Lawrenceburg, Ky., Dec. 1874.
BROTHER BEEBE: - I have for some time past been poring over my barrenness, weakness and improvident nature, and my incapacity to provide for or guard against any future emergency. With these meditations, my mind, from some cause, has been led to think upon the expression, "Jehovah-jireh," as found in Gen. xxii. 14. It appears to me that a more comprehensive, consoling and encouraging expression could not be embodied in fewer words.
This name Jehovah, or Jah, is said by biblical scholars to signify self-existence, or giving existence to all others. When we have a due sense of the majesty, magnitude and holiness of that fearful name, an awful solemnity seems to pervade us, and we almost shudder to speak that august, grand and matchless name, and,
"A solemn reverence checks our songs,
And praise sits silent on our tongues."
But when we reflect upon Jehovah-jireh, (in the margin, "The Lord will see, or provide,") and then consider the dimness of our vision to foresee, and inadequacy of our nature to provide for our present or future spiritual supplies, and then reflect upon the unlimited vision, the incomprehensible fullness of Jehovah, the immense, immeasurable plenitude that is treasured up in him, and then remember the faithfulness, firmness and infallible veracity and stability of his every promise; when we remember his eternal prescience that pervades time and eternity, the wonderful provision he has made, and then hear the "holy man of God who spake as he was moved by the Holy Ghost," after having the most incontestable evidence of the fact, pronounce the cheering and consoling expression, "THE LORD WILL SEE, OR PROVIDE;" and when we can indulge the humble hope that we have an abiding interest in the presence and provident care of Jehovah, both in things pertaining to the life that now is, and also of that which is to come, with what wondrous reverence and rapture should,
"Our tongues break out in unknown strains,
And sing surprising grace."
This expression, "Jehovah-jireh," was made under peculiar circumstances, and after the patriarch Abraham had passed through one of the most trying scenes. God had promised him, saying, "Sarah shall have a son." Sarah laughed at the idea, and in process of time, I suppose, like our modern means workers, concluded that the bare promise of God was not sufficient to rely upon, and therefore resorted to the use of means to enable the Lord to fulfill his promise. The result was that a mocker was produced, an illegitimate bastard.
How exactly the archetype is portrayed in our modern means-mongers. But the promise was, "Sarah shall have a son." And, not in Ishmael, but "In Isaac shall thy seed be called;" and when the stipulated time arrived, the promised seed was born. Behold here the father of the faithful, looking through a long and multitudinous line of posterity, with the buoyant promise of God that "in his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed," in one brief moment, according to all human appearance, must end in disaster. But not so with God's procedure. The authoritative mandate of Jehovah was, "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains that I shall tell thee of." What a scene! What a trial for a loving father to behold! "Thine only son, whom thou lovest." In passing through the trying ordeals that meet us here, we should "remember Abraham, our father," and imitate his example. We hear not a murmur - behold no delay. Early in the morning he cleaves the wood and sets out for the designated mount, and on the third day it is in view. There is laid upon the unsuspecting youth the wood, the fire and knife in the hands of the father. The fatal spot arrived at, the altar and wood are prepared, and now comes the critical time. The loving parent seems to know no pity. What are we to think of all this? Has the paternal heart become callous and insensible to the tender emotions of that love that so recently glowed there? O no. Faithfulness to his God urges him onward to perform the arduous task, and the deadly weapon is grasped, raised, and the terrible blow aimed. Obedient silence seems to have sealed the lips of both father and son. Startling, tragical phenomenon! But ere the fatal stroke is inflicted, the voice of mercy calls from heaven, "Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou anything unto him." Abraham looked, and behold, behind him a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of Isaac.
I conclude that here is one of the most beautiful figurative illustrations of the deliverance of God's people by the offering up of his Son in their stead that we can possibly conceive of. I may not have a correct view of the figure, and may differ from some or all of my brethren as to its import.
Some think that Isaac here was typical of the offering and sacrifice of Christ for the sins of his people, but I think differently, for Isaac was not sacrificed, but another was provided and made a victim in his stead; and will not the experience of all God's children corroborate this view of the subject? Isaac was a child of promise as are all the children of God. Says Paul, "Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise." Again, "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." - Gal. iv. 28, and iii. 29.
See Isaac wending his way to the place of offering under the weight of the very materials that seemingly was to consume him; and then remember, my Father's children, your own toilsome journey, oppressed with a load of sins, the very materials you supposed would destroy you. And when arrived at the fatal spot, like him our lips were sealed, we dared not murmur. The justice of God seemed to call for our immediate immolation; and although we may have seen the time, like other Arminians, when we could blasphemously accuse the Lord with injustice if he would not save us after doing all we could, but then our murmurings were hushed in silence. At this critical moment, and when the uplifted knife or sword of justice is ready to strike the fatal blow, all at once kind heaven intervenes, the dreadful stroke is stayed, and lo! yonder is Jesus, answering to the ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Yes, behold him involved in the very mazes of sin for which we expected to be sacrificed; for he was made sin for us and we escape; while the justice of the sin-avenging law wreaks all its stores of vengeance upon the devoted victim.
Whether the foregoing view of the figure is correct or not, one thing is certain, which is "that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures," and it is also certain that his children were thereby "made free from sin," "that sin shall not have dominion over them; for they are no more under the law, but under grace."
