Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” (Genesis 22:14)
God sees us. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good”
(Proverbs 15:3). How can this be good news for people who have done evil? God’s dealings with Abraham and Isaac upon the mountain provide a stunning picture.
From the beginning, the God of the Scriptures reveals himself as the God of seeing. The idols have eyes but do not see, yet Yahweh sees, and Yahweh knows. From the beginning installments of creation, he “saw” and judged each new thing he created as “good,” and then “very good” (Genesis 1:4, 9, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).
But God is not the only seeing creature. He decided to make others. God makes man and woman as the chief of those who see, and their sight plays a crucial role in the fall. It was when the woman “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes” that she took of its fruit and ate and gave some to her husband who was with her (Genesis 3:6). From then on, the disease spread, and God beheld something different in his “very good” creation:
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. (Genesis 6:12)
The seeing God, so comforting to unfallen man, now strikes a nervous chord: He sees me. He knows. I’m naked. The blessing of the watchful God now turns into the ever-watchful gaze from the judge of all the earth. Would the story so promising to begin with turn irredeemably sour?
God’s seeing of Noah as a righteous man, and his later seeing and provision for Hagar, strike the first hopeful notes for sinful man’s relationship with the knowing and holy God. But the unspoken tension is this: How can a perfect God who requires complete obedience look favorably upon anyone?
God gives us a foreshadowing when he leads Abraham up a mountain to sacrifice his own son, his beloved son, as a burnt offering. Certainly, the request sounded ominous, and uncharacteristic of God as Abraham knew him — and yet, Abraham would obey. He knew that if God allowed him to strike his only son of promise, he would raise him from the dead and bring him again down the mountain alive (Hebrews 11:19).
But he does not strike his son because, at the last moment, the angel of the Lord calls from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham! . . . Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me” (Genesis 22:11–12). He points Abraham to a ram caught in the thicket. Sacrifice it instead. Abraham calls the place “Jehovah Jireh” or “Yahweh Yireh” — “The Lord will provide” a ram, or perhaps more literally, “The Lord will see to himself” a ram. As Charles Spurgeon comments on this text, “Our heavenly Father sees our needs and, with divine foresight of love, prepares the supply. He sees to a need to supply it, and in the seeing he is seen — in the providing he manifests himself.”
So how does this help us with our dilemma? Yahweh, in response to human fallenness, will see to it himself to provide an alternative to a sinner dying. He provides for our deepest needs: forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. He would see to himself a substitute, a ram caught in the thicket.
Centuries later, the foreshadow comes into vivid picture. The Father brings his own Son up the hill, as the Son lies willingly upon the altar, and he slaughters him for the sins of the world. Paul picks up hints of Genesis 22 in the great declaration of Romans 8:32: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
Our God is “Yahweh Yireh,” the God who provides — the one who sees our desperate need for salvation and has provided it through his Ram.