A journey through the Bible names of God is like a never-to-be-forgotten trek across a majestic mountain range with awe-inspiring views around every turn.
One of the most instructive families of names for God are the compound names of JEHOVAH (sometimes transliterated by scholars as ‘YAHWEH’).
Who is Jehovah?
Jehovah is the name of God as the ever-dependable, covenant-keeping LORD, whose character is eternally consistent and whose word never fails. God appeared in this name to Moses in the narrative of ‘the burning bush’, as we read in Exodus 6:2-3:
And God spoke to Moses and said to him: ‘I am the LORD [Jehovah]. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty [El Shaddai], but by My name LORD [Jehovah] I was not known to them’.
In this narrative, God points out that He was revealed to Abraham mainly as El Shaddai, meaning the ‘All-Sufficient God’, but was now being revealed as Jehovah, meaning the ‘unchanging, ever-faithful, covenant-keeping LORD’.
Through these names, Moses was being taught that God was not only ABLE to keep His covenant promises – as El Shaddai – but He was DEPENDABLE. He is Jehovah, the eternal, unchangeable ‘I AM’.
In Genesis 22, Abraham himself links this particular covenantal name to Jireh. Behind this compound name lies the promise that ‘The LORD will PROVIDE’.
What does the name ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ mean?
To find out more, we must look at the amazing narrative.
The main character of the story is Abraham. Abraham had trusted in the LORD. In fact, on God’s orders he had left the ‘city-lights’ of Ur to strike out across the floodplains of the Euphrates and eventually found himself in the land of Canaan. He lived in tents, never establishing his roots in the land.
Because of his ‘obedience of faith’, God had blessed him immensely. He had trusted in the LORD and the LORD had given him what is now known as the Abrahamic covenant. God promised that He would bless him and his seed, giving him the land of Canaan as his inheritance. (Read Genesis 12-24).
Within this covenant, God promised Abraham a seed (i.e. a son) from his wife Sarah. Although she was well past childbearing age, she eventually bore Isaac, the answer to God’s promise, the proof of God’s faithful care.
Later, however, God tested Abraham’s confidence in Him.
He said to Abraham:
‘Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you’. (Genesis 22:2)
Abraham didn’t waver in his faith in God’s integrity, knowing that God who promised him blessing through his son Isaac was able, if necessary, to raise him back to life.
Hebrews tells us about Abraham’s mindset:
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘IN ISAAC YOUR SEED SHALL BE CALLED,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense. (Hebrews 11:17-19)
He saddled his donkey and made his way with his son Isaac to the land of Moriah. As they ascended the mountain, Isaac spoke to Abraham:
‘My father!’ And he said, ‘Here I am, my son.’ Then he said, ‘Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?’ And Abraham said, ‘My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.’ So the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:7-8)
As they reached the place of sacrifice, Abraham bound Isaac on the altar and, just as his hand was raised to slay him, God intervened – sparing Abraham’s son. The test of Abraham’s faith in God was over.
Lifting his eyes from his bound son, Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. This he took and offered up on the altar as a substitute for Isaac.
And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide [Jehovah-Jireh]; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.’ (Genesis 22:14)
A ram was offered instead of Isaac, and Abraham, it appears, understood that behind this incident was something much deeper.
Ever since Adam’s sin in the garden of Eden (see Genesis 3 and 4), men and women have needed a sacrifice to bring them into a correct relationship with God.
God HIMSELF would provide a substitute – an offering – to answer man’s deepest need by bringing about a right relationship with God. ‘God will provide Himself a lamb’ – the answer is found in the deep heart of God: Jehovah-Jireh.
God will provide and He will do it on ‘the Mount of the Lord’.
Over 2000 years later, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, walked towards Golgotha with a cross on His back (see John 19:17). He had already been pointed out by the prophet John the Baptist as ‘the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29).
Jesus Himself had told the Jews, ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad’ (John 8:56). Christ was the only sacrifice who could meet the need of humankind. Every other sacrifice was inadequate and was merely a faint picture of His sacrifice on the cross.
Scholars tell us that the Hebrew text of ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ in the Old Testament allows the interpretation ‘On the mount of the Lord – it shall be seen’, or ‘On the mount of the Lord – He shall be provided’. Both meanings are ultimately true. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, He was the one voluntary offering who could meet our need and bring us back into relationship with God.
God’s answer was SEEN and God’s Son was PROVIDED.
Why is ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ important to me today?
In our fast-paced, technology-driven age, this Old Testament name of God might seem irrelevant. What, after all, can an ancient name of Deity mean for us today?
Firstly, it tells us that a faithful, unchanging God keeps His word and therefore can be implicitly trusted. You should take time to see what He says in His word, the Bible.
Secondly, this Name informs us that God has an answer to our deepest problem – ‘How can I be right with God?’
The story of Abraham gives us an insight into how God answers the problem of human guilt.
1. A Son was given
Just as Abraham’s beloved son, Isaac, was to be offered up, so God would give His Son to die on a cross for us.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
2. A Substitute was found
God had no desire for Isaac to be killed on an altar; rather, He was testing Abraham’s faith while showing a picture of His deeper purpose. On many occasions God later recorded His revulsion at ancient peoples offering their first-borns for their transgression (see Micah 6:7). He found child-sacrifice abhorrent (See also Leviticus 18:21). God spared Abraham’s son by intervening as the knife was upraised. However, in the New Testament we read:
He [God] ... did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
Jesus was the substitute for the guilty. Just as a ram was found to take the stroke of the knife in Abraham’s hand and to be consumed in the fire, so God’s Son, Jesus Christ, voluntarily took the stroke of justice for sin and experienced the heat of God’s judgment, so that we (like Isaac) might be spared.
3. A Sacrifice was made
Abraham’s chief possession was his son, whom he greatly loved. However, it was infinitely more costly for God to give HIS Son. He greatly loved and prized His Son; nevertheless, He was willing to allow Him to become the sin-bearer that we might be brought back into relationship with Him.
2000 years ago on a cross outside Jerusalem, the basis was laid for our acceptance before God – a Substitute paid the price. He was Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He deserves your consideration.
Finally, if God keeps His word to Abraham over 1500 years after the events on Mount Moriah, then we must remember that He still keeps His word now.
God’s word warns of coming judgment for those who reject His salvation. If we can be sure God will save us if we trust in the Lord Jesus, we can be equally sure He will judge us if we do not.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (John 3:36)