God created all things – everything that exists – and He created them for His glory. His word says He will not share His glory with another. We have rebellious and wicked hearts that do not want God to be God because they desire to be their own gods. The bitter pill that no one wants to swallow is that we deserve to be judged, and our very own hearts condemn us. Our situation is hopeless, and there is nothing we can do to make things right. Nothing.
And that is why I am so thrilled, so amazed, and so overjoyed that God has done what we could not. God has provided the way to make things right. He has intervened for His people. It is God, not man, who moves toward reconciliation. It is God, not man, who has provided the sacrifice. I want to tell you about how God has provided for us – for you, for me, and for all – a substitute, a sacrifice. But to begin unpack how the Lord provides, it is necessary to tell you a story. It is essential that you know “Father Abraham” to really appreciate how God provides.
You may already know the story of Abraham and Isaac already. If not, then I will tell you in a nutshell. Abraham (the Gentile formerly known as Abram) trusted and obeyed God. Abram was a product of a pagan culture, a society of idol-worshipers, and was surely an idol-worshiper himself before God called him out of the darkness of both his society and his own heart. God promised Abram a son, and furthermore promised Abram that He would bless all the nations on the earth through this son that God had promised him and his wife Sarai. The only problem is that Abram and Sarai were not spring chickens. Abram was nearing 75 years old, and Sarai perhaps 65 or so; they were well past the childbearing years. And God would not move too fast in delivering His promise to them, either. No, they would wait on the Lord for nearly 25 years before the promised child would come. He was named Isaac, which is the Hebrew word for “laughter” because they had both laughed initially at what God had promised. Not only had he promised them a son, but he promised that the heritage that would come from this one son would be so great that they would be in number like the sands of the seashore, or the stars of the heavens. I won’t go into all of the details leading up to it, but will I encourage you to read the Bible for yourself concerning Abram (or Abraham as he was later called) and the Lord’s dealings with him. You can find out more in the very first book of the Bible, in Genesis chapters 12 through 22.
Well, the Lord certainly did provide a son for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham was almost 100 years old and Sarah about 90. Now, we can only imagine how overwhelmed with love this man and his wife must have been for their son. And as Isaac grew and matured, the promise of God to bless all the nations through this seed must have become palpable to old Abraham and Sarah. Through years of waiting on the Lord’s promise, they had learned patience. And because of God’s faithfulness to deliver on His Word, they also learned that He was trustworthy and true… which must have made it all the more shocking when God spoke to Abraham and asked the man to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac to the Lord.
I cannot imagine the emotional turmoil this father, Abraham, must have experienced. Here was his son, this profound flesh and blood promise of God, who was supposed to bless the nations, and God was asking him to take his life? To offer him up as a sacrifice? How on earth could he then produce a heritage of people in such abundance that trying to count them would be like trying to count the stars in the sky or the grains of sand in the desert… if he was dead? And yet, Abraham had learned to trust in God and to believe his promises. From the laughter after which he was named when he and Sarah were first promised a heritage from God to the tears that he surely cried the night God made this hard request—through it all, Abraham trusted God. He somehow believed that God would vindicate himself—even raise Isaac from the dead perhaps, but however God would work in this promise, Abraham would trust and obey.
Abraham took his son early the next morning and left with two young men in his employment to travel for three days to the mountain God had bid him go. When they reached the mountain, Abraham told the young men that he and Isaac were going up the mountain to worship God together, to stay put, and they would both return. Abraham and Isaac ascended the mountain and prepared the altar for the sacrifice. And really at this point, I think it would be better to let God tell this story, since it is obviously such an important story that He wanted to tell. This is the passage from Genesis 22:6-14:
Gen 22:6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together.
Gen 22:7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here am I, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
Gen 22:8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.
Gen 22:9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.
Gen 22:10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.
Gen 22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.”
Gen 22:12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”
Gen 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
Gen 22:14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
There are some powerful lessons God wants us to learn here. I had a conversation recently with someone who was repulsed by this story. This person was actually quite angry with God for asking Abraham to offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice. But God was not dealing harshly with Abraham. No, God loved his servant Abraham and had already delivered on His promise in giving him a son. Just as God was gracious when He revealed to Abraham what was about to occur in the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, God was again graciously revealing part of His diving plan to Abraham. This was an act of mercy, and a blessing to Abraham.
God was foreshadowing, looking forward to that time when He would send HIS Son, His only begotten Son, the true Lamb of God who Himself would be the substitute and the sacrifice for all the heritage of Abraham. Whereas Abraham demonstrated His faith by His obedience to the Lord in offering up Isaac, the Lord Himself would demonstrate His love and His grace by offering up Jesus. And whereas Abraham’s son would be spared because of the ram God had provided that day in Isaac’s place, Jesus would be crushed for the full consequence of sin so that all of Israel could be spared.
God reveals so much here on this mountain. He teaches about the wisdom and blessing of fearing the Lord, faithfulness and obedience, mercy and grace, substitute and sacrifice, the Lamb of God, and the one and only son, the blessing of the nations. He demonstrates His love and His mercy in a powerful and profound way. And it is here on this mountain that Abraham finds a new name for God in this place: Jehovah Jireh, “The Lord Provides”.
You must know that salvation belongs to the Lord. He provides everything in it. Yes, faithfulness and obedience are required on our part. Yes, we must trust and obey the word of the Lord because we fear and revere His holiness. Yes, we should be willing to offer up any (and every) part of our lives to the Lord—and not just our sins, but even those things that seem to be God’s greatest gifts to us—if and when He asks us to return them. But when all is said and done, it is the Lord who makes the greatest sacrifice, who does not hold back, and who does what we ourselves are perfectly incapable of. It is the Lord who condescends and not man who ascends… that we may be redeemed, bought back from the curse of sin and death.
Yes, truly it is the Lord that provides. Praise His precious Name.