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The Name of God: Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord Who Provides

November 20, 2011


Sermon:  The Name of God: Jehovah-Jireh – The Lord Who Provides
Text:  Psalm 100

Responsive Reading:

 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands.
Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

We continue our series of sermons The Name of God.  Today the name is Jehovah-Jireh – God Will Provide.

This sermon includes two songs, neither of which are in your hymnbook, and three major points that are quite simple:  God is the Lord who provides; we understand the magnitude of God’s provision by faith; and our proper response to God’s provision is thanksgiving.

The first point – the Lord will provide – is illustrated in the words of a song about a buzzard and a chicken hawk.

  A mean ole buzzard was sitting in a tree,
     watching the chickens play
With his best friend a chicken hawk.
The chicken hawk jumped up and say,
“We ought to invite a chicken home for supper today.”
The buzzard looked at him with a mournful eye,  
     take a few seconds ’fore he give a reply,
Turn his neck nearly all the way around,
     and looked at those chickens and said with a frown,
“You know the Lord will provide, you know the Lord will provide.”
Yea, that’s what brother buzzard said, “The Lord will provide.”
The chicken hawk said, “I’m so hungry, my stomach start to rumble like a train.”
Spying fat chicken in the barnyard,
     the chicken hawk jumped up and screamed,
“I hear the Lord helps them what helps themselves, my friend!”
“You know the Lord will provide, you know the Lord will provide.”
Yep, that’s what brother buzzard said, “The Lord will provide.”
The chicken hawk starts to chase the chicken,
     the chicken starts to squawk and run,
A farmer came out of the farmhouse;
     the farmer had a big shot-gun.
That farmer blowed that chicken hawk to kingdom come.
The buzzard looked at him with a mournful eye,
     take a few second ’fore he give a reply,
Turn his neck nearly all the way around,
     and looked at that chicken hawk lying on the ground,
“I knew the Lord would provide, I knew the Lord would provide.”
Yea, that’s what brother buzzard said, “The Lord would provide.”

This song is funny, but it is not very good theology.  Does the Lord provide for us at the expense of someone else?  Is the Lord’s way of providing simply a matter of being opportunistic?  No, the provision of the Lord goes much deeper. I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 22 where we see the first reference to Jehovah-Jireh in the Scriptures.  Let me refresh your memory.  When Abraham was living in Hebron, God took him to the top of a mountain and pointed to the many stars in the sky.  He said to Abraham, “You will have that many descendents.”  At that time, Abraham was well past seventy-five years of age.  Though Abraham did not have even one child, he believed God’s promise.

After a very long period of waiting, Abraham and Sarah were not quite so strong in their belief.  In their frustration at being childless, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  These two developed a plan, but it was neither God’s plan nor a good plan.

Sarah suggested, “Let Hagar, the slave girl from Egypt, become a surrogate mother.  We will have a child by her.”

Hagar conceived right away, and we immediately see the strife between Hagar and Sarah and the trouble it caused Abraham.  (The Chinese symbol for trouble is two women under one roof.)

Finally in desperation, Sarah told Abraham, “Get Hagar out of here!”  Hagar and her child, Ishmael, were cast into the wilderness.

Some years later, two strangers came to the door and gave Abraham information that made Sarah laugh, something she had not done in a long, long time.  The strangers revealed to Abraham that finally now, at ninety years old, Sarah was pregnant with their child.  Sarah’s laugh began as a slow, grinding sound and erupted into a full belly laugh.

My guess is that the possibility of getting pregnant at the age of ninety puts the fear of God in some of you.  I have no idea what the new Medicare plan would do with that situation.

What an astounding story.  When their child was born, Abraham and Sarah named him Isaac, the Hebrew word for laughter.  God had fulfilled His promise to this couple.

Some years later God instructed Abraham, “Take your son Isaac to the top of Mount Moriah and offer him as a sacrifice.”  I wonder what in the world went through Abraham’s mind.  Why would God ask him to do such a thing?  After all of those years of waiting, God finally fulfilled His promise, but now it seemed that He was taking away that pledge.

Regardless of Abraham’s confusion, he and Isaac got up early one morning and started up the mountain, maybe before Sarah woke up that day.  We do not know how old Isaac was at that time, but he was old enough to carry an armload of firewood.

