'And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-jireh; (that is, The
Lord will provide).'-GENESIS xxii. 14.
As these two, Abraham and Isaac, were travelling up the hill, the
son bearing the wood, and the father with the sad burden of the fire
and the knife, the boy said: 'Where is the lamb?' and Abraham,
thrusting down his emotion and steadying his voice, said: 'My son,
God will provide Himself a lamb.' When the wonderful issue of the
trial was plain before him, and he looked back upon it, the one
thought that rose in his mind was of how, beyond his meaning, his
words had been true. So he named that place by a name that spoke
nothing of his trial, but everything of God's provision--'The Lord
will see,' or 'The Lord will provide.'
1. The words have become proverbial and threadbare as a commonplace of
Christian feeling. But it may be worth our while to ask for a moment what it
was exactly that Abraham expected the Lord to provide. We generally use the
expression in reference to outward things, and see in it the assurance that
we shall not be left
without the supply of the necessities for which, because God has
made us to feel them, He has bound Himself to make provision. And
most blessedly true is that application of them, and many a Christian heart
in days of famine has been satisfied with the promise, when the bread that
was given has been scant.
But there is a meaning deeper than that in the words. It is true, thank God!
that we may cast all our anxiety about all outward things upon Him, in the
assurance that He who feeds the ravens will feed us, and that if lilies can
blossom into beauty without care, we shall be held by our Father of more
value than these. But there is a deeper meaning in the provision spoken of
here. What was it that God provided for Abraham? What is it that God
provides for us? A way to discharge the arduous duties which, when they are
commanded, seem all but impossible for us, and which, the nearer we come to
them, look the more dreadful and seem the more impossible. And yet, when the
heart has yielded itself in obedience, and we are ready to do the thing that
is enjoined, there opens up before us a possibility provided by God, and
strength comes to us equal to our day, and some
unexpected gift is put into our hand, which enables us to do the
thing of which Nature said: 'My heart will break before I can do it'; and in
regard to which even Grace doubted whether it was possible for us to carry
it through. If our hearts are set in obedience to the command, the farther
we go on the path of obedience, the easier the command will appear, and to
try to do it is to ensure that God will help us to do it.
This is the main provision that God makes, and it is the highest
provision that He can make. For there is nothing in this life that
we need so much as to do the will of our Father in heaven. All
outward wants are poor compared with that. The one thing worth
living for, the one thing which being secured we are blessed, and
being missed we are miserable, is compliance in heart with the
commandment of our Father; and that compliance wrought out in life.
So, of all gifts that He bestows upon us, and of all the abundant
provision out of His rich storehouses, is not this the best, that we
are made ready for any required service? When we get to the place we shall
find some lamb 'caught in the thicket by its horns'; and
heaven itself will supply what is needful for our burnt offering.
And then there is another thought here which, though we cannot
certainly say it was in the speaker's mind, is distinctly in the historian's
intention, 'The Lord will provide.' Provide what? The
lamb for the burnt offering which He has commanded. It seems
probable that that bare mountain-top which Abraham saw from afar,
and named Jehovah-jireh, was the mountain-top on which afterwards the Temple
was built. And perhaps the wood was piled for the altar, on which Abraham
was called to lay his only son, on that very piece of primitive rock which
still stands visible, though Temple and altar have long since gone; and
which for many a day was the place of the altar on which the sacrifices of
Israel were offered. It is no mere forcing of Christian meanings on to old
stories, but the discerning of that prophetic and spiritual element which
God has impressed upon these histories of the past, especially in all their
climaxes and crises, when we see in the fact that God provided the
ram which became the appointed sacrifice, through which Isaac's life
was preserved, a dim adumbration of the great truth that the only
Sacrifice which God accepts for the world's sin is the Sacrifice
which He Himself has provided.
This is the deepest meaning of all the sacrificial worship, as of
Israel so of heathen nations--God Himself will provide a Lamb. The
world had built altars, and Israel, by divine appointment, had its
altar too. All these express the want which none of them can satisfy. They
show that man needed a Sacrifice; and that Sacrifice God has provided. He
asked from Abraham less than He gives to us. Abraham's devotion was sealed
and certified because he did not
withhold his son, his only son, from God. And God's love is sealed
because He hath not withheld His only-begotten Son from us.
So this name that came from Abraham's grateful and wondering lips
contains a truth which holds true in all regions of our wants. On the lowest
level, the outward supply of outward needs; on a higher, the means of
discharging hard duties and a path through sharp trials; and, on the highest
of all, the spotless sacrifice which alone avails for the world's
sins--these are the things which God provides.
