Reflections on the Way, the Truth, and the Life
- Monday, March 07, 2005
The Hebrew word for "see" is in the same word family as Jahweh Jireh, which means "the Lord will provide," a phrase we find much earlier in the story of Abraham, when God mysteriously told him to sacrifice his only son.
Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation, took wood for the burnt offering and placed it on Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"
Abraham answered, "God himself will provide [Jahweh Jireh] the lamb for the burnt offering, my son."
And he did. When Abraham and Isaac reached the site of the sacrifice, there was a ram with its horns snagged in a thicket. The force of Abraham's faith didn't create the ram or drag it into the bush, but his faith did engage him in the reality of God's provision. For Christians, this narrative prefigures the death of God's only Son; Jahweh indeed provided a sacrifice, Jesus Christ. Some Bible scholars believe the place of Abraham's sacrifice was the very spot where, one day, Jesus would die for our sins.
Somehow, in the mystery of the moment, Abraham actually "saw" this. Listen to what Jesus says (are you sitting down?):
"Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." [Seeing Christ transformed Abraham's reality!]
"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"
At this, they picked up stones to stone him. – John 8:56-59, emphasis mine
Why did the Jews react this way? Because in their minds what Jesus said was blasphemy. To them, he was identifying himself as Jahweh, the I AM, the holy God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush.
Listen to how Eugene Peterson presents this passage in "The Message:"
"Abraham – your 'father' – with jubilant faith looked down the corridors of history and saw my day coming. He saw it and cheered."
The Jews said, "You're not even fifty years old – and Abraham saw you?"
"Believe me," said Jesus, "I am who I am long before Abraham was anything."
That did it – pushed them over the edge. They picked up rocks to throw at him. But Jesus slipped away, getting out of the Temple.
Faith is a phone booth in the "Matrix," an exit from the dead-end reality of time and space. Faith "looks down the corridors of history." Close your eyes and imagine this: silver-haired Abraham – maybe he looked a little like Gandalf in "Lord of the Rings" – flying at warp speed through a tunnel of time. It's like he's in a five-star sci-fi film with outrageous sound and special effects. Can't you just hear the whooshing and whining and whirring as Abraham's faith rockets him through "the corridors of history" into the future?
Believers see a sign. Unbelievers see nothing. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Think for a moment about the unique relationship among these words: faith, seeing, and provision. What does it mean that God provides, that God pro-vides? This familiar English word is derived from a Latin root that means, literally, "to see in advance"! (In other words: pro-vision, or fore-sight.) The Hebrew term jireh is a similar convergence of meaning: in the Abraham-Isaac narrative of Genesis, it's translated, "The Lord will provide," while in Joshua 3:11, the same root word reads, "See!"
Believing is seeing.
By faith you see what you can't see, and faith releases the pro-vision (the vision ahead) of God for your future. For the believer, faith is reality.
"See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you." The ark, the resting place of the radiant cloud of God's glory, goes ahead of us into the floods of life. Because the radiant presence of Jesus goes before us into the mess of our circumstances, he can rightfully say to us about the future, "Been there, done that." It's incredible! God goes into the flooded river first. Can you see him there, waiting for you to enter his reality?
Jesus is the pathway to wholeness, a journey of daily encounters with God. Jesus is the truth, that is, ultimate reality. Jesus is the life. Notice the perfect sequence:
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