This post is part of a series about the names of God in the Bible. This series is based off of the study that took place in our Ladies’ Bible Class. You can watch those sessions online at WestsideLife.org/media. Just look for the “Name Above All Names” media series.
“In fact, while Abraham was going through his trial and climbing up the mountain on one side, God had Abraham’s solution (the ram) coming up the mountain on the other side. And He was going to make a match at precisely the right time. This same principle can apply to you and me. Often the answer to the trial we’re facing is sitting right next to us, but we will never know it until God is ready to reveal it.” – Tony Evans, The Power of God’s Names (pp. 81-82)
Recap: Hagar and The God Who Sees
Last week, we told the story of Hagar from Genesis 16. Cast aside and left to wander alone in the desert, Hagar probably felt that the end was near. But when Hagar was at her lowest, God showed up in a powerful way to bless her and offer his protection. She respond by giving God a new name—El-Roi, the God Who Sees Me.
Today: Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Will Provide
Today we focus on the name Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord Will Provide. This name is used only once in Scripture, in Genesis 22. In that story, God commands Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of his faith. When God sees that Abraham is willing to obey him— even at great personal cost—he intervenes and provides an alternative sacrifice: a ram that was stuck in the bushes.
Connections to Hagar’s Story
In a few significant ways this story (and the name The Lord Will Provide) is a continuation of Hagar’s story (and the name The God Who Sees Me). Besides the obvious connection of Hagar and Abraham having a child together (Ishmael), the names El-Roi (spoken by Hagar) and Jehovah-Jireh (spoken by Abraham) are essentially two sides of the same coin.
Both Roi (he sees) and Jireh (He will provide) come from the same root word raah, a Hebrew verb that means to see. The more common meaning has to do with looking or noticing, but it also means “to provide” in the same way that “see to it” means to take care of something or provide a solution to a problem.
The English word provision connects these ideas of seeing and assisting. Provision refers to some kind of tangible benefit like food or supplies. It is what has been provided to us. When you break down the word provision, it’s vision (to see something) and pro (before, in advance). You see a problem ahead of time and provide someone with the tools they need to overcome the obstacle.
The Lord is a God of provision. He sees our challenges and difficulties while they are still a long way off, and then provides us the assistance we need to overcome that obstacle. In this way, God “sees us through” our most difficult circumstances, meaning he provides us with everything we need to meet that challenge head-on.
God sees the outcasts like Hagar, who named God El-Roi. And he sees the heroes of the faith like Abraham, who named the site The Lord will Provide, or the Lord Will See To It. It doesn’t matter your status in life or how deserving you are of God’s grace—God sees you, he cares for you, and he has a plan to see you through.
The Story of Abraham and Isaac
Abraham’s Obedience (Gen. 22:1-3)
It’s pretty much impossible for me to know how I’d respond if God told me what he told Abraham in Genesis 22: go sacrifice your child as a test of your faith. What in the world is God thinking? Isn’t there some other test of faith that doesn’t involve an innocent child dying? What is my wife going to say? Won’t I go to jail if I go through with this?
Tony Evans calls this situation a “mess of contradictions.” Here’s the full quote from his book on the names of God:
“Abraham suddenly finds himself in a mess of contradictions. He’s in a theological contradiction because God’s instruction goes against the promise of a future nation and the mandate not to kill. He’s in an emotional contradiction as his faith now collides with his affections. He’s facing a social contradiction because he will never become a “great name” in his community if he kills his son. And he’s also in a relational contradiction because sacrificing Isaac would create great conflict in his marriage.” (74)
I’m sure all of these doubts and questions swirled around Abraham’s head—and perhaps many more. Surprisingly, the story doesn’t tell us anything about Abraham’s initial reaction. We don’t know what he thought or what he said—or if he said anything at all.
Maybe Abraham didn’t feel like he had any right to object to God. Except that a few chapters earlier, Abraham debated with God about his plan to destroy two immoral cities, and pleaded with God to save them if he could find even a handful of righteous people. Abraham clearly felt he had a strong enough relationship with God to speak his mind.