2. So, note again on what conditions He provides them.
The incident and the name became the occasion of a proverb, as the
historian tells us, which survived down to the period of his writing, and
probably long after, when men were accustomed to say, 'In the mount of the
Lord it shall be provided.' The provision of all sorts that we need has
certain conditions as to the when and the where of the persons to whom it
shall be granted. 'In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.' If we
wish to have our outward needs supplied, our outward weaknesses
strengthened, power and energy sufficient for duty, wisdom for perplexity, a
share in the Sacrifice which taketh away the sins of the world, we receive
them all on the condition that we are found in the place where all God's
provision is treasured. If a man chooses to sit outside the baker's shop, he
may starve on its threshold. If a man will not go into the bank, his pockets
will be empty, though there may be bursting coffers there to which he has a
right. And if we will not ascend to the hill of the Lord, and stand in His
holy place by simple faith, and by true communion of heart and life, God's
amplest provision is nought to us; and we are empty in the midst of
affluence. Get near to God if you would partake of what He has prepared.
Live in fellowship with Him by simple love, and often meditate on Him, if
you would drink in of His fulness. And be sure of this, that howsoever
within His house the stores are heaped and the treasury full, you will have
neither part nor lot in the matter, unless you are children of the house.
'In the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.' And round it there is a
waste wilderness of famine and of death.
Further, note _when_ the provision is realised.
When the man is standing with the knife in his hand, and next minute
it will be red with the son's blood--then the call comes: 'Abraham!'
and then he sees the ram caught in the thicket. There had been a
long weary journey from their home away down in the dry, sunny
south, a long tramp over the rough hills, a toilsome climb, with a
breaking heart in the father's bosom, and a dim foreboding gradually
stealing on the child's spirit. But there was no sign of respite or of
deliverance. Slowly he piles together the wood, and yet no sign.
Slowly he binds his boy, and lays him on it, and still no sign. Slowly,
reluctantly, and yet resolvedly, he unsheathes the knife, and yet no sign.
He lifts his hand, and then it comes.
That is God's way always. Up to the very edge we are driven, before His hand
is put out to help us. Such is the law, not only because the next moment is
always necessarily dark, nor because God will deal with us in any arbitrary
fashion, and play with our fears, but because it is best for us that we
should be forced to desperation, and out of desperation should 'pluck the
flower, safety.' It is best for us that we should be brought to say, 'My
foot slippeth!' and then, just as our toes are sliding upon the glacier, the
and 'Thy mercy held me up.' 'The Lord is her helper, and that right
early.' When He delays, it is not to trifle with us, but to do us good by
the sense of need, as well as by the experience of deliverance. At the last
moment, never before it, never until we have found out how much we need it,
and never too late, comes the Helper.
So 'it is provided' for the people that quietly and persistently tread the
path of duty, and go wherever His hand leads them, without
asking anything about where it does lead. The condition of the
provision is our obedience of heart and will. To Abraham doing what
he was commanded, though his heart was breaking as he did it, the
help was granted--as it always will be.
3. And so, lastly, note what we are to do with the provision when we
Abraham christened the anonymous mountain-top, not by a name that reminded
him or others of his trial, but by a name that proclaimed God's deliverance.
He did not say anything about his agony or about his obedience. God spoke
about that, not Abraham. He did not want these to be remembered, but what he
desired to hand on to later generations was what God had done for him. Oh!
dear friends, is that the way in which we look back upon life? Many a bare,
bald mountain-top in your career and mine we have got our names for. Are
they names that commemorate our sufferings or God's blessings? When we look
back on the past what do we see? Times of trial or times of deliverance?
Which side of the wave do we choose to look at, the one that is smitten by
the sunshine or the one that is all black and purple in the shadow? The sea
looked at from the one side will be all a sunny path, and from the other
dark as chaos. Let us name the heights that lie behind us, visible to
memory, by names that commemorate, not the troubles that we had on them, but
the deliverances that on them we received from God.
This name enshrines the duty of commemoration--ay! and the duty of
expectation. 'The Lord will provide.' How do you know that, Abraham? and his
answer is, 'Because the Lord did provide.' That is a shaky kind of argument
if we use it about one another. Our resources may give out, our patience may
weary. If it is a storehouse that we have to go to, all the corn that is
treasured in it will be eaten up some day; but if it is to some boundless
plain that grows it that we go, then we can be sure that there will be a
harvest next year as there
has been a harvest last. And so we have to think of God, not as a
storehouse, but as the soil from which there comes forth, year by
year and generation after generation, the same crop of rich blessings for
the needs and the hungers of every soul. If we have to draw from reservoirs
we cannot say, 'I have gone with my pitcher to the well six times, and I
shall get it filled at the seventh.' It is more probable that we shall have
to say, 'I have gone so often that I durst not go any more'; but if we have
to go, not to a well, but to a fountain, then the oftener we go, the surer
we become that its crystal cool waters will always be ready for us. 'Thou
hast been with me in six troubles; and in seven thou wilt not forsake me,'
is a bad conclusion to draw about one another; but it is the right
conclusion to draw about God.
And so, as we look back upon our past lives, and see many a peak
gleaming in the magic light of memory, let us name them all by names
that will throw a radiance of hope on the unknown and un-climbed
difficulties before us, and say, as the patriarch did when he went
down from the mount of his trial and deliverance, 'The Lord will
Maclaren's Exposition of Genesis
Click for printer friendly page
Bible Commentary Index