God tested Abraham.
“The Lord will provide.”
And Abraham looked up, and saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.
So Abraham called that place “The Lord will Provide.”
We see in this popular yet deeply layered passage that God both tests us and provides for us. As odd as it may sound to our modern ears, God is the tester at the beginning of this story, and the provider at the end, with an enigmatic statement uttered by Abraham in the middle (v.8) that is a kind of hinge or connector for the two sides of this paradoxical mystery.
This story definitely highlights the faith of Abraham, and is even referenced in the NT in Hebrews 11:17, yet could it be that the even stronger emphasis is on the rock solid truth that ultimately God can be trusted? In the face of anything?
I mean, at the beginning, we have this most incomprehensible command from Yahweh to Abraham. (Keep in mind it may not have been wrong-sounding to Abraham at this time in history, as it is quite likely that he did not know God’s stance on child sacrifice. There was some child sacrifice going on in Canaan at this time, and at least dedicating your first-born to God was of course quite the norm in Judaism.)
But it is almost impossible to imagine being asked to do this in any era, am I right? Abraham’s faith and obedience is indeed radical here. Now his faith wasn’t always so strong before (impregnating Hagar and all), but it sure is hall of fame worthy here!
And we see this quite vividly in that crucial hinge verse 8: “God himself will provide a lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”
Abraham’s incredible and abandoning faith is brought out to be represented by his strikingly simple utterance of “God will provide.” Oh if we could always live in such faith! I am inspired and humbled down to the ground all at the same time.
Abraham believed in his soul that God will ultimately take care of everything, confidently trusting in Yahweh’s omni-wisdom, care, sovereignty, and power. And this without knowing how God would provide, but being aware that the sacrificial death of his beloved son at his own hand was a real option! He finds God to be inscrutable, yet reliable. Wow.
Abraham finds his only refuge in the Divine Provider, and that is what Yahweh desires of us. God insists on being trusted only and totally. He prohibits any alternative.
God tests Abraham’s faith in the most brutal fashion, yet also divinely provides in the truest-to-His-character fashion.
As we know, the Angel of the Lord (many scholars believe this to be Jesus) stops Abraham before he can slay his son, and provides that ram caught in a thicket within sight.
Can you think of a time where your circumstances seemed impossible, yet you pushed through only to find a ram caught in a thicket just for you?
This seems to be the way God works, as William Cowper wrote in his hymn which begins with “God moves in a mysterious way,” and later, “Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”
And some helpful lines from the old Interpreter’s Bible:
the ways of God are sometimes hidden and at first not understood; but ultimately his will is found to be not contradictory to the purest emotions implanted in human souls.
The Bible read in its great sweep and progress is the story of a revelation of God as love–a love vaster and more profoundly wise than human souls can always immediately recognize, but in the end such as will satisfy all that is highest in those souls.
You know, perhaps one of the reasons Ruach (aka the Holy Spirit) wrote this passage was to show us just how much God detests the irrationality and arbitrariness of pagan superstitions, and express clearly what God really wants–our total trust, confidence, faith, and….heart.
ALL of it.
And this Abba can have because of His love, wisdom, and provision that is beyond our comprehension, and which is all that we’ll ever truly need for our life, which is His generous gift. Perhaps God wants to actually help us get beyond how things simply appear to us on the surface, and to increasingly operate out of a deeply confident trust in His infinite goodness and abilities.
I want our daughters, Gabriela and Zayra, to trust me and Ana insanely more than any other human being, because I know in the depths of my soul that no one on earth loves them, knows them, or cares about them anywhere even remotely near the magnitude that we do!
I wonder if that’s how God feels about us.
Times seventeen centillion, of course.
The faith of the Bible is that God at last can prevent the necessity for that sacrifice; or if he permits it, as with Jesus in Gethsemene and his sacrifice on the cross, will so enter into and identify himself with human suffering that it will become redeeming.