About halfway up, Isaac turned to his father and said, “Father, I have the firewood.  You have the torch and the knife, but where is the sacrifice?”

Swallowing the huge lump in his throat, Abraham answered, “The Lord (Jehovah-Jireh) will provide.”

You know how this story continues.  At the top of the mountain Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son.   Maybe he thought that God wanted him to practice the Canaanite tradition.  After all, he was living among the Canaanites.  Just as Abraham raised the knife, God stayed his hand.

I have seen this scene depicted at the British Museum of Art at Trafalgar Square in London.  The artist illustrates Abraham as covering Isaac’s eyes with his left hand and holding the knife in his right.  Caught in a thorn-bush in the shadows is a lamb.  Abraham sacrificed that lamb instead; it served as the substitute for Isaac.  God had provided.  Abraham and Isaac came down the mountain together with Abraham a wiser man.

It is amazing that Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son.  Apparently, God wanted to know that Abraham would be willing to offer his son to God as an act of obedience.  If Abraham had not been willing, if he had not had faith in God, he might never have known just how large the provision of God is.

Turn with me to I Timothy 5:8, a verse of Scripture for all fathers and an excellent text for a Father’s Day sermon.  Listen to these words:  “If a man does not provide for his own family and especially those of his own household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  That passage, a strong statement, tells about what it means to be a provider.  What is a man supposed to provide for his family?  Is it just a matter of bringing home the bacon?  Is it just a matter of providing financially?  No, a good father must provide a sense of security for his children.  He has the responsibility of helping them know the meaning of obedience so that they can become self-disciplined.  A good father must give affirmation to his children and provide a moral compass so they can make right decisions.  He should provide Christian education.  Above all else, a good father must serve as an example of faith in the way he prays, in the way he regards Scripture, and in the way he lives his life.

I can assure you that our Father in heaven provides for us far beyond material needs.  Listen to the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 4:11-13, 19, written while he was in prison:

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me…And my God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Some years ago when Clare and I only had four little boys – Betsy was still a twinkle in her mother’s eye – we were living in Winston-Salem.  I was working as a youth minister, and life for us was pretty much hand-to-mouth, from paycheck-to-paycheck.  When we incurred some medical expenses we had not counted on, I wondered how in the world we were going to manage.

Clare and I talked about the situation and prayed about it.  One decision we made was to refrain from buying each other elaborate presents for Christmas.  We decided to be very simple in our gift-giving to each other.

My gift to Clare was a laundry basket.  What a guy!  Now, I must add that the basket was not empty.  I filled it with some laundry detergent and fabric softener, as well as a few other items she needed for cleaning.  I also added a few treats like chocolate to the basket.  Chocolate is always good for a little credit.

Clare’s gift to me was wrapped in a box that looked like a necktie.  When I opened the box, it was not a necktie at all.  It was a cross-stitched bookmark for my Bible.  On it were the words to Philippians 4:19:  “My God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”  My wife could not have given me any gift more special that year.  Her present told me that she was with me in our decision to do our very best with the circumstances facing us.  I also knew that she was right there with me in believing that God would meet our needs.

I want to shift gears and talk with you about how these three principles relate to a decision we will make this morning.  Our Long Range Planning Committee has worked hard for well over three years on the possibility of refurbishing many parts of the church building.  Initially we invited a consultant from the church architecture department in Nashville to assess our needs.  Most of us on the staff had great difficulty working with this individual because he simply would not listen.  He did, however, draw a design, a rough plan, that had merit.

About that same time, I happened to pick up a book entitled When Not to Build, written by two church architects who assert that churches often make a decision to build too quickly.  They recommend that churches should evaluate the facilities they have and find ways to maximize those buildings.

I talked with the chair of the deacons about that proposal and suggested that he read the book.  Together we started praying about the advice this book offered.  We also talked with the Long Range Planning Committee and the Building Committee.  We decided as a church to enter into what we call the Extreme Makeover, which is an opportunity to improve the facilities we already have.

