I have mentioned already that I am working on our next Sunday morning adult bible class entitled, The Names of God. Names were often given to people because it told a story either about them or some event that was to come. The Hebrew name Adam derives from the noun adamah meaning the ground or earth. The name Isaac means one who laughs, given to him by Abraham and Sarah, for they initially laughed at the idea of having a child at such an old age (Genesis 17:17; 18:12). In our present Sunday morning bible class, we learned the names of Hosea’s children, each having a meaning revealing the troubles which would soon come upon God’s rebellious people. Today, the choosing of names is less about their meaning and usually about family. I know this because my name means devotee or follower of Dionysus, the god of wine. My wife’s name Deborah means from a bee swarm. I got stung by her many years ago.
With the Christmas holiday quickly approaching, I was thinking what I could talk about, leading up to our scripture reading Christmas Sunday service. I believe the Lord provided an answer as I worked on that new Sunday morning bible material. It is a story we are very familiar with and one that sets the stage for the most amazing gift man has ever received. It is a story that involves Abraham and his son Isaac found in Genesis 22. For us to fully grasp what is happening, we need to take a moment and look back. In Genesis 12, Abraham, who then was called Abram (means high father), is given a promise from the Lord, “I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great” (Genesis 12:2). Fast forward to Genesis 15, where we Abram struggling with this promise, “Lord God, what will You give me, seeing I go childless…” (15:2). The Lord affirms His promise as He has Abram look to the stars in the sky, “So shall your descendants be” (15:5). Fast forward again and we find Abram once again struggling with this promise, now 99 years old and still him and Sarah are childless. The Lord once again affirms His promise only now, He changes Abram’s name to Abraham (meaning father of many nations) (Genesis 17:5). As much as the promise has been made, Abraham and Sarah physical world caused them to doubt and laugh. Once again, we fast forward to find Sarah giving birth to Isaac, the son of Abraham, the father of many nations. Hope renewed; a promise kept.
Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham,
and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1)
Years have passed, Isaac has grown up enough that he could carry the firewood needed for the sacrifice (Genesis 22:6). Soon, a sacrifice was going to be given. Genesis 22:2, “Then He said, ‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.’” All those years of waiting for the promise of a son who would bless the world, and now You want me to sacrifice him. That would be my thinking at least, but it wasn’t Abraham’s. The one who once laughed about the very idea of having a son at such an old age had grown in his faith. He reasoned, “God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:19). So, Abraham and Isaac journeyed to the mountain and along the way, Isaac asked his father, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Genesis 22:7). His father replies, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering” (Genesis 22:8). The Hebrew word for “will provide” is jireh; that is, to see or foresee. More about that in a minute. With a conviction that we find hard to grasp, Abraham “stretch out his hand and took the knife to slay his son” (Genesis 22:10). With his faith tested, the Lord intervenes, keeping Abraham from sacrificing Isaac. Instead, “Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns” (Genesis 22:13). Then, in v14 we read, “And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will Provide…”. It here Abraham calls the Lord, Jehovah-Jireh.
It is understandable to consider the profound faith of Abraham, but that is not the real emphasis of the story. This whole scene gives a glimpse to what God was planning all along. We fast forward once again, looking at the promise given to Abraham, continued through Isaac, and finding its fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Jehovah-Jireh, before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 1:4), put into motion a plan where a sacrifice would be needed. Like Abraham, it would take a firstborn, but not any firstborn. It would be God in the flesh, “the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). Years of a sacrificial system had only revealed man’s inability to appease God. Victory over sin and death would need a perfect sacrifice, Jehovah-Jireh would provide it through His Son. In rushed Immanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). He lived a life with the purpose of offering it in our place. Sacrifice is bad enough, but the cruelty of the whole process is hard to fathom. How could someone love so much…love me so much? Yet Jehovah-Jireh was committed to providing mankind with the greatest and most precious gift one could imagine. The gift, His Son. The promise, salvation.
Our attention this time of year is the holiday called Christmas. During it, we will both give and receive gifts from those who love us, who want to provide joy to our lives. But it is of greater importance that we reflect, not only this time of year, but always, on the gift given to us by Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord Will Provide). It is the gift of His only Son that says, more than anything could, “I love YOU!” May this be what we are reminded of most of all this time of year. Know you are blessed and walk in His hope. Merry Christmas!