01. Abraham and the Foreshadow of the Jesus Way
Abraham is often considered as “the father of faith.” Eugene Peterson, in his wonderful book The Jesus Way, starts with Abraham’s faith story to show how our faith ancestors pointed to Jesus through their life.
In the story of Abraham’s faith, Eugene Peterson takes us to Mount Moriah, where Abraham was tested. The event that took place there is the most important episode in the entire life of Abraham. It demonstrates his faith in God and his consistent walk in the ways of the Lord.
For Korean people, the event that took place at Mount Moriah has a special meaning. It is a very impressive and touching event. In any culture shaped by Confucius, especially in Korean culture, having a son, especially an “only son,” is very important because we have a patriarchal tradition.
Although it is not so in today’s Korean culture, in the past, if a woman couldn’t give birth to a son, she would be mistreated by the entire family and even abandoned by her husband. When the wife could not give birth to a son, the husband had the right to desert her and the responsibility to take a new wife to have a son to carry on the family line. It was a very sad and miserable culture, but not unlike ancient Hebrew culture.
I don’t have a son. I have two daughters. Sometimes, my associate pastors who have sons tease me by misapplying the Scripture from 1 John 5:12. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son (of God) does not have life” (NRSVScripture quotations marked (NRSV) new Revised standard version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. used by permission. all rights reserved.).
In Korea, military service is compulsory. But if a young man is the only son for the second or third generation of the family line, he is exempt. Being an only son is that important.
When God commanded Abraham to offer up his only son, imagine how appalling the request was! Abraham was in great shock; Sarah’s shock must have been even greater. In fact, for Abraham, Isaac was not the only son. He had Ishmael. But Sarah had no other son. (The Bible keeps silent about how Abraham explained God’s command to Sarah. I guess Sarah must have cried all night long when she heard it.)
Nevertheless, Abraham obeyed God. But he must have endured a very painful time up to the point of his obedience. The night before he left for Mount Moriah, Abraham must have prayed a prayer of anguish. But it ended the same as the prayer Jesus prayed at Gethsemane:
“Not by my will, but Your will . . .”
At Gethsemane, Jesus had already died [to himself ] when he prayed the prayer—even before he took the cross at Golgotha. Likewise, Isaac had already died in Abraham’s heart as Abraham prayed the prayer like Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane.
As they approached the God-designated place, Abraham looked up and saw Mount Moriah in the distance. There, Abraham made a very interesting statement to his young servants. He told his servants, “We will worship, and then we will come back to you.” If Abraham didn’t believe that God would return Isaac to Abraham alive, he would not have dared to use the plural subject “we” when he spoke to his servants. Abraham had strong faith about the resurrection of the body deep down in his heart.
Abraham was silent for those three days, all the way to Mount Moriah, just as God kept silent for the three days while Jesus, His only Son, was dead and buried after the crucifixion. Both fathers, God and Abraham, kept silent before their sons’ death.
However, there was faith in the father’s heart. Abraham believed God and believed in the resurrection of his son. At Mount Moriah, where we witness the astounding event of Abraham’s testing, we encounter Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection from different perspectives.