But when it came to God’s command to sacrifice Isaac, instead of arguing or debating, Abraham simply obeyed.
Biblical Excursion: Why Did They Call Isaac Abraham’s “Only Son”?
In Genesis 22:2, God refers to Isaac as Abraham’s only son. But careful readers of the Bible know that Isaac was not Abraham’s only son. Earlier in Genesis, we learned that Abraham and Hagar had a son named Ishmael. So how do we explain God’s comment about Isaac being the only son?
The best explanation is that the story is told from Israel’s point of view, and Ishmael was not part of Israel’s family tree. Ishmael would eventually become a nation of his own, but he was separate from Israel. Ishmael and Hagar had been sent away for good, so now Isaac is the only child left.
And even if you did include Ishmael, there’s a case to be made that God never accepted Ishmael as legitimate heir to Abraham’s promise since Abraham and Sarah went outside of God’s plan in order to conceive him. Perhaps God is subtly informing Abraham that as much as he loves Hagar and Ishmael, he does not consider Ishmael to be a legitimate child of Abraham.
The Third Day (Gen. 22:4-5)
On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Big things happen on the third day in the Bible. The third day is typically when all of the drama boils over and reaches a climax. On the third day, Abraham saw the mountain in the distance. In one way, that’s provision—seeing something ahead of time. Abraham could see the problem looming in the distance. Little did he know that God was already working on the solution.
Abraham’s comments to his servants (We will worship and then we will come back) show a remarkable amount of faith. On the one hand, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, the child who was to be the heir to the promise. But somehow Abraham knew that Isaac would not be lost forever. Hebrews 11 explains that Abraham thought that God would raise Isaac back from the dead, even though God had not yet performed that miracle for anyone in human history. Abraham’s comments later in the story (see the next paragraph) tell us that he thought God himself would provide the sacrifice that was needed. Either way, Abraham was confident in God’s goodness, justice, and provision, even when it couldn’t understand everything that was about to happen. This is no doubt what Paul meant when he wrote, “For we walk by faith, not by sight,” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Isaac’s Astute Observation (Gen. 22:6-8)
During their hike up the mountain, Isaac asks the obvious question: “The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough and observant enough to know that something pretty important is missing. Abraham’s calm, faithful response reassures Isaac that everything will be okay since it’s all in God’s hands: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
The Lord Provides (Gen. 22:9-14)
Abraham was willing to do exactly what God commanded, even when it make zero sense and came at a great personal cost. Seeing that Abraham was willing to follow through in this way, the angel of the Lord intervened at the last possible moment to spare Isaac’s life. At that moment, Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught in a thicket. Abraham then sacrificed the ram on the altar he had constructed and named the place of that sacrifice Jehovah-Jireh, The Lord Will Provide.
Mount Moriah and the Temple in Jerusalem
The name of the mountain where all this took place was Mount Moriah. Centuries later, King Solomon would build the Temple of the Lord on this same mountain.
What makes this all the more significant is the fact that another possible translation of Jehovah-Jireh is “The Lord Will Be Seen.” The Temple of the Lord was the visible sign of God’s presence with his people. He was quite literally “seen” by all of Israel high atop Mount Moriah. Not far from that site, Jesus died on another hill to provide atonement for the sins of the world.
Taken together, the Temple and the cross show us the twin realities of Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord will Provide, and the Lord Will be Seen.
“Seeing” in the Story of Abraham and Isaac
As we’ve discussed, El-Roi and Jehovah-Jireh are fundamentally about God seeing us and seeing us through. Notice how “seeing” place a prominent part in this story:
- Abraham sees the problem from a distance: “On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance.” (22:4)
- Abraham has faith in God’s provision: “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” (22:8)
- Abraham sees the solution up close: “Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.” (22:13)
- Abraham declares the Lord will Provide: “So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide.” (22:14)
First, Abraham sees the problem. He puts his faith in God’s ability to solve that problem before he sees the solution personally. And after he experiences that provision, he permanently names that location The Lord Will Provide as an ongoing testament to God’s care and provision.
