When Abraham swung his dagger to slaughter his own son, suddenly the Lord’s voice stopped him. But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” Genesis 22:11 (ESV). Isaac must have been relieved so much, urgh so closed! he thought. As he was holding his breath for a moment knowing his father was in the moment of swinging the dagger to him. Probably at the same time, Abraham also threw away his dagger. Not only because the Angel’s voice had interrupted him but more to the horror he knew he would bear all his life if he sacrificed his son on the altar for real. He strongly believed that God did not intend to harm Isaac and himself, but at the same time he knew that God was really testing him to choose to between God or his own son. To choose to maintain his trust in Him or to hold back his own.
This test is for all of us, will we choose who He really is for us instead of what He could do for us only. To choose to love Him and continue to trust His guidance even though the road is difficult. It is often hard to see Him clearly because there are many personal interests of us that we think we should give priority first. Our hearts are reluctant to let go or let alone to sacrifice what we think our rights. In the end, many of us have stopped, and start to question His purposes. As if He shouldn’t do that. We begin to protest in such a way, apparently, we have stopped loving Him. Our hearts have chosen to love ourselves more than to keep loving Him.
When Isaac asked his father, Abraham, where was the lamb (offering)? Genesis 22:7. Abraham answered God will provide. Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. Genesis 22:8. This is the first quote in the Bible of the most popular and the most loved of God’s name in the Christian world, Jehovah Jireh. God provides. Jehovah Jireh has also the same understanding as El-Shaddai, Almighty God. He is the Almighty, the One that will provide everything we need. Nothing is impossible for Him.
Jehovah Jireh & El-Shaddai
If Jehovah Jireh means God provides, then El-Shaddai is the only attribute of God’s name that has a female nature, because this word means breastfeeding mother. How do we know when a baby needs to eat or hungry? We will usually answer that when the baby cries. But a nursing mother understands her baby is hungry and needs to eat when the milk starts to flow out of her breasts, not when the baby starts to cry. For your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:8, Psalm 139:4.
Both of these Names become really popular among God’s people and even among all the men in the world. And it wasn’t caused by where they were quoted from or for what reason the Names were mentioned. But because these two Names greatly benefit us for mankind. Yes, we all like it because we can find that there is a promise of God that will help us. There is a promise of God that will sustain us, heal us, bless us. To us, yes to all of us. Definitely for us! Don’t you hear anything odd here? Something not right?
Even when you read the paragraph above, your heart is filled with the word Amen! Amen! Amen! continuously. Aren’t you listening to the word “I” louder in your own heart, more than the word of “God” itself ?!
As if everything has to be done for us. If so, which one exactly is God in our life? Is it Him or ourselves? Isn’t it in a family, the children are the main thing but that does not mean they are the one in charge to rule in the family, right? Aren’t the parents, father, and mother who would still in charge of the house? Often when we know we are the main object of God’s great love, we always fall into an attitude of taking advantage of utilizing God to follow all our wishes.
Those attitudes cause the two names of God above to become very popular. Not because of the truth of His Word. But cause we are taking advantage according to our own benefits, not according to His will. We think what we want will certainly be done. Even though those wills are contrary to God’s will. But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23. No wonder when we face many difficulties, disasters, dangers, or storms, our first reaction (as Peter) is to take God’s power and directly rebuke everything away. Are they all gone after the rebuke? We will be surprised to find that the storm is blowing even harder! Where is God then?! We have failed to know Him!
Get behind me, Satan!
When Peter acknowledged that Jesus was the expected Messiah, the Lord then began to explain further that the Messiah had to suffer and die by the leaders of Israel and (only) then be resurrected on the third day. Matthew 16:21. Peter immediately pulled God aside and said, Lord, may God keep that away! Even in some other translations, it mentions Peter pulling the Lord aside to correct Him personally. He reminded, rebuked the Lord repeatedly (not just once!).
