On the Mount It Shall Be Provided
Gen. 22:14 Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah Jireh, as it is said to this day,
“In the mount of the Lord it will be provided.”
Several recent conversations on faith together with current personal testings have birthed today’s article. This article is about both faith and provision. But it takes a view beyond what usually passes for wisdom on this topic.
Discussions on faith for provision usually pertain to every day needs. The needs may be financial or circumstantial. We may be in need of paying a bill or meeting a deadline or resolving a circumstantial dilemma. In the face of such needs, we are exhorted to confess that God will “take care of the situation.” He will reveal a source for the needed payment or resolve the circumstantial impasse. And on the face of this understanding, upbeat songs have been composed such as “Jehovah Jireh—my provider, His grace is sufficient for me, for me, for me!”
But the provision about which the name Jehovah Jireh speaks actually has nothing to do with daily financial or circumstantial provision. It has to do with provision for the resolution of terminal crisis with God over a severe private course of faith. It concerns provision regarding a closely-held matter in which, if you act on what you believe God is saying to do, you or someone close to you is going to die—and you will be the one held morally and/or possibly legally responsible for that death. You may in fact actually be the agent of that death, as was the case with Abraham.
Such a death-at-risk situation may, depending on the call, involve someone’s literal physical death (such as faith regarding an illness, or living outside the safety of civilization), or it may involve the irretrievable “death” of a relationship or set of relationships or of one’s lifelong destiny here. At risk may be the termination of a family, or of a church, or of a lifetime enterprise. In all cases, what is at risk is something exceedingly precious at the core of our relationship with God, and unrecoverable if sacrificed.
It is provision in respect to this kind of situation that the name Jehovah Jireh applies.
So before we get to discussing the nature of the provision in this context, let’s talk first about the nature of faith over which this provision is required.
The Ranks of Faith
Faith has different ranks and degrees. Not all faith is of the same class. Not all faith carries the same weight of import or the same degree of risk.
Among these, a difference exists between “younger” faith and “older” faith.
Younger faith is the faith we are challenged to in the earlier stages of our Christian walk. This is a faith on “training wheels.” As such, it is assisted with various principles of wisdom, confirmations and fleeces. And the risks involved with this faith are on the low end. The stakes are more a matter of great inconvenience than life threatening.
Older faith is a maturer faith that is not so assisted and for which the risks are very high. Older faith is the faith of sonship—a faith from which the training wheels are removed. There are few if any principles, confirmations or fleeces given. There is only “the Voice” and the internal certainty of what one has heard deep in the caverns of the heart. It is this faith of sonship on which the meaning of Jehovah Jireh is built and this article is centered.
The story of Abraham’s faithful obedience in sacrificing Isaac is one of the most celebrated stories in the Old Testament. It is also held up as the premier demonstration of faith that justifies a man in the sight of God. The story is specifically cited by James and the writer of Hebrews to this end. Yet this faith so cited is a sonship class faith. It is not early faith, but one that transcends all principles in the face of high risk.
Most have never trodden the path of this class of faith. We would be highly discouraged from doing so were we challenged to it, and likely would be a discourager of others were they to attempt to walk out such faith if we found out about it. Again, we are talking about a faith in which the consequences are extreme, severe and irreversible, regardless of whether we are right or wrong.
The Sonship Faith of Private Terminal Crisis: What Is at Stake
Here are some things to consider about Abraham’s situation over Isaac as it was executed:
First, Abraham was being asked to kill the very object of His lifelong Covenantal promise from God. He had waited decades in faith on an impossible situation before Isaac was ever born. That wait had come to define His purpose for living. So he was really being asked to kill his entire purpose for having lived the way he had ever since leaving the security of Ur. Talk about pointless. Talk about the sense of futility as well as the inexpressible emotional pain.
What else? Abraham is being asked to kill Isaac in the face of God’s known opposition to child sacrifice and murder. Abraham had been brought to a land characterized by such iniquity. God had even told him long before Isaac was born that He was waiting for the iniquity of the Canaanites to reach a fullness before Abraham’s seed would eventually return to possess the land. And now God is asking Abraham to do one of the very things that He supposedly is going to remove the present inhabitants for doing?
