I have a bit of a fascination with Mt. Everest. After the book Into Thin Air was released, and the subsequent movie Everest came out, I contemplated adding “Climb Mt. Everest” to my bucket list. However, the Death Zone of 26,000 ft – this marks the point where every minute spent above 26,000 ft means you are literally dying - and the average cost of $35,000 to climb it, have kept it off my list.
In extreme situations, like climbing Everest, provisions mean the difference between life and death. Hundreds of bodies line the path toward Everest’s summit – preserved in tact because of the extreme cold – unmoved, because to do so would require so much effort that it would also mean the death of anyone attempting it. Even with oxygen, guides, and state-of-the-art equipment, there is no sure thing when it comes to getting to the top. Without those things, however, death is certain.
With this in mind, I paused for a long time over Genesis 22:14. This spot marks the end of Abraham’s trek up Mt. Moriah to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God. The text reads, “So Abraham called the name of that place, ‘The Lord will provide’, as it is said to this day, ‘On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.’” If God did not provide, then on that mount Isaac's death was certain.
God had called Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22:2). Compounding the gravity of that call, Isaac was the son of promise through whom the Lord would multiply the generations of Abraham. The ESV Study Bible makes note that “this was by far the greatest demand that God could have made of Abraham…”
Everything in the narrative points to Abraham’s faith that believed, trusted, and acted on the word of God. In fact, Hebrews 11:19 shows that Abraham believed that even if God did not provide another sacrifice in place of Isaac, God was able to raise him from the dead in order to fulfill His promise. On the mountain God stayed Abraham’s hand (Genesis 22:9-12) and provided a ram (Genesis 22:13) as a substitute for Isaac.
At the time Moses wrote this account of Abraham and Isaac, an expression had caught on and been passed down. Abraham named that place “The Lord will provide” and the expression, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided,” continued to the day of Moses (Genesis 22:14).
If the “mount” represents the place of testing, the place of sacrifice, the place of obedience even when it hurts, or the place where God makes the “greatest demand of you” that He could make, then it’s at that place (and only at that place) where God will provide. In an effort to avoid that place, we hope and pray that God will provide without calling us to climb. We want the provision without the pain. We want the comfort minus the cross (see 2 Corinthians 1:5). Abraham was tested by trusting God to provide even though he did not know how or when God would do it. He knew God would come through. And he climbed.
This kind of “on the mount” provision from God is different than the “give us our daily bread” kind of provision that you and I are recipients of on a regular basis. Of course, God is our Provider and cares for us as a loving Creator, pouring out grace on His creation (Acts 14:17). The “on the mount” kind of provision is only seen at the end of a great demand that is not easy. This is the kind of provision that comes when you are called to love a spouse who gives little in return. You know you don’t have it in you and the path of least resistance is to cut bait and run. Yet, you stay…believing, in faith, that God will give you what you do not have to fulfill the call and meet the demand He has placed on you. “On the mount” provision is the kind that comes in the midst of relational conflict when you could defend yourself or play the victim but instead move toward the other person in love and forgiveness. “On the mount” provision comes to those who stand, meekly and humbly, in the face of opposition from a world whose culture and values mock and scorn those of Christianity. “On the mount” provision comes to the girl who will not compromise her purity for the sake of some guy’s affection. It comes to the foster parent needing every ounce of strength and patience that God can provide to care for children who’ve never had a stable home. It comes to the same-sex attracted who’d rather face life without a partner than life without their Provider. “On the mount” provision is the kind that comes only after a painful call is placed on your shoulders.
You and I have a unique vantage point that Abraham did not have. He looked forward. We get to look back. On the mountain where Abraham experienced the greatest test of his faith (see James 2:21-23), God provided the gift that would surely be remembered by Abraham as the greatest gift he could have received. We look back to the mount where God provided and know, now, with certainty that God HAS provided the greatest gift we could ever receive. Paul understood this when he assured us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32) Paul argued from the greater to the lesser. If God gave us the greatest gift ever in His Son, why would he not also give us all things? We can walk up our mountain knowing it will never be the place where God’s wrath is poured out. Why? Because Jesus walked up THAT mountain. We do not have to fear, wonder, or worry about whether or not God will provide – whether or not He’s FOR us – because He HAS provided and will continue to do so.
Tim Keller beautifully highlighted that God’s words to Abraham can now be said by us to God. God said, “now I know that you fear [me], seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” Because of the gospel we now say to God, “now we know you love us because you have not withheld your son, your only son, from us.” Jesus is the better and true Isaac and on his mountain he laid down his life as the sacrificial Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. When God calls us to walk our mountains, we will experience His provision.