The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing
excerpt from The Pursuit of Gd By A.W. Tozer