Quite often, all we can see is the problem. We have no ability to see or discern how God is going to solve that problem for us. Without seeing the solution, we can easily slip into fear and doubt… or maybe even despair. But the story of Abraham and Isaac shows us that even when all we can see is the obstacle, God already has a solution in mind—we just might not see it yet.
Why Do We Need to Know God Sees Us?
God is Real—Unlike Those Idols!
God is described as having human characteristics (eyes, ears, hands) — To show that he is real, alive, personal, intimately involved. This is in contradistinction to the idols that other nations (and sometimes Israel) would worship.
- Deut. 4:28, “There you will worship man-made gods of wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or eat or smell.”
- Psalm 115:4-7—Idols have mouths but can’t talk, eyes but can’t see, etc.
- With God, he can really see us, hear us, etc. He’s the real deal, and he really cares.
People in Trouble Would Pray that God Would See Them—the First Step to God helping them.
Have you ever heard the term “Raising Awareness”? It’s when someone does something to grab everyone’s attention in order to rally support for a cause or draw attention to a problem. Maybe they host an event, make a viral video, or buy ads during the Super Bowl. The idea is to get as many people to notice the problem so that they will be motivated to do something about it.
Many times in the Bible, people want to raise awareness about their problems, so they’ll pray for God to see them or notice their suffering. Here are a few examples:
- Hannah’s Prayer in 1 Samuel 1:10-11, “10 In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”
- Hezekiah’s Prayer in Isaiah 37:15-17, “15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: 16 “Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 17 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to all the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God.”
- Isaiah 63:15, “Look down from heaven and see,
from your lofty throne, holy and glorious.
Where are your zeal and your might?
Your tenderness and compassion are withheld from us.”
When God Saw the Misery or Affliction of His People, He Did Something About It.
When God sees or notices the suffering of his people, it leads him to take decisive action on their behalf. God doesn’t see our problems and then ignore them, he sees our problems and then does something about it:
- Exodus 2:25, “So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.”
- Exodus 3:7-8, “The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…”
People Are Filled With Joy When God Sees Them and Delivers Them from Their Misery
First people ask for God to see them, and then God sees them, and then he provides the solution to their problem. After these people experiences the goodness of God and find relief from their troubles, they praise God for seeing them in their distress:
6 Though the Lord is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble,
you preserve my life.
You stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes;
with your right hand you save me.
8 The Lord will vindicate me;
your love, Lord, endures forever—
do not abandon the works of your hands.
Leah’s pregnancies are a good example of this as well:
- Gen 29:32, “32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
- Although the literal meaning of Reuben is “Behold, a Son,” it sounds a lot like the phrase “he has seen my misery.”
- Ra’ah + Ben = Reuben (Look, a son!)
- Ra’ah + Beani = Look upon my suffering.
- The Lord has heard your suffering (Hagar), the Lord has seen my suffering (Leah).
Jehovah-Jireh: The Big Picture
We all face challenges throughout our lives. Some of them are small enough that we can handle them reasonably well on our own, through the grace and strength God gives us. But there are other challenges we face that are far beyond our ability to endure. Sometimes we get so focused on the problem that we just shut down mentally and emotionally. The story of Abraham and Isaac leads to the promise of Jehovah-Jireh: The Lord Will Provide.
God doesn’t promise to take away our challenges or clear our path so that life will always be easy. But he does promise that He Will Provide. He will give is the strength we need to take the next step, the grace we need to not give up, the patience we need to endure the hardship, the compassion we need to be kind to ourselves and others, and the wisdom we need to know where to go next.
God sees us, he sees our obstacles, and he promises to see us through. That is the promise of Jehovah-Jireh.