When The Father in Heaven revealed Jesus as the Messiah to Peter, Peter saw this as something that greatly benefited them, for the disciples, and even for the whole of Israel. What had only been a Promise of Salvation from the Messiah all this time, was now evident before them. Finally, they found the help they were looking for all this time! For them (just like all of us), salvation which is God’s promise found its fulfillment in their salvation from Roman occupation during this whole time. In those days, their biggest difficulties and problems came from the presence of foreigners, the Roman Empire, who invaded and colonize them in such a way. The Roman enslave and subdue them as a nation. They were looking for a person who could save them, to deliver them from this cruel grip of the Roman Empire. They were waiting so much for this promise of the Messiah. Jesus’s presence among them seemed to be the answer to this need. No wonder, the disciples then fought over which one would be the bigger in His Kingdom among them. They saw the Lord Jesus as their deliverer from the Roman Empire, the founder of the new Kingdom of Israel. And because they were the people who were the closest to Him, surely they would get many extraordinary positions in His Kingdom.
So are we nowadays, we often see God only limited to what we think as our main needs at this time. When we are hungry, we want God to be the One who feeds us soon, to meet our needs. When we are sick, we want Him to heal us. When we are having hard times, we want to experience miracles and breakthroughs that restore us. And we know He can do it for us. When we as a nation are hit by a big storm like this deadly virus, we immediately rebuke it without thinking further because we think it must be God’s will to deliver us. There is nothing bad that comes from him, right? So surely this virus is not from him. Isn’t our God greater than all these storms and disasters? He is bigger than this virus of course. So we think it must be God’s will for us to rebuke it immediately in His name, in His power. But when God revealed Jesus as The Mesias to Peter and to all of us, that He is the Lord and Savior of whom they (and all of us) had been waiting for, God then showed to them (and to us) that there were different goals and paths that were not like what they thought would happen.
The Lord showed the Messiah must suffer, be killed, and raised again on the third day. Yes, to be killed by the elders and the leaders. To suffer and die, for sure? These first 2 words made them unable to hear the 3rd word, rose from the dead. They couldn’t even see the reason why the Lord must suffer and die. They were shocked. To suffer and die? It should never be! Peter thought. No wonder, immediately Peter pulled the Lord aside and rebuked him, no! This can’t be happening. Perhaps this was also what he said: You are our Messiah, our Savior. Our king! You have a purpose to fulfill here in the land of Israel, Your Kingdom must be established now. Sounds great, right? Moreover, Peter used Him, God the Father in his rebuke. Lord, may God (the Father) keep that away! Matthew 16:22. God the Father who was mentioned by the Lord earlier as the One who revealed Jesus as the Messias to him. Peter thought he already had known God the Father. Didn’t I just get this big revelation, right? God the Father was on my side, for sure! He thought this must be also from God himself, isn’t there no evil from Him? Suffering & dying must definitely not His way!! But in fact, he was strongly rebuked by Jesus in return, mentioning him (Peter) as the Devil himself! Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. Matthew 16:23.
Different way and different purpose
Notice here, at the end of verse 23, for you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. These 2 things are very different. Many times we think in our humanity that this is surely God’s will. Like Peter, he thought that if this Jesus is the Messiah as God the Father himself had revealed this to him, it would be impossible if this Messiah would suffer and die! His Kingdom must be established and His purpose must be upheld, right? But was that really God’s purpose? Is it? Or was it Peter’s own goal (if Peter wanted to be honest)? Was that the real purpose of the Lord’s coming or were the disciples taking advantage over the presence of the Lord who was the Savior to deliver them from the Roman Empire? Peter’s rebuke in verse 22 is humanly true, rightfully so, and is a seemingly noble act. And if Peter’s rebuke is true, he will be praised as not only for he had received the revelation of God’s Messiah but also as someone who knew God’s ways better than Jesus. Yes, many of us like to be recognized as we often think we knew better the ways of life (of others) than God’s ways.
But that is not what the Father God thought of Jesus as the Messiah for Peter. If we want to be honest, many things that we think of as God’s will turn out to be our own only. Many spiritual things that we think of as God’s will, turn out to be only us taking the opportunity to work out our plans and purposes. Many of our actions are really just trying to elevate ourselves and not do God’s will honestly. We can be seen as very spiritual, but God cannot be deceived. Galatians 6:7. He who sees the depths of our hearts and His Word is able to separate our souls and spirits and even our thoughts and considerations. Hebrews 4:12. If it turns out what we think is only the ways of humans and not the ways of God, then get behind me Satan!