What a wonderful provision the Lord has made for his sin defiled and contumacious children, and what an indubitable evidence that having done all this, he will continue his provident care until he effectually accomplishes all his will concerning us. "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things." Not only did he give his own dear Son to ransom us from the grave, redeem us from death, but when we hear pronounced in the holy oracles, Jehovah-jireh, it should assure us that no needed blessings will be withheld from us, for when he gave his Son, in him he gave us all spiritual blessings, and that dear Son deals them out to us whenever it is necessary that we should have them. Sin has polluted and consigned us to death and darkness; but in him is provided an antidote for sin, his blood cleanses us from all sin; there too is provided life to animate and light to illuminate our pathway through all our journey in the waste howling wilderness, and even through the valley of the shadow of death. But that life needs sustenance. Well, in him is provided the bread and water of life. Bread of which a man may eat and not die, and water springing up into everlasting life.
In our infirmity we are ignorant, unrighteous, wayward and lost; but in him is ample provision of wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption. We daily feel our weakness, but the Lord Jehovah is our strength and our song, therefore, "Trust ye in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
Whatever calamities, hostilities or menacing dangers may betide us here, such is the vision and provision of Jehovah-jireh that we may rest assured that the Lord will see and provide in every exigency. He has provided an armory from which we may be supplied with all the necessary weapons of our warfare, both offensive and defensive, and therefore should cohorts of belligerents assail us, we may fearlessly gird on our armor, and "in the name of our God set up our banners." - Psa., xx. 5; then let that banner "be displayed because of the truth," (Psa. lx. 4,) and thus equipped from heaven's magazine we may fearlessly follow the Captain of our salvation with an assurance that our warfare will end in triumph.
Let us take courage from the fact that our LEADER has opened the campaign with a decisive victory, fought on Calvary in single combat, where he met the whole host of our enemies, the combined powers of earth and hell in battle array assault him. Behold him in that dreadful conflict, a gory victim bleeding from every wound, until bowing his thorn-crowned head that death might deal its deadliest blow, he yielded up the ghost.
"O, wondrous love, to bleed and die,
To bear the cross and shame,
That guilty sinners such as I,
Might plead his gracious name."
Who could have dreamed of victory by him now? But strange to tell, by death he reached the strongest citadel of death, and "triumphed gloriously," for on that eventful third morning he rose, having "abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
In this stupendous transaction, the anti-type of the ram caught in the thicket by the horns has provided for all his chosen ones a ransom from the power of the grave, redemption from death. Death, before which the most potent kings had quailed, the most powerful kingdoms had crumbled, and strong nations had withered at his pallid touch.
The triumph was complete, but not for himself exclusively, but for all his redeemed. What a matchless provision was exhibited in this marvelous transaction. Not only did he die to conquer death and subdue all things unto himself, but rose from the dead, rose to portray in liveliest colors the complete justification of all his dear children; they thereby being “freely justified by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." His blood cleanses them from all sin, his righteousness covers them with a spotless robe; they are therefore "free from sin, become servants to God, they have their fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." But more still. Jehovah-jireh has seen and provided for them a city of refuge, "a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down." A residence of lovely, loving, lasting friends; and then dwells among them.
"Happy the church, thou sacred place,
The seat of thy Creator's grace;
Thine holy courts are his abode,
Thou earthly palace of our God."
How cheering and consoling to meet and mingle with the dear saints in this delightful habitation. No earthly scene so beautiful as a company of those lovely companions, all observing the order of the house of God; united in the strong bond of love, bound in the sweet cords of fellowship, hymning the high praises of their God. Brethren, do we fully appreciate this heaven provided privilege? How many of the precious jewels of our Master are isolated from their kindred, deprived of this precious privilege? But God has seen and provided for them too. Doubtless he has provided servants not only to feed the flock when gathered together in their organized capacity, but evangelists to itinerate as fishers to fish for them and hunt for them, (see Jer. xv. 16,) and administer to them the bread of life. We believe too, that he has provided editors to publish our mediums of correspondence, and many of the disconsolate and tried ones are reached and comforted by our family papers; and this is one cause of my using my pen, (deficient as I know I am,) hoping that they may thus receive a word of consolation, isolated as they are, and deprived of the privilege of meeting and worshiping in company with their kindred in their Father's house.
What a wonderful provision he has made in giving us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers, "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ." In short, he has provided a will and testament, and in that will he has secured to us all that we have enumerated in the foregoing remarks, and infinitely more than finite minds can reach or mortal tongues express; for it entails upon the heirs "an inheritance that is incorruptible, undefiled and that fadeth not away."
Compared with this rich legacy the best bequest that the world can bestow and all that it possesses dwindles into insignificance. That blessed will provides for us in every emergency,
"A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears."
No affliction however deep for which it does not provide a seasonable remedy, no temptation so trying but it provides a way of escape, no trial so sore but it affords strength to bear or a kind hand to remove it. Ample provision is made to soothe the sorrowful mind and revive the contrite spirit, to liberate the captive, bind up the broken heart, comfort the mourner, feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, strength to the weak, health to the sick, wealth to the poor, rest to the weary, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, righteousness to the unrighteous, forgiveness of sins, and even life to the dead.
"My trials and sorrows, my conflicts and cares,
The spirit of prayer and the answer to prayers,
The steps that I tread and the station I fill,
My Father determined and wrote in his will."
Dear brethren, let us confide and implicitly trust in what Jehovah-jireh has provided for our comfort here, and our final deliverance from all that can annoy us hereafter; and let us all say with David, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name."
Abiding still your brother in trial and hope,
J. F. JOHNSON.
P. S. - Brother Beebe, accept my apology for this attempt to impose so soon again upon your columns, but remember it is entirely at your disposal.
J. F. J.