Sermon preached in Rye Lane Chapel, Sunday morning, August 26th 1956
"And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh; as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." Genesis 22:14
The occasion before us emphasises in a specific way an important general truth. There are various ways of reading the Old Testament but one consideration at least should not be overlooked. We see in so many of its characters dramatic events, which in the Christian are to be experiences of the inner spirit. Their challenges, tragic failures, aspirations, courage, all set out in their lives, are for our learning. What is thus dramatised in the flesh is to be for us actualised in spirit, and certainly in this consideration lies the meditation of this morning.
The story is simply but vividly related. The strong and deep emotions aroused are not described but they are there in those words: " Thy son Isaac, whom thou lovest." In this verse that word "love" is introduced to the Scriptures. How much Abraham loved Isaac he probably did not know until this never-to-be-forgotten occasion.
In a way we do not understand, Abraham was made conscious that it was the will of God that he should take his son Isaac and offer him on a certain mountain, as a burnt offering. We may suppose that Abraham would require adequate confirmation that this was of God and that as he checked up with God's previous dealings with him he could reach no other conclusion than that this was the mind and will of God.
It may be understood that on the following, morning Abraham personally made the preparation for the journey but he certainly took a personal interest in what his servants were doing. It does not appear that he told or consulted Sarah; for that might have meant a new struggle he could not face. But off to the land of Moriah he went from Beersheba and to the mountain he came.
Leaving behind the servants, the father and the son began the steep ascent. So far there was nothing strange. Isaac knew well his father's habits. This was not the first time they had sought seclusion for a time of spiritual experience in sacrifice but there were perhaps two differences. First, the servants possibly had brought everything to the site of the altar and then retired. It would hardly be likely that the aged patriarch would thus burden himself, or that the heir to his wealth and substance should carry it. If this were so in this case, lsaac made no complaint but meekly accepted the load on his back that a servant might and should have taken.
If he felt there was any indignity for him he did not express it. But even more was the absence of a sacrifice. Abraham and the lad were ascending for worship but Isaac could never remember any occasion when his father had worshipped without an offering. It was natural therefore that he should ask, seeing the father had with him, " the knife, the sacrificial knife: " Where is the lamb for a burnt offering?" How profound was the answer of Abraham: "My son, God will provide Himself the lamb," and that answer satisfied Isaac.
But the truth could not long be delayed. The place was reached, the altar prepared and then the mystery was solved as Abraham began to bind his son and place him a living sacrifice on the altar. Deliberately he reached for the knife and prepared to strike the blow more deadly to himself than Isaac when the angel of the Lord out of heaven intervened. Now God knew what was really in the heart of Abraham for was it not clear he had withheld nothing from Him? A ram caught in the thicket was seen and taken and offered instead of Isaac.
Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh. It means the Lord will see, or provide. If it means here "provide " then possibly the emphasis is on the ram that was suddenly provided in place of Isaac. That is good. It is the security of the believer: "The Lord will provide." It is an excellent motto for a church for any year, but it is one of those mottoes well known, truly scriptural but nevertheless to be known in its context within the occasion where the truth was realised and dramatised to Abraham.
But let us look at this other translation: " In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen." "The Lord will see." I must confess that I incline to this understanding of the word. Abraham you will remember was at Beersheba when he received this summons to the land of Moriah. But where is this land? Strictly speaking there is no such land. Once again Abraham was going he knew not where, certainly to one of the mountains which God would indicate. But Moriah has some connection with seeing and in effect God told him to make his way to the land of the seeing of Jehovah. He was to take his son whom he loved and offer him for a burnt offering on a mountain in the land of the seeing of Jehovah. See how the plan develops. Abraham, with his son Isaac, sets off for the land of Moriah, the land of the seeing of Jehovah. It is much more than a physical feature, it is the ascent of a mount with a purpose in his heart to do the will of God, shall I say, tragically. When the event was completed Abraham called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh, the place where he had seen God! With all this in mind we may see some truths which contain great blessing. And first let us notice
1) THE PROCESS OF REVELATION
As we read these wonderful records we are amazed at the remarkable faith of the patriarchs and not least of him who has been called the father of the faithful. This man Abraham towers in human history. He is venerated by Jew,Christian and Muslim. This great eminence of spiritual achievement was not easily made an experience. Actually this was the final of a series of experiences in which God tested him. Divine testings are not to be despised, much less considered unjust. In themselves they indicate that God is taking a man seriously and according to the nature of the test, assessing him. We know little if anything of the ways of God if Divine tests become to us human problems and occasions for the loss of faith.
Actually for the believer from the moment of regeneration, his life is hid with Christ in God. That is to say, nothing touches him without it also touches God and many attacks upon him are attacks on God which never reach him. Where however, in Divine love some test is permitted it is always with a view to the land of Moriah and a place where we may worship Jehovah-Jireh.
