When you think of examples of great faith in the Bible, you might immediately think of Abraham. Abraham’s faith was displayed when he obeyed a God whom he did not know to leave his home for a place of which he was not told. His faith was manifested when he believed God that he would have a son long after the age of childbearing. His faith was highlighted when he led a small force of home-trained servants to war against a far stronger coalition of forces to rescue his nephew Lot.
But his faith was perhaps nowhere more obviously highlighted than in the events recorded in Genesis 22 where he was called to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God. Isaac was the son of promise—the one in whom, God had promised, all the promises of a great nation would be fulfilled. It would take tremendous faith to believe that promise and to still obey God’s call to sacrifice his son. Once again, however, Abraham’s faith shone through as he walked in faith-filled obedience. And he learned an important lesson along the way.
We know the story. Abraham did what God had called him to do. He took his son to the top of Mount Moriah, laid him on the altar they had built, and lifted his knife to his son’s throat. At the very last moment, God stopped him. He provided a ram for the sacrifice in Isaac’s place. Abraham then built an altar there and “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’” (Genesis 22:14). “The LORD will provide” translates the name Yahweh Yireh (or, more popularly, “Jehovah Jireh”), which is the name of God we will consider this week.
God had wonderfully provided for Abraham, which drove him to praise. In the story, we can learn at least four lessons about Yahweh Yireh as our great provider.
First, Yahweh Yireh’s provision comes directly from Yahweh himself. Abraham called the name of the place “the LORD will provide” (Yahweh Yireh) because he recognised that Yahweh himself had provided the ram. It was no accident that the ram was caught in the thicket in the right place at the right time. God had sent the ram. Abraham recognised Yahweh’s provision and named the place accordingly.
We sometimes have difficulty recognising this truth. Because God generally provides through means (e.g. we work hard to receive a paycheque), we can sometimes miss God’s hand in it. But make no mistake: In the same way that God sent that ram, God is the one who meets our needs. Apart from the truth of Yahweh Yireh, we will not have what we need. Jesus taught the same when he reminded his disciples that our Father knows our needs and is committed to meeting them (Matthew 6:25–34).
Second, Yahweh Yireh’s provision often comes to us in our very moment of need. We would love to have God’s foresight. We would love to know exactly how everything will work out—how every need will be met. But that is not always the way that God works. Abraham had no idea how God would provide. He had certainly given it some thought. Hebrews 11:17–22 tells us that he reasoned that God would raise Isaac from the dead, but even that was not something that God had revealed. God’s means of provision would only be revealed at the very last moment.
The principle taught in the Lord’s Prayer—“Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11)—highlights the truth. Jesus did not teach us to pray for our monthly or annual provision but for our daily provision. Most of us don’t have to do that, which is perhaps why we have lost sight of that truth. But this story reminds us that that is often how Yahweh Yireh works. He frequently provides what we need precisely when we need it and calls us to trust him that he will meet our every need, even when we can’t see how he will do it.
Third, we can learn from this text that Yahweh Yireh sometimes allows circumstances to get rather extreme before he steps in to provide. There is no doubt that Abraham’s thoughts must have plagued him from the moment God spoke to him. What a burden he must have carried the whole time he prepared the wood for the sacrifice. How weighed down he must have felt as he walked up that mountain with his son, waiting for God to step in. How heavy his words must have felt as he answered Isaac’s query about the lamb for the offering.
Sometimes, in his sovereign design, God allows us to be fully weighed down by our sorrows and despair before he steps in to provide. His design is to help us understand that he sees. He sees us in our joys and in our sorrows. He is not oblivious to our pain. Sometimes, he allows us to experience pain precisely so that we will experience his provision in our pain to the highest degree.
Fourth, Yahweh Yireh’s provision usually comes in response to our obedience. For Abraham to experience God as Yahweh Yireh, he first had to obey. He first had to prepare the wood for the sacrifice. He first had to sheath his blade and pack the ropes. He first had to make the journey to Moriah and slowly ascend the mountain. He first had to construct the altar for the sacrifice. Only in the context of his obedience did Yahweh Yireh show himself to be his provider.
God frequently works the same way in our lives. He frequently provides for us in the context of our obedience. Consider, for example, that familiar text in Philippians 4:10–20. Paul commended the Philippians for their sacrifice for the Great Commission. These believers obeyed the biblical principle of generosity and sacrificed to meet Paul’s missionary needs. In light of their obedience, Paul wrote, “and my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 19).
Of course, it is not only our physical and material needs that God promises to meet. The encouragement from Yahweh Yireh is that God is able to meet every need we face, whether physical, emotional, psychological, or otherwise. Our Creator and loving Father is able to provide everything we need.
The starkest provision that he has made is the provision of forgiveness for sin. God provided a ram as a substitute for Abraham’s son, but he provided his Son as a substitute for sinful human beings. In fact, Mount Moriah later became the place that David purchased for the construction of the temple. For thousands of years, God provided animal substitutes for the sins of his people at the temple built in the very location where Abraham was called to sacrifice his son. Later still, God sent his own Son to be rejected by his people and crucified on another mountain, just a short distance from Mount Moriah, for the sins of the people he had come to save. In a most glorious way, God provided for our greatest need by giving us his Son as a substitute for our sin.
As they travelled toward Mount Moriah, Isaac asked his father about the lamb of the sacrifice. In faith, Abraham replied, “God will provide for himself a lamb for a burnt offering, my son” (v. 8). Centuries later, John the Baptist would point to Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As Yahweh Yireh provided a ram for Abraham, so he provided a Lamb for all who will repent of their sins and believe in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. We have every reason to praise Yahweh Yireh for his ultimate provision and every reason to trust him for our daily provision.