3. Depend on God’s provision (Gen. 22:6–14)
Two statements reveal the emphasis of this passage: “God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8); and “Jehovah-jireh” (22:14), which means, “The Lord will see to it,” that is, “The Lord will provide.” As he climbed Mount Moriah with his son, Abraham was confident that God would meet every need.
On what could Abraham depend? He certainly could not depend on his feelings, for there must have been terrible pain within as he contemplated slaying his son on the altar. He loved his only son, but he also loved his God and wanted to obey Him.
Nor could Abraham depend on other people. Sarah was at home, and the two servants who accompanied him were back at the camp. We thank God for friends and family members who can help us carry our burdens, but there are some trials in life that we must face alone. It is only then that we can see what our Father really can do for us!
Abraham could depend on the promise and provision of the Lord. He had already experienced the resurrection power of God in his own body (Rom. 4:19–21), so he knew that God could raise Isaac from the dead if that was His plan. Apparently no resurrections had taken place before that time, so Abraham was exercising great faith in God.
According to Ephesians 1:19–20 and 3:20–21, believers today have Christ’s resurrection power available in their own bodies as they yield to the Spirit of God. We can know “the power of His resurrection” (Phil. 3:10) as we face the daily demands and trials of life. When the situation appears to be hopeless, ask yourself, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14) and remind yourself, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13, NKJV).
God did provide the sacrifice that was needed, and a ram took Isaac’s place on the altar (Gen. 22:13). Abraham discovered a new name for God—“Jehovah-jireh”—which can be translated “The Lord will see to it” or “The Lord will be seen.” The statement “In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen” helps us understand some truths about the provision of the Lord.
Where does the Lord provide our needs? In the place of His assignment. Abraham was at the right place, so God could meet his needs. We have no right to expect the provision of God if we are not in the will of God.
When does God meet our needs? Just when we have the need and not a minute before. When you bring your requests to the throne of grace, God answers with mercy and grace “in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Sometimes it looks like God waits until the last minute to send help, but that is only from our human point of view. God is never late.
How does God provide for us? In ways that are usually quite natural. God did not send an angel with a sacrifice; He simply allowed a ram to get caught in a bush at a time when Abraham needed it and in a place where Abraham could get his hands on it. All Abraham needed was one animal, so God did not send a whole flock of sheep.
To whom does God give His provision? To those who trust Him and obey His instructions. When we are doing the will of God, we have the right to expect the provision of God. A deacon in the first church I pastored used to remind us, “When God’s work is done in God’s way, it will not lack God’s support.” God is not obligated to bless my ideas or projects, but He is obligated to support His work if it is done in His way.
Why does God provide our every need? For the great glory of His name! “Hallowed be Thy name” is the first petition in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9–13), and it governs all the other requests. God was glorified on Mount Moriah because Abraham and Isaac did the will of the Lord and glorified Jesus Christ. We must pause to consider this important truth.
4. Seek to glorify Christ
In times of testing, it is easy to think only about our needs and our burdens; instead, we should be focusing on bringing glory to Jesus Christ. We find ourselves asking “How can I get out of this?” instead of “What can I get out of this that will honor the Lord?” We sometimes waste our sufferings by neglecting or ignoring opportunities to reveal Jesus Christ to others who are watching us go through the furnace.
If ever two suffering people revealed Jesus Christ, it was Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. Their experience is a picture of the Father and the Son and the cross and is one of the most beautiful types of Christ found anywhere in the Old Testament. Jesus said to the Jews, “Your father, Abraham, rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). In Isaac’s miraculous birth, Abraham saw the day of Christ’s birth; and in Isaac’s marriage (Gen. 24), he saw the day of Christ’s coming for His bride. But on Mount Moriah, when Isaac willingly put himself on the altar, Abraham saw the day of Christ’s death and resurrection. Several truths about the atonement are seen in this event.
The Father and Son acted together. The touching phrase “they went both of them together” is found twice in the narrative (22:6, 8). In our evangelistic witness, we often emphasize the Father’s love for lost sinners (John 3:16) and the Son’s love for those for whom He died (1 John 3:16), but we fail to mention that the Father and the Son love each other. Jesus Christ is the Father’s “beloved Son” (Matt. 3:17), and the Son said, “But that the world may know that I love the Father” (John 14:31). Abraham did not withhold his son (Gen. 22:16), and the Father did not spare His Son but “delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32).