If Abraham kills Isaac, he is going to have to face Sarah over it. Sarah has already proven herself to be a feisty woman in the situation with Ishmael and Hagar. And Sarah has as much invested in Isaac as Abraham does. Now, having no other seed, if he kills Isaac he is likely going to kill his marriage as well. Killing Isaac will prove the equivalent of killing Sarah who will at minimum go into irrepressible depression for the rest of her life, if she survives, and with which Abraham will have to live—without any reasonable explanation. It is in my mind a virtual certainty Abraham did not tell anyone, much less Sarah, why he was taking Isaac to Moriah.
Abraham sets out on a three day journey with Isaac and two helpers only. There is no crowd here. There is no affirmation. There is no wisdom from a multitude of counselors behind this journey. This is going to be the loneliest journey Abraham has made in his entire life, which has already been a comparatively lonely, aimless one. Abraham has to bear by himself the unspeakable pain all the way on this campout. When he finally leaves the two helpers behind, he tells them “I and the lad …will worship and return to you.” We would call this a “faith statement.” He is speaking out of purely “blind faith.” He has absolutely no reason to believe that he is going to return with Isaac. He only knows what he has been told to do.
Once alone with Isaac on the final leg of the trek, Abraham once again makes a blind faith statement in response to Isaac’s sensible question, “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” He answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” But he has no idea what he is talking about.
Provision Defined in Crisis Faith
And so it is here we finally intersect with our theme word….“provide.” Are we able to see now the kind of provision at issue in Jehovah Jireh? We are talking about provision of a way out of a spiritual-moral crisis of faith that has no solution and which can only lead to death at many levels if followed to its obedient end.
When Abraham tells Isaac, “God will provide for Himself the lamb,” he is saying out loud to himself, “Somehow, some way, God will provide amidst this impossibly tortuous situation into which I have been thrust by faith, for which I have no answer, for which I have no confirmation, for which I have nothing rationally on which to lean, from which I cannot turn back, and which unless a provision is made, my entire life is over, my marriage, my family, my everything.” (I imagine he was tempted even to contemplate taking his own life after he had finished with Isaac rather than to go on living without him and face the consequences back home.)
Before saying anything more, I really want you, the reader, to let that sink in. This is faith we are talking about—sonship faith. It is a deadly faith with no safeguards and no support. There is no back-up plan and no exit strategy. There is frankly no solution, only certain doom ahead for this situation as stands.
Yes, we know Abraham reasoned “Well, maybe God will raise him from the dead after I kill him.” (And when might that be, and how long would he have waited around the corpse to find out?) Understand. This idea of resurrection was a rationally-derived miracle hope in search of any possible final way to justify the God to Whom he had abandoned his entire life. It was not a revelation, and we have no recorded precedent for the idea of resurrection at this time in history.
Abraham’s resurrection hope is a way to stave off insanity in defense of what had served as his only lifelong reference point for truth. It was not a statement of confidence or knowledge of what God would do based in any precedent or word of promise. He did not have a promise in this. He only had a command without a promise contrary to the promise. (Paul says, “in hope against hope he believed.”) The miracle hope then was all he had left to somehow believe out of nothing in order to salvage his very relationship with God, who was very Silent throughout the ordeal.
So when we are talking about Jehovah Jireh then, we are talking about provision for resolution in the face of a faith that defies sanity because the faith we have heard is diametrically contrary to what we know of the One from whom we have heard it and his lifelong promise to us. The significance of the provision is derived from the psychologically crushing severity of the test.
The Provision and its Meaning
Well, the provision does come. It finally appears. It is in fact because the provision does appear that there is a story at all to tell here. So what we want to do is keenly observe how this provision comes. Because this is where the resolution to crushing faith’s dilemma is found. Check this out:
First, Abraham thinks he hears another voice calling to him from heaven stopping him from following through on the kill of Isaac:
22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, … 12 … "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."
