually ask that we sacrifice it because He wants us to trust in Him, not in the gifts He has given to us.  Abraham was willing to praise God and give up that which was most important before he saw God’s provision because he was determined to worship the Blesser, not the blessing.  Trust God to provide for your needs.  When you do, you will find Him to be your Jehovah Jireh.  Jesus challenged his followers to not be anxious about what they would eat, or wear, or even where they would live.  If we put Him first, “all these things will be added” to us (Matthew 6:33).  Hudson Taylor was famous for saying, “When God’s work is done in God’s way it will never lack God’s supply.”

Matthew Mead, in his book called, “The Almost Christian Rediscovered,” asks some simple questions: “If Jesus Christ is not worth having, why do you profess Him?  If He is worth having, then why don’t you hold Him tight and draw as close as you can to Him?  If religion is not good, why do you profess it?  If religion is good, why do you not practice it?”  Let’s not be half-hearted, lukewarm believers.  Let’s give our all to the One who gave it all for us.  God never wanted Isaac to be sacrificed physically; He wanted him to be sacrificed in Abraham’s heart.  Abraham was willing to sacrifice a promise and God may be asking you to give up a promise you are holding on to.  When you do, He may take what you give Him, or He may give it back to you.  Either way, He will be your provider and you will have settled the question of who is most important to you.  

After Abraham encountered Jehovah Jireh on Mount Moriah, all of God’s promises were released in his life.  As Ken Hemphill states, “Too many of us are missing the joy of seeing God’s blessings fully released in our lives because we are tenaciously clinging to that which seems most precious.  We argue with God that we can’t possibly put our career or our family on the altar, because it is the only thing that we have of value.  The problem is that we have taken possession of what God gave to us in stewardship…”  

Call out to Jehovah Jireh by name and ask for His provision.  But make sure you have first settled the issue of preeminence.  Who is most significant to you?  Who or what occupies first place in your heart?  It’s only as we sacrifice what is most important that we will discover that God is most important, and then He will provide for us in a profound way.  When you go through a season of testing, remember that Jehovah sees!   When your month outlasts your money, God will provide.  Whey you’re feeling overwhelmed, God will provide.  When you’re troubled, trust in Jehovah Jireh.

I wonder if we have the courage to pray like A.W. Tozer did: “Father, I want to know You, but my coward heart fears to give up its toys.  I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from You the terror of the parting.  I come trembling, but I do come.  Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that You may enter and dwell there without a rival.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”

Jesus Jireh

In our closing moments, think with me about the picture behind the picture.

  • Isaac carried the wood on his back; Jesus bore the weight of His cross as He walked through the streets of Jerusalem on the way to a hill called Calvary.
  • Both Isaac and Jesus were “obedient unto death,” as they quietly submitted to the will of their fathers.
  • Both Isaac and Jesus were “bound” in preparation for death.
  • Mount Moriah is where the Temple was eventually built.  The very place where the blood of the ram soaked into the wood was where countless offerings of blood were presented in the Temple.  Are you ready for this?  Scholars tell us that Mount Moriah is another name for Calvary, the place where Jesus gave His life for our sins, where his blood stained a wooden cross.
  • Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to the mountain where Isaac’s life was eventually spared; Jesus was buried for three days before coming back to life.
  • Isaac learned about a substitionary sacrifice when the lamb was killed in his place.  Likewise, Jesus as the perfect “lamb of God” gave his life for us, in our place.
  • God’s provision is always nearby.  The ram was in the thicket, close enough for Abraham to see.  According to Psalm 75:1, God’s name is near.  All you have to do is call out to Him.

When Abraham experienced Jehovah Jireh, he made an altar so that he would remember.  We’ve been given something to help us remember that God is the provider as well.  It’s called Communion.  It’s a table of remembrance.  It’s a place where we keep in mind that God has provided and will always provide.  It’s also a time for us to prepare to receive His provision by making sure we have surrendered everything to Him.  Are you ready to let go and let God?

Please close your eyes right now and listen to these two verses from the book of Romans: “…how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17).  “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).

Hudson Taylor had a plaque in his room while he was a missionary in China.  On it were these words: Ebenezer and Jehovah Jireh, which means, “The Lord has helped us” and “The Lord will see to it or provide.”  One looked back and the other looked forward.  One reminded him of God’s faithfulness and the other of God’s provision.

Communion is a time for us to look back and thank God for how He has helped us.  It’s also a time for us to be reassured that God will provide for us today and tomorrow.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?