Abraham's first test was to come out from Ur. He knew at least that the idolatry of Ur was not the answer to his soul's need. This was the initial and, as he saw later, a simple and elementary step in faith. With some such experience God deals with every one of us. Then came the separation from Lot as the latter chose the rich pastures towards Sodom, but God at once gave promises to which Lot was ever a stranger. Then came the destruction of Sodom, Abraham's dramatic intervention on behalf of his ungrateful nephew, his meeting with Melchisedec and further blessing from God. God was to be his exceeding great reward. Finally came the marvellous gift of Isaac, brought to birth when the total years of Sarah and Abraham were 190! In all Abraham is seen moving on in the realm of faith which is the only real progress of life, until now when Sarah is 127 and Isaac must have been about 35, he faces this supreme test by God of standing in grace, the quality of his faith and integrity of his devotion to the will of God.
God always has a process of revelation for each one of us. If we will, we may see God dealing with us just as He dealt with Abraham, bringing us from Ur into fellowship with Himself and sustaining when others take advantage of us. Holding us fast when Sodom would enmesh, bringing our dearest hopes to birth in His own way and finally unveils the revelation of Himself in the realm where men see God and seeing Him declare their Jehovah- Jireh. Many of the things that happen to us that we call problems are the mysterious dealings of God with us to the end, that we shall at last be able to write over our experience what Abraham wrote that day.
2) THE PURPOSE OF DEATH
We cannot mistake the significance of the event to Abraham. It was not until he was 100 that Isaac had been born. The years had been years of great disappointment, stepping aside to reach the goal his own way and bringing himself into grievous sorrow. We get such foolish and false views of life in the society in which we live. We grow up with a multitude of ideas all of which have to be completely reordered and sometimes smashed to oblivion if life is going to be in any sense what God wants it to be. We think of career and aim at material success. The whole world is now a seething mass of men and women seeking a larger share of material wealth. There is a sense in which that is good but there is another sense in which it is evil.
But now let us watch Abraham and watch God and then watch ourselves. Abraham
comes to the mount and finds indeed that the altar is to be laid and his son
bound upon it. There is no hatred of his son in his heart and no rebellion against
God for such a command, but God is leading him on because this is the way men
see God, this is the way, that is to say, that men realise the fulness of life
and joy. They realise it by death, the death of everything dear to them save
The vast millions know nothing about it. Very few Christians read their Bibles sufficiently to appreciate it. We may ourselves turn from it. But if you look at this experience from God's standpoint is it not true to say that He spared not His only Son but freely gave Him up for us all? God's path of faith was the path to which He called Abraham, only there was no lamb
when Calvary was reached. God's means of redemption even in death is substitution most definitely, but it is also identification, and somewhere in life, if we are really concerned with a Divine interpretation and an eternal consummation, we shall find that life finds its deepest experience in death.
It is one of the profoundest truths we can possibly embrace. There comes a place where we are one with Abraham not in affirming how much we will give up to God if necessary, but when, as we seek His most intimate fellowship, we discern where every hidden affection lies and freely yield to Him. Miss Havergal's hymn is very beautiful: " Take my silver and my gold," but it does not meet this situation. God wants us not to be willing to give if we are asked, but, men and women who themselves give instead of asking the Lord to take.
Of course, if we are not interested in the land of Moriah, if, like Lot, we want the rich pasturage settlement in Sodom, imbibing the life of Sodom then God lets us go and into what sins we may fall before the journey is ended we cannot tell, but if we have seen life to be the land where we see God, then in the process of revelation we shall understand with perfect simplicity the significance of death as the one and only path reached by the sweat of toiling up the mount and going through with the sacrifice that wrenches the fibres of the soul.
3) THE POWER OF RESURRECTION
God, however, never deals with any one of us as if His glorious will and His mysterious commands lead to our undoing. It is a long spiritual educa tion that brings us to prefer God's way, that seems to lead to the disaster of all we had hoped for, to our own way, which would preserve what we feel to be essential to our life. Probably no man entirely overcomes that peculiar tension of which every sincere and earnest believer going on with the Lord must be conscious.
Mark, however, Abraham's attitude. He did not imagine as he ascended the mount that he was to see the shipwreck of all his hopes. True, it is clear from the writer to the Hebrews, he expected that he would have to plunge the knife into the body of Isaac, and all that that meant none could imagine, but even so he believed that God would raise him from the dead. He would rather that Jehovah should not bring his son to death but even so he was clear that God would raise him from the dead, from which, indeed as in a figure, Abraham received him.
What Abraham did not appear to realise was that it would be resurrection blessing not only for Isaac but for himself! It is only through death that the dead thing in us can be brought to life. While we hold on to our precious little possessions and withstand God we are oblivious to the truth that there is death reigning within in some direction that can only come to life by an act of God as we consent to the death God indicates.
"Because thou hast done this thing, " exclaimed Jehovah to Abraham "world-wide blessing shall come upon thee and upon all thy seed." The precious Isaac so willingly laid upon the altar shall he the instrument of such a Divine favour that in thee shall all the nations of the earth be blessed: " Because thou hast obeyed my voice."
So this is the way to the land where we see God! Progressive steps of obedience, nothing doubting, the yielding of everything, however precious, up to God, always believing not in death but in resurrection. God does not intend deprivation and resignation but asks our simple faith in relation to His will and purpose.
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