Now what? Is he hallucinating? Or did he really hear this voice? Was this voice as strong or as true as the first voice he heard telling him to do this thing? Or is he just wanting to hear this voice, so he thinks he hears it? What is going on??
Almost immediately, the provision appears that puts an end to all psychological conflict:
22:13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son.
At last the impossibly unbearable tension breaks and the crisis is resolved. It is broken by natural provision appearing as out of nowhere.
It is time to now ponder long and hard on the provision of this ram and what it means. From the near simultaneous hearing of the voice and appearing of the ram, we want to see three things:
1. The provision ratified the faith—after the fact.
Until the appearance of the ram, we have no evidence to corroborate what Abraham has heard in his heart from God. The voice of God first called Abraham in secret to make the sacrifice. And now the voice calls to him again to not follow through on this indefensibly insane act. Did Isaac hear that voice too? I wish he did. It would have made a powerful confirmation of the whole episode. Isaac’s hearing the voice would have provided a second witness to what Abraham said he had been told by God on both ends of the story. But I do not think Isaac heard the voice staying his father’s hand—only because it says the angel called specifically to Abraham.
If this is right, then it is that the provision of the ram in the thicket ratifies the entire story. In a Jehovah Jireh situation, the provision is the only thing that gives the evidence that the faith is real, not imagined, doing so only after the fact. The provision validating the faith comes only after, not before, the faith is expressed. That is what distinguishes crisis faith and Jehovah Jireh class provision from any other. And as we have been told, it is by such crisis faith that we are justified.
Abraham did not know and could not have known that the ram was there. He went through all the motions from beginning to end of the story without any witness to what he had spiritually heard on either end. Yet the natural provision of the ram brings the fulfillment to everything Abraham had said in blind faith--- to Isaac, to the two helpers, and to anyone earlier including Sarah about the purpose of his journey to worship and return. He could never have engineered the provision. Therefore the ram is God’s own ultimate witness to the truth of Abraham’s story—that this was indeed a faith authored by God and justified by Him.
In sonship faith, God’s provision in the mountain of crisis is the after-the-fact witness to the validity of the faith risked in hearing, believing and obeying God.
2. The provision came by an unintentional glance.
The provision resolving the crisis at last intersected with Abraham’s natural awareness, but not with Abraham’s intent. Abraham turned his head to see the ram. But he did not know the ram was nearby and had no intent of looking for one as a means of solving his faith dilemma. He had never anticipated such a thing. He had come only in obedience to the Voice to sacrifice Isaac, facing certain death. It was only in context of that helpless state of mind that the ram was then brought to Abraham’s awareness.
To me this is so significant. It shows that the Lord’s provision is truly just that—all the Lord’s provision, and not at all Abraham’s. That is why the provision comes when it does (after the fact) the way it does (apart from our intent or action).
I’m reminded of the story of the pole on which the Israelites needed only to gaze to be healed from the plague of serpents. The stricken people only needed to see the pole, nothing more. It was not a solution they could look for. It could not be searched out as if to be discovered. They could only look to God’s solution once revealed.
So too here. Abraham looked for nothing, but had his eyes sovereignly opened to the ram in the moment of salvation. He only needed to see what God had provided in order to avail himself of the resolution. He needed do nothing more nor could have done anything else.
This tells us that in the mount of crisis testing, we are utterly dependent on God’s sovereign supernatural revelation of provision for resolution, including the inspiration to “lift our eyes” and look around us. The resolution can neither be sought nor anticipated; and we are at the mercy of its revelation in the critical moment. Yet until it appears, we have no choice but to continue on the death march we have been given to walk against the promise. Again, in a “hope against hope” situation, this is how provision comes. It must simply appear as we proceed undistracted toward the point of doom.
3. The provision was present before it was known to exist.
Throughout the entire time that Abraham was in process of sacrificing Isaac, God’s substitute provision had been in place, only a matter of metres away. I am reminded again of the two on the road to Emmaus—how that the One over whom the two lamented was present before them all along on that journey. But their eyes were withheld from recognizing Him.