One particular need was to find a way to eliminate the big bottleneck in the children and preschool areas of our church and to provide more space there.  A part of the process was to evaluate ways to modify the buildings and move people around so that we could better accommodate the preschoolers and children.

When I presented this plan to the congregation three years ago, right before the recession, I proposed that we not go into debt, not borrow any money.  I thought that letting the money accumulate for a time was a good decision.  I said to you, too, that we would not construct any new building outside of the existing structure.  I am glad that we did not jump into this project immediately.  What has happened is that the church has been giving generously toward the building fund.  We now have almost $600,000 on hand, well over a half million dollars.  We are that far along with the cost of this project.

I have changed my mind about those two original plans, and I want to explain why I have done so.

Since that time of three years ago, a very wise man in this church urged me, “Kirk, you need to begin this makeover now, right now.  Interest rates are lower than they have ever been, and they will never be this low again.  Construction costs have remained steady.  They, too, are currently very low.  If the church goes ahead and completes this remodeling now, it will be a better use of the money.  If you wait much longer, double-digit inflation will take over.  This project will be so expensive at that point that the church will not be able to afford it.”

In the course of all of this planning was the Building Committee’s consideration of the possibility of adding a building to the area that will be the children’s wing.  Originally, that prospect was not very appealing to me.  I knew from long-range proposals that we already had a plan to eventually construct a children’s building on the other side of the church at a cost of three to four million dollars.

That deacons meeting was probably the finest I have ever attended.  You could sense the presence of God’s Spirit in that room directing us.  Not everyone agreed on every issue discussed, but each person was so respectful toward the others’ opinions.  The meeting was a prayerful meeting.

One of our deacons, an older deacon, commented, “I just do not think that we need to spend this money on us.  Our purpose as a church is to win people for Christ.  We need to use money for that cause.”  I agreed with that assessment.

As the deacons continued to discuss various options, however, I saw what God was doing.  What will be the purpose of this new facility?  The plan is to make it one that can be used for a full-day child-care center.  The only two churches in the entirety of Spartanburg that have this particular type of ministry have extensive waiting lists.  As I prayed about our options, I thought, This building can provide a way for us to have a new ministry to many families and little children, not only among the members of Morningside but also among members of the Spartanburg community.

Then Morningside held the Fall Festival in October.  The event attracted more people here than you could shake a stick at – maybe 500 people or more.  Most were parents with young children.  We actually ran out of hot dogs.  Have you ever heard of a Baptist church running out of hot dogs?  Many of those who attended we had never seen before that night.  Carrie, Jack, and Nathan were diligently trying to get names and addresses so that we could contact them at a later date.  I thought, There is a need for a church for these families.  That realization helped change my mind.

The clincher came last Sunday.  Many of you participated in the dedication of two of my own grandchildren, Mike and Allie.  Afterwards at our party with pizza and cupcakes at Grandma’s house, Kris asked, “Dad, how is this plan for the Extreme Makeover going?”

I said, “The direction has turned somewhat.  It looks to me as if we are headed toward building a facility that will allow for full-day child-care.”

Kris said, “Oh, Dad.  Michael and Allie are in a full-day child-care program.  It is one approved by DHEC, but not one connected with a church.  They never hear a Bible story there.  They never sing ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ Dad, if the church can add that program, you need to do it!”

So, the Extreme Makeover will give us another opportunity to minister to those in the community.  Isn’t our purpose to win the lost to Christ?  Isn’t our greatest opportunity for evangelism the family with little children?  I think so.  Before you, now, is the proposal that the deacons have considered.  Their vote, though not unanimous, was an overwhelming twenty-five to three or four. I am planning to vote for this recommendation because it is the right course for Morningside to take at this particular time.

The second song I want to share with you is not in a hymnbook either.  Some of you will remember it, though, if you are old enough.  The Kingston Trio sang this song years ago.

