At 4:30 this morning I sat in the restaurant of a hotel with my stack of books and a stronger internet connection than what I was able to get in my room, but the woman who was setting up for the breakfast crowd was already at work when I arrived. Extroverting is my favorite sport, so I waited patiently for her to have enough of a pause in her preparations to engage her in a conversation (poor thing…she suffered from being the only other person there or else I might have chosen another victim). When she finally had time, we had a pleasant interaction, but in our five minutes I learned that she and her three children escaped her abusive husband, moved to a new city to start a new life from scratch, and is currently walking through the tragic loss of a niece a few short weeks ago.
Earlier this week I was visiting with some moms in my neighborhood while we watched our kids play. They are all sweet women who are doing the best they can. Having each experienced rough things, their stories include everything from childhood trauma to financial struggle to marriage and parenting problems.
All that to say, people are living hard lives. They have gaping wounds and heavy burdens.
When I’m brave enough to admit my own selfishness, I walked away from each of those interactions thankful to walk away. I’m overwhelmed by their needs and my inability to provide any tangible relief.
The last in the Name series, though not the last of the names of God by any stretch, touches at exactly the point where I begin to recoil.
The name is Yahweh Yireh.
(Traditionally you may have seen this name transliterated Jehovah Jireh.)
The first mention of this name is found in Genesis 22. You know the story. Abraham and Sarah have Isaac (Abe’s promised heir). In order to test Abraham, God said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
So that’s what Abraham did.
I recount this story as though it’s no big deal, but when I read it with an engaged imagination, I can’t help but feel the anxiety of Abraham’s position and the confusion he must have felt about the whole thing. Taking his son, a couple of servants, and the essential elements for the sacrifice, Abraham sets his face toward the mountain God would show him to carry out the unthinkable.
On the mountain, Abraham is poised to carry out the command when YHVH calls to him.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in the thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram and offered it as a burnt offering in place of his son. And Abraham named that place The LORD Will Provide [Yahweh Yireh], so today it is said: “It will be provided on the LORD’s mountain.”
There it is. Right when Abraham needed it, and not a moment before, Yahweh provided a substitute. As a parent, though, it’s hard for me to say who experienced the greater deliverance that day--Isaac from death, or Abraham from the trauma of remembering what it was like to slice into his son’s flesh?
Abraham didn’t name the place “The LORD will bring a substitute”. He didn’t call it “The LORD didn’t take my son.” He named it Yahweh Yireh.
Yahweh provides. For each and every need, He provides.
That’s a comfort in and of itself. I could probably stop here and insert Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” It’s a major touchstone to be able to call on the name of Yahweh Yireh in times of need knowing that he provides for all of our needs out of his riches. He’s never forced to scrape together the means to provide for you. He doesn’t have to take out a loan or wait for payday or recharge to meet my needs. He’s never reduced to making ends meet. He supplies out of his extravagant wealth.
If you check your Bible footnotes, though, you might notice that there is a more literal translation for the word yireh than “He provides.” The literal translation is “He sees.”
Think about that for just a moment.
He SEES. He PROVIDES.
The translators didn’t make a huge mistake. They gave us the translation that communicates the the sense of the word. He doesn’t just observe or witness. His seeing leads him to act. The action he takes for us is the difference between life and death.
His provision flows from his riches, but it’s initiated by his gaze.
Further, and this is the really amazing thing, being in his sight is the very same thing as having his provision. He cannot look upon you and fail to provide for your need. If he sees you, and he always does, provision is on its way.
One last thing: this mountain that God showed Abraham in the land of Moriah is thought by many to be the same as Calvary. Calvary was the place where the ultimate need of every man, woman, and child was met. Without knowing it, Abraham was living a prophetic foretelling of the drama that would unfold on that very spot several millennia later between God the Father and his One and Only Son who he loved. Everything we need was indeed provided on the LORD’s mountain, because as Abraham told Isaac on the way the altar, “The LORD will provide Himself…”
Not the torn flesh of Isaac, but the torn flesh of Jesus.
No need surpasses that provision.