When God tests us in crisis faith, he strategically withholds knowledge from us that could already save us in our situation. The fact is that the provision to our crisis is already in our presence even before we arrive at the summit. Before we come to the place of final doom in executing our faith, God has already provided the solution for the crisis. But he strategically blinds us to it until we have passed the climax point of proving our obedience, a point known only to Him and His angel.
Resurrection or Ram: Finding Hope Against Hope in Crisis Faith
This overall story gives us hope amidst deep crisis faith testing. But the story cannot substitute for the reality. For our test to be real, the nature of the provision in our situation cannot be assured to us by this story. It’s possible that the provision might not come in the form of the ram. Maybe it will come in the form of a “resurrection”—as unthinkably wild as that might seem. The provision might come on this side of the knife. Or it might come on the other side of it. You just might actually have to “die” to or to “kill” or “allow to die” who or whatever in your situation must die at the Lord’s command. (Let no lawless man misconstrue this word.)
Again, only God knows what course of crisis faith we must bear, and what kind of provision He will make for it. The point of this story is not to establish a failsafe template of which way God will provide on the mount of sacrifice. It is not to say that the ram will always be the way out. It is only to make the point that He will provide in it. There will always be a provision on the mount. And in that we must trust.
Our motto must be “Resurrection or Ram” as we steadily march toward the death He has assigned us by contrarian faith. And we must hold the confidence to the end that His provision will indeed be there in the one form or the other.
The point of the story is that regardless of how far God takes us on a journey of crisis faith, there will always be a final point of provision. That provision is called Jehovah Jireh. It will come after the fact. You will not be able to anticipate it. You will not be able to look for it. And no one will be able to confirm it to you. There will simply be a moment when you lift your eyes, and you will see it as you raise the knife—or else after you thrust the knife, where it will bring you back from the grave.
If you are on such a journey now, you must stay the course. You must not turn back or give up from the command, regardless what it threatens to take from you now and how it threatens your confidence in the Father. Abraham was established as a pioneer of this kind of faith. And because we are his children by the Spirit, it is only a given that we must sooner or later answer the call to this sonship class of faith.
The just shall live by his faith, and on the mount his justification shall be provided.
First Love Ministry
- a ministry of Anglemar Fellowship
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Expectational Vs. Transexpectational Faith
One important distinction in classes of faith to be mentioned is the difference between “expectational” and “trans-expectational faith.”
Expectational faith is the faith the Lord challenges us with unto specific and imminent results. This is the faith Jesus most commonly challenged people to in His Presence where a miracle was needed. It is also the class of faith associated with the gift of faith, and that the “Faith Movement” was very good at articulating in its day.
Trans-expectational faith is by contrast the faith the Lord challenges us with where conditions are such that no solution is comprehendible and we must trust His inscrutable sovereignty. Any knowledge of possible solutions is withheld from us. The Lord may be silently requiring an ongoing state of endurance in response to situations that do not contain a certain promise. We see this kind of faith in Abraham’s crisis situation, as well as Jesus’ resigned faith in the Garden, and Paul’s faith for the sufficiency of God’s grace to endure trial.
Contrary to certain preaching, both of these are valid faith classes, and each has to be woven into our heart in its season. Each also carries its own pitfall fleshly counterfeits from which we need to be corrected.
Expectational faith can fall into a “faith legalism” and “works” mentality where results become dependent on our performance according to certain principles (like making endless, superstitious “faith confessions”).
Trans-expectational faith can fall into “faith fatalism” and a passive mentality in which, because we can’t be certain about our situation, we stop extending our heart to believe for anything specific, becoming “non-expectational” of anything. (Much mainline prayer is closed with the pious but non-expectational caveat “if it be thy will.”)
God uses these differing faith dimensions in our lives to not only grow us into each but to grow us out of the pitfalls of the other. When trans-expectation degenerates into non-expectation, God will challenge us to expectational faith. And when faith becomes hyper-expectational, God will challenge us further to enduring trans-expectational faith.
Page created December 29, 2015