Salvation from Him
When the Lord explained the Messiah had to suffer and die and rise on the 3rd day, the Lord was explaining that He would work out our salvation from the bondage of sin all this time by giving Himself to be the atonement offering of sin. The salvation that will bring eternal life for us and our souls will not perish in the fire of eternal damnation. Like the disciples, many of us find it hard to see this as the real thing we really need. Because we never see ourselves as sinners who need forgiveness and redemption for our soul. We always see ourselves as weak (which needs help), sick (which needs to be healed), difficult, and poor (which needs to be enriched). But we never feel guilty of sin, we always see that we are good people only. Good people unworthy to suffer, because we are good. That’s why we only need to be helped, healed, enriched. No wonder many of us cannot love God beyond ourselves. As Jesus said, people who were forgiven a little, because they only had a few sins, will also find they can only love God a little. Luke 7:47. We forget that all our troubles, weaknesses, sicknesses, and poverty come because there are unresolved sins in us. We suffer because of our sin.
Sin? How can? I never rob, kill, rape, steal, or harm others! We only see sin and error from this one side. We do not understand that sin is as simple as we fail to achieve God’s perfect purpose. Understanding the sin is as simple as someone who should walk until 10 steps, he stops at the step of 9th. Fall short! And one of the worst sins is self-righteousness, ego! For (we) all have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But that is not fair if He will punish me for the little sin I have with the eternal fire of damnation. Well, if you could see how holy He is, the Bible mentioned there is no exchange nor shadow in Him (James 1:17), you would surely understand there could not be a dot of sin exist before Him. All will be burned and perished in His (holy) presence.
And to atone the sin within us, we need a sacrifice that is more valuable than all animals sacrifices. Something that has the same value as mankind itself but is flawless, not like the sinful man. Our Lord then became a man and lived a sinless life to be this perfect sin offering for us. To Him would befall all of God’s great wrath over sin, once and for all. That’s why he must suffer and die! So that He could become the salvation for all of us, became the remission of sin in which all God’s justice was bestowed on Him. Not to us, so we who believe in Him wouldn’t perish. He substituted us, took our spot for the remission of sin! He became the sacrifice God had provided for us! This is God’s way, this is God’s will! Do we understand now? God provides, and He had provided His own Son to be the remission of sin, an atonement offering for us.
Nothing is impossible
Peter failed to recognize God’s will in his time, hopefully, we wouldn’t fail like Peter. To know & experience God’s will always involve our willingness to let go of our own interests even when it means to sacrifice our lives. The Lord continues in verses 24-25 of Matthew 16 If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In Matthew 19:16, there was a young rich man who came to God and asked, Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life? From this story we get the word of God, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26. Nothing is impossible for God is also a statement like the 2 names of God above which are very famous, Jehovah Jireh and El-Shaddai. And we like it too because this is God’s promise to help us fulfill our own interests! We cannot see that like Jehovah Jireh, there is nothing impossible was also intended for our salvation.
Matthew 19:25-26, when the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Who then can be saved? asked the disciples. This question was caused by the Lord’s conversation with this rich young man, starting from verse 16. The disciples found if this young and rich person could not fulfill the salvation requirements mentioned by Jesus there, how could they possibly be saved then. As to compare to this young and rich man, they were old in age and had nothing. And if this young rich man, since he was a child lived by the law but failed only because of one thing at the end, how about those who since their childhood lived in sin? That’s why the Lord said, “With man this is impossible, …”
Salvation is impossible for mankind
This means salvation is impossible for us mankind. But for God, it is possible, because He had become the way, the truth, and life for us. He had given Himself as a provision by God for all of us. He was willing to be the sacrifice for us, to suffer and die for all the wrath of God to be bestowed upon Himself as for the sin itself. He substituted us so we would not perish! A perfect sacrifice for the redemption of our soul which was full of sin. Try to see it like this, how about if God would not be willing to die for us? If He didn’t want to? The question is, is there any human able to redeem others? Even if there is, would that person willing to do it? Maybe someone wants to die for a good person, but who wants to substitute a guilty person.
