And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”
A few days ago I had what was perhaps the most frightening and enlightening dream of my life.
In the dream, I was aware that my children would have to face the consequences for their disobedience. I punished them according to some house rules that had somehow been established, and the kids (we have four) had each submitted to their punishments willingly, albeit with regret and some shame. Then I was faced with one of our daughters who had transgressed very badly. Both of our daughters love to write and to read, so I am not sure which it was, but I walked her out to the place of punishment–a vague place with blindingly white steps which reminded me of the courtroom from that old David Niven movie “Stairway to Heaven.” She was still writing or journaling as we went there, and she looked at me calmly, knowing that she faced punishment for her own disobedience.
Then I saw a noose hanging down, and I walked her over to it, and I looked back at my wife. She looked concerned but calm. I placed the noose over our daughter’s head, but I couldn’t tighten it. I broke out weeping as I turned to my wife.
“I can’t do it!” I cried. “I can’t do it!”
I woke up in a sweat, still weeping in real life as in the dream, and I sat up and swung my feet out over the edge of the bed. I sat there and prayed, asking God what this vision had meant. I understood how hard it was meant to be to sacrifice my own child, but this was nothing like Abraham and Isaac. God was testing Abraham. Was He testing me, too? I got no response right away, but as I prayed over the past few days, little by little He helped me see.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
I have a pretty good life: a roof over my head, a family that loves each other and God, a job that I like, critters that I mostly like. God has done pretty good for me. Perhaps I don’t live in a mansion with fancy things, but I have enough to get by. It’s not the material things that matter so much as having my family at home and at church to love and by whom to be loved. I remember as a child I used to think how wonderful it would be to have a huge library full of the books I loved. I used to picture one of those classic wood-trimmed rooms with big chairs and shelves everywhere. Now I am quite content with a Bible in every room (and on my phone), so that the One Book I need is always available. Like Paul said, I have learned how to live with little and with much, and the little is just fine by me.
And yet there are so many in this country who have more, and yet they look for more. Worse yet, there are church-going, praying, Bible-reading, well-to-do Christians who feel like they are lacking, and so they seek for more and love to say, “The Lord will provide.” As they accumulate more, as they fill their coffers and make their tithe with nary a thought for how to pay their next bills, they praise the Lord for providing so well for them. They say, “I named it and claimed it–in the name of the Lord, of course.” But is that what Abraham meant when he named that spot on Mount Moriah “Jehovah jireh”–“The-LORD-Will-Provide”?
What was provided that day on that mountain? What was given to Abraham that he did not have before? Abraham had been called out and had obediently followed the Lord in nearly everything. He had a few missteps here and there, and he even tested the Lord by talking back to Him about the destruction of Sodom. But Abraham had been close to God for a very long time, and he was an old man when God tested him one final time. Abraham had often made altars and offerings to the Lord, but this last time was the surest test of Abraham’s obedience.
It’s not like Abraham didn’t suspect that God would somehow make all this turn out alright. He had the promise of God that his descendents would be a mighty nation. He had the faith that so few of us have that his son would somehow be safe. And so it’s no surprise that when Isaac questioned where they might find an animal for the sacrifice, the old patriarch said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22:8) In a way, God HAD provided the “lamb”: Isaac himself was a miracle that only God could have wrought upon the old couple Sarah and Abraham. But would God provide something else?
Yes, He would, and He did. And it wasn’t just a ram caught in a nearby thicket.
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?
But what things shall He give us? Would God give His only Son, Jesus, to die in our place just so He could then bless us with new cars and bigger homes? Would the Lord of heaven and of earth step down to be crucified in weakness just so we could gain worldly power and material things? Is that how we think of God?
In my dream, I could not sacrifice my daughter for her sin. I loved her too much to let her die, to see her hanged for her transgressions. How much more difficult must it have been for God to send His only Son to die in our place, the just for the unjust, the Righteous One for the unrighteous. (1 Peter 3:18-20)
7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
We raise our voices in protest when someone we see as good is persecuted, and yet we don’t bat an eye when we come to God and ask for His forgiveness and salvation.
2 The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
3 They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one.
And yet Jesus died for those who did not seek God. In our sin and doubt, God sought us! When we had nothing to provide but our own bodies to pay the price for our sin and disobedience, God Himself provided the spotless Lamb for a burnt offering.
The Lord WILL provide, and He did!
Brothers and sisters, Jesus didn’t die to bring us little things–money or food or even good health. It is not that He doesn’t want to heal us of our infirmities, but He only does so if it is for His glory, and to bring others to the knowledge of His salvation. But even healing is passing, just as we ourselves are passing. God’s great faithfulness is not in providing us with the comforts of mortal life, but with all of the riches of eternal life. Our treasure is not in this world, but the next. We are but sojourners here, and if all we can think to ask from God is His provision for our everyday needs, then we are missing out on the real blessings He wants us to receive.
As Jesus said, if we seek first God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness, then the little things–the clothing and food and shelter–will be added unto us. “Added”? Added to what? Added to the eternal life that is truly ours to name and claim as disciples of Jesus! Added to the peace that surpasses all understanding! Added to the Holy Spirit who even now dwells within us and will never leave us nor forsake us! Added to the blessings that come from daily being in His presence through prayer, though fasting, and through giving to others. Truly, what greater thing could the Lord provide than His Son to bring us to salvation?
I would give myself in a heartbeat for the lives of all of my children, but I could not sacrifice even one of them. I just am not that strong. And so I am grateful to God and praising Him daily that Jesus did not think it robbery to lay aside His strength and to die in weakness for my sins and the sins of my wife and children. I praise Him that I need not walk any of my children to the gallows for their unrighteousness, but that I can bring them instead to the foot of the Cross so that they, too, can see the glory of the sacrifice of the unblemished Lamb of God. The Lord will provide and HAS provided the burnt offering to justify us. All we need do is repent and be obedient to His Word, so that the sacrifice of His own Son is not in vain. Then, and only then, may we partake in His Resurrection and His Life, the true provision He has planned for us for eternity.
Heavenly Lord God, I cannot praise You enough for providing so well for me. Who am I and what is my house, that you have brought me this far? Thank You for providing the Lamb for my sins, for providing the Spirit for my weakness, and for providing Your Word for my understanding. Lord, help me now to provide for others, not only for their material needs but for their spiritual needs, so that they can come to know that the Lord Will Provide for their salvation and life. Amen.