Series: “The Names of God” (post #2)
Most Bible readers know the story of God testing Abraham by asking him to offer up his son Isaac as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:1-19). What isn’t so well known is that the story provides us with one of the Old Testament’s classic names for God. That name is Jehovah Jireh, and it means “The Lord Will Provide” or “The Lord Our Provider.”
The name is found near the end of the story. Abraham commits himself to the sacrifice, to the point that he has Isaac tied on the altar and has the knife in hand to slit the young man’s throat. Only then does the Angel of the Lord call to him and stop him from going through with the deed. This Angel (capital A) is none other than Jesus Christ making a preincarnate appearance. We know this because the Angel speaks to Abraham directly from heaven and uses the pronoun “Me” in reference to God.
After Jesus puts an end to the test, Abraham looks and sees a ram whose horns have gotten caught in a nearby thicket. Abraham captures the ram, kills it, and offers it up as a burnt sacrifice in the place of Isaac. Abraham then calls the name of the site “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14). This name plays off something that Abraham has said earlier in the story. In answer to Isaac’s logical question, “Father, I see the fire and the wood for the burnt offering, but where is the lamb?” Abraham has replied, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.”
It’s impossible to know exactly what Abraham had in mind when he said that, but Hebrews 11:19 tells us that he had concluded that God had the power to raise Isaac from the dead. Apparently the elderly patriarch had done the mental math and had reached this conclusion. God had promised that Abraham would become the father of a great nation through Isaac. Isaac hadn’t even gotten married yet, let alone have a son of his own to continue the family line. God had commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. Therefore, God must be going to resurrect Isaac once the sacrifice was finished. Let’s be sure to give Abraham credit for being willing to think outside the box!
But rather than resurrect Isaac, God provided a substitutionary sacrifice to die in Isaac’s place. That substitionary sacrifice was the ram. Typologically speaking, the ram was a type of Jesus Christ, who would later die as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world. While the Bible’s classic typological animal for Jesus is a lamb, in this instance the typology involves a ram. The symbolism works just fine, though, because just as a ram is more powerful than a lamb, Jesus had power. He proved His power by casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, silencing the storm, and walking on the water.
In the end, though, like that powerful ram that was fatally caught by its horns in that thicket, Jesus was fatally caught by the “thicket” of the fallen human race. That’s why, despite His power, He ended up crucified on a cross. What role was He playing as He hung on that cross? He was playing the role of substitionary sacrifice. You see, He died for a human race full of “Isaacs.”
To further continue the typology, guess where Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac took place. If you guessed Mount Moriah, you’re correct. If that name rings a bell, it should because it was the site where centuries later the Jews built their temple. Do you see how it all fits together? The mountain site where Abraham built his altar would ultimately become the centerpiece of the city of Jerusalem, and a couple thousand years later Jesus Himself would be sacrificed in that same general area.
Now let’s get back to the name “The Lord Will Provide.” In the Old Testament’s original Hebrew, this names translates Jehovah Jireh. Does this name mean that God can provide the money to pay your electric bill? Yes. Does it means that He can provide a spouse for you to marry? Yes. Does it mean that He can provide exactly what you need at the exact moment you need it? Yes. Does it mean that when you have a very real need you should call God by this specific name when you pray to Him? Yes.
In the grandest sense, though, what this name means most is that God has provided the answer for your greatest need: salvation. No need you will ever have measures up to your need to be forgiven of all your sins and thus guaranteed not to spend eternity in that gruesomely awful place the Bible calls “the lake of fire.” And how has God provided for that particular need in your life? You know the answer. Jesus (God the Son) left heaven, became part of the human race, was miraculously born to a virgin, proved His divinity by living a sinless life for 33+ years and performing miracles, died on a Roman cross as a sinless substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of the world, and then proved His divinity again by arising from the dead.
You see, God has done His part. Now all that is required is you doing your part. And what is your part? It is to willfully place your belief in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Have you done that? If you haven’t, then the hard, cold truth of the matter is that you really don’t know God as Jehovah Jireh.