Nothing is impossible for God isn’t to be given first or foremost to fill a hungry stomach or to help those who are troubled. Not to fulfill the needs of the financial situation. Moreover, not to give expensive things to the one who could not afford them. Thus both the names of God, Jehovah Jireh and El-Shaddai aren’t given to meet our physical needs or more to satisfy the desires of our flesh for all matters of this world. We become very naive to use it for our interest. Even with our arrogance, we cry out for God nothing is impossible, He is Jehovah Jireh when we ask for a bigger house, a better car! We use God only for our interests, only to satisfy fleshly desires! We call for God’s Names in vain!
Try to imagine when Isaac asked Abraham his father, where was the sacrifice? Abraham answered God will provide. Genesis 22: 7-8. Maybe Isaac also asked, how father? Where will it come from, who will bring it? Abraham might reply again, just believe, for God nothing is impossible. But when everything was ready on Mount Moriah, the altar was erected, the firewood had been placed neatly and the fire was there already with the butcher knife was available insight. Isaac might ask again, Father, everything is ready. But where is the sacrificial animal? No one has come to bring it yet. Abraham turned to him and asked Isaac’s two hands to be tied. Like the animal sacrifice, Isaac found himself bound by his own father and laid on the altar. He was fully aware then, he had become the sacrificed animal of the altar that day. No wonder there were no animals my father had brought up to this mountain except me, he thought. The other interesting things in Genesis 22, there is no single verse mentioned that Isaac cried and rebelled, or ran away from Abraham. As if he willingly gave himself, obedient to the will of his father and God in Heaven. He gave himself to be a sacrifice provided by God!
For Isaac, Mathew 16:24-25 is fulfilled. If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
In the story of Abraham in Genesis 22, many of us only see the sacrifice of Abraham and his obedience to God. We rarely see Isaac’s own willingness to give himself as a sacrifice on this altar. What a true obedience as a son, like Jesus who was obedient to the Father till death on the Cross. Philippians 2:8. In the story of Jesus who suffered and died, we see here the balance of the story of Abraham. The sacrifice of Jesus (as a Son) was so real that we (almost) didn’t see the sacrifice of our Father in Heaven. Yes, not only did Abraham gave his son but Isaac also. And not only Jesus as God the Son who sacrificed Himself but God the Father was also willing to let go His only begotten Son for all of us. Try to imagine if one of them did not want to, not willing.
But not for God, He will (surely) provide
That’s why the Lord said, With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Because He is God who will (surely) provides for us, the atonement sacrifice, which was Himself.
When we understand all of this, we will find the following things. First, we can see how God solved the problem of our sin on the Cross. He died as an atonement sacrifice for us, and rose to be the truth for us. When sin was pardoned, forgiven by His sacrifice, our souls are redeemed by Him in His death and resurrection, we will then find that all of the following problems: distress, sickness, poverty, disaster and all kinds of troubles will follow to be resolved cause the origin and root of the problem were all solved by God on the cross.
Second, all kinds of hardships, sicknesses, poverty, disasters in this world will be solved either by themselves (from the cross) or by God for us. More, He will transform all this to be His servants to bring us closer to Him. Aren’t every step of a man established by the Lord, when he delights in his way? Psalm 37:23. And He is the God who works in and through all things, Romans 8:28. Yes, God arranged all things not to cause harms and accidents but to bring a hopeful future, a bright future, Jeremiah 29:11. Everything will be used by God in His miraculous way to bring us to know Him and reveal His Kingdom which is unshakable on earth. Unwavering faith which is firmly rooted in Him through the midst of a great storm raging around us. Isn’t our life in Him a testimony that overcomes the evil one? Revelation 12:11. Here we will see how Jehovah Jireh, become a reality, a living testimony of how God had and will always provide. We will see how people who know their God will remain strong and will act, Daniel 11: 32b. For nothing is impossible for those who believe in Him, Mark 9:23.
April 21 2020,
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