 I was travelin’ west of Buckskin on my way to a cattle run,
’Cross a little cactus desert under a hot, blisterin’ sun.
Thirsty down to my toenails, I stopped to rest me on a stump,
But I tell you I just couldn’t believe when I saw that water pump.
I took it to be a mirage at first.  It’ll fool a thirsty man.
Then I saw a note stuck in a bakin’ powder can.
This pump is old,” the note began, “but she works.  So give ’er a try.
I put a new sucker washer in ’er.  You may find the leather dry.
You’ve got to prime the pump.  You must have faith and believe.
You’ve got to give of yourself ’fore you’re worthy to receive.
Drink all the water you can hold.  Wash your face, cool your feet.
Leave the bottle full for others.  Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.
Yeah, you’ll have to prime the pump, work that handle like there’s a fire.
Under the rock you’ll find some water left there in a bitter’s jar.
Now there’s just enough to prime it with, so don’t you go drinkin’ first.
Just pour it and pump like mad and, buddy, you’ll quench your thirst.”
Well, I found the jar, and I tell you, nothin’ was ever prettier to my eye
And I was tempted strong to drink it because that pump looked mighty dry,
But the note went on, “Have faith, my friend, there’s water down below.
You’ve got to give to really get.  I’m the one who ought to know.”
So I poured it in the jar and started pumpin’ and I heard a beautiful sound
Of water bubblin’ ’n’ splashin’ up out of that hole in the ground.
Then I took off my boots and drank my fill of that cold refreshin’ treat.
Then I thanked the Lord, and I thanked the pump, and I thanked old Desert Pete.

How do we learn to trust?  We learn to trust by trusting.  We learn about God’s provision by taking a step of faith.

The Bible contains so many illustrations of God’s provision.  Consider a hungry crowd of more than 5000 men with their families gathered to hear Jesus.

When told to feed the multitude, the disciples looked at Jesus in disbelief and asked, “How can we possibly feed them?  It will take too much money.”

Jesus instructed them to bring what they had – a young boy’s lunch.  He blessed the five loaves of bread and two fish and fed the multitude.

By faith, the disciples took what they had and gave it to Christ who then multiplied it.  Do you think they understood more about God’s vision after that miracle?  Do you think they understood about God’s role as a provider?  Taking that step of faith teaches you that God will provide.

There on Mount Moriah Abraham discovered that God will provide.  There on that mountain, my guess is that he gave thanks before beginning the journey back to his home with his son.  Not everyone gets to return with a child.  Abraham learned that day that this son did not belong to him.  The boy belonged to God.  The truth is that everything we have belongs to God.  If we give it to Him – like five loaves and two fish – there is just no telling what He can do.  Abraham was thankful.  Our response is to be thankful too.

Following my mother’s death, Dad was in deep grief.  The lumberyard was failing, and he had started having physical problems.  He had fallen several times.

I want to share an e-mail that he sent to his family:

I hardly know how to begin.  So many events have taken place in the last few months, but I know one thing:  God has surely been good to me and to my family.  I don’t know how folks make it without a loving, caring family.  I love every one of you, and it is evident that each of you loves me.  Thank you.  Please continue to pray for me as I do for each of you.  Let’s keep loving each other.  May the Lord bless all of you.  I love you.  Dad.

There is a father who provides.  I am not speaking so much about a father making financial provision.  I am thinking of a father who provides a sterling example of what it means to live by faith and to live with an attitude of gratefulness.

What are the three great truths to be learned from Abraham’s experience on Mount Moriah?  God is a provider.  If you want to understand the expanse, the magnitude, of His provision, you must live by faith.  Thanksgiving must follow God’s provision.

Nancy Babb first saw the words, “Faith honors God.  God honors faith” on the marquis at Silver Hill United Methodist Church.  She wrote it down and gave it to me.

When I called Ed McDowell, the church pastor, to ask if we could use it, he joked, “It will cost you.”  He went on to explain, “Kirk, I don’t even know where that slogan originated.  One of our members put it up there.  It is free to everyone.”

Faith honors God.  God honors faith.

Just over from Mt. Moriah on another mountain named Golgotha, a Father sacrificed His Son.  God sacrificed Jesus to provide the gift of salvation for all of us.  We can understand the magnitude of that provision, accepting it by faith.  When we do that, our hearts will overflow with gratitude.

Have you accepted this provision from God, your Father in heaven?  He loves you so much that He has provided for your salvation.  We invite you to respond to the invitation to accept Christ.  Some of you have other decisions to make.  We invite those as well.

Kirk H. Neely
 © November 2011

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