Despite his old age, the muscles of his arms were like steel cables as he held the knife aloft, so great was his determination. His brow was slick from the sweat of such travail. In that seminal moment just before plunging the knife downward, he closed his eyes so as to gather the inner resolve to carry out his assignment. It made no sense but still he knew he must go through with it. It was the will of Yahweh.
He heard a slight whimper from the lad and instinctively opened his eyes. Standing stock-still in the same aggressive pose over Yitzchak, he gazed upon his son with a gathering sorrow unlike anything he had ever known. His mouth slackened, his lips quivered and those aged eyes suddenly pooled with tears, making viscous trails down his weather-worn cheeks. His lungs filled with the pain of fire and he dared not breathe. Yahweh stood nearby and to deny Him this sacrifice was unthinkable. But the lad, my son! My beloved son! It was harrowing to see the abject fright in the boy’s eyes and yet submit with an irrepressible trust in his father. Had there ever been a time in all of human history when so much was asked of a parent?
Even so, friendship with Elohim meant everything to him and he had faith that a merciful God would resurrect his son. Yitzchak was blessed Seed, the guarantee of nations, the Promise of Messiah. He was the lone seed that must fall into the ground and die but from which would yield the providential harvest. The conflicted patriarch closed his eyes in reverence as a sudden warming peace took hold. All is well, Avraham. You and the lad will be joined again but for now you must give him to Me. Can you not trust Me?
He was suddenly aware of the knife again. Held against the slate gray of the overhead sky, it had seemed almost imperceptible but now it took on a more pronounced hue. Avraham sighed deeply and looked upon his only begotten with an odd mixture of pity and relief, sadness and release. His grip tightened. Yitzchak braced. Yahweh waited. The old man’s arms stretched to their full extension.
“My father! My father! Why have you forsaken me?” Yitzchak’s shrill voice pierced Avraham’s very soul.
Though his own tortured heart was breaking asunder, the fury of obedience held its own. The knife reversed at its topmost point and such velocity for an old man was a sight to behold. The blade hurtled through space, tracking its course without deviation, determined to strike at the heart of Avraham’s dreams. And it was Avraham who himself would strike the blow, so great was his love for Yahweh.
The aim was true. Resolve deepened.
An unseen Hand stretched and caught Abraham’s arm. The gnarled hands unclasped and the wrists relaxed. The knife curved back, away from the lad, and bore deeply into a stick of wood, mercifully guided away from his only son. When Abraham turned toward the Voice, he heard another voice, the grunting of a male sheep, caught in a nearby thicket, and knew at once this was the Sacrifice. I AM Yireh, he was told. You leave it to Me. I will see to it.
As someone has quipped, “God spared Abraham’s heart a pang He would not spare His own.”
The overarching Truth is, no Divine provision can be gained with hands already full. When the child became the “delight and idol of his heart” (Tozer), God went into action. He set out to test Abraham’s affection. He wanted to make dead sure His servant loved Him above all else. And he passed.
“The old man,” A.W. Tozer wrote, “stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lord for special treatment, a friend and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and God had taken it from him. God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus He practiced an economy of means and time. It hurt cruelly, but it was effective.”
The combination-name of Yahweh-Yireh (Jehovah-Jireh) in Genesis 22:14 is the same Hebrew that is used in the Shepherd Psalm where David says, “The Lord is my Caring Shepherd (and He will see to it that) I have everything I need” (Psalm 23). Hagar also used the word when she called God, “the One who sees me.” The name Yireh means much more than Provider. It means “HE WHO SEES”. Yahweh is able to see how we cry to Him, how we turn to Him, how we depend upon Him and how we will treat His Sacrifice. Genesis 22 is the Gospel of God. In this short narrative we have passion, sacrifice, death, resurrection, substitution, efficacy, appeasement, election and justification. There is Lordship and reign.
It is true for us that God is able to see what we will do with His Sacrifice, so He will make provision for us. He sees to it that we will be included in His great plan and covenant of mercy. The catch is that we will never truly know Him as our ‘Yireh’ until we come into the “blessedness of possessing nothing.” (Tozer) We must come to Him with empty hands. We must come to Him with a heart-throne reserved only for Him. We enter through a narrow gate, meaning we must dis-possess ourselves of everything just to get through. If we give Him our Isaacs, we may be able to keep our Isaacs, but they will no longer be ours to possess. If we give Him our Isaacs, we will surely get His Son.
Abraham’s—and Isaac’s— salvation was in a ram caught in the thicket. Our salvation is in a Lamb nailed to a Cross.