The Son had to die. Abraham carried a knife and a torch, both of them instruments of death. The knife would end Isaac’s physical life, and the fire would burn the wood on the altar where his body lay. In Isaac’s case, a substitute died for him; but nobody could take the place of Jesus on the cross. He was the only sacrifice that could finally and completely take away the sins of the world. God provided a ram, but Isaac had asked about a lamb. The answer to the question, “Where is the lamb?” was given by John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
In the Bible, fire often symbolizes the holiness of God (Deut. 4:24; 9:3; Heb. 12:29). The cross was the physical instrument of death; but at Calvary, Jesus experienced much more than death. He experienced the judgment of God for the sins of the world. Isaac felt neither the knife nor the fire, but Jesus felt both. Isaac’s loving father was right there, but Jesus was forsaken by His Father when He became sin for us (Matt. 27:45–46; 2 Cor. 5:21). What marvelous love!
The Son bore the burden of sin. It is interesting that the wood is mentioned five times in the narrative and that Isaac did not start carrying the wood until he arrived at Mount Moriah. The wood is not a picture of the cross, for Jesus did not carry His cross all the way to Calvary. The wood seems to picture the burden of sin that Jesus bore for us (1 Peter 2:24). Abraham took the wood and “laid it upon Isaac his son” (Gen. 22:6), and “the Lord hath laid on Him [Jesus] the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). The fire consumed the wood as a picture of the judgment of God against sin.
The Son was raised from the dead. Isaac did not actually die, but “in a figurative sense” (Heb. 11:19, NKJV) he died and was raised from the dead. Jesus, however, really died, was buried, and was triumphantly resurrected. It is interesting that Abraham returned to the two servants (Gen. 22:19), but nothing is said about Isaac. In fact, Isaac is not mentioned again until he is seen meeting his bride (24:62). While it is obvious that Isaac did return home with his father, the Bible type reminds us that the next event on God’s calendar is the return of Jesus Christ to claim His bride, the church.
The greatest thing that can happen as we experience the trials God sends is that we grow closer to our Father and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ. Calvary is not only the place where Jesus died for our sins, but it is also the place where He sanctified suffering and, by His resurrection, transformed suffering into glory. Seek to glorify the Lord, and He will do the rest.
Said Martin Luther: “Our suffering is not worthy [of] the name of suffering. When I consider my crosses, tribulations, and temptations, I shame myself almost to death, thinking what they are in comparison of the sufferings of my blessed Savior Christ Jesus.”
5. Look forward to what God has for you (Gen. 22:15–24)
There is always an “afterward” to the tests of life (Heb. 12:11; 1 Peter 5:10), because God never wastes suffering. “But He knoweth the way that I take; when He hath tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10). Abraham received several blessings from God because of his obedient faith.
To begin with, he received a new approval from God (Gen. 22:12). Abraham had described this whole difficult experience as “worship” (22:5) because, to him, that is what it was. He obeyed God’s will and sought to please God’s heart, and God commended him. It is worth it to go through trials if, at the end, the Father can say to us, “Well done!”
He received back a new son. Isaac and Abraham had been at the altar together, and Isaac was now a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1–2). God gave Isaac to Abraham, and Abraham gave Isaac back to God. We must be careful that God’s gifts do not take the place of the Giver.
God gave Abraham new assurances (Gen. 22:16–18). He had heard these promises before, but now they took on fresh new meaning. Charles Spurgeon used to say that the promises of God never shine brighter than in the furnace of affliction. What two men did on a lonely altar would one day bring blessing to the whole world!
Abraham also learned a new name for God (22:14). As we have seen, Jehovah-jireh means “the Lord will be seen” or “the Lord will see to it [provide].” The Jewish temple was built on Mount Moriah (2 Chron. 3:1); and during our Lord’s earthly ministry, He was seen there. He was the true Lamb of God, provided by God to die for the sins of the world.
The founder of the China Inland Mission (now the Overseas Missionary Fellowship), J. Hudson Taylor, used to hang in his home a plaque with two Hebrew words on it: “Ebenezer” and “Jehovah-jireh.” They mean: “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Sam. 7:12) and “The Lord will see to it.” Whether he looked back or ahead, Hudson Taylor knew the Lord was at work, and he had nothing to fear.
When he arrived back home, Abraham heard another new name—Rebekah (Gen. 22:23)—the girl God was saving for Isaac. The roll call of the names of Abraham’s brother’s family could have discouraged a man with only one son, but Abraham did not fret. After all, he had God’s promise that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore! (22:17)
Finally, Abraham came away from this trial with a deeper love for the Lord. Jesus tells us about this deeper love in John 14:21–24, and Paul prays about it in Ephesians 3:14–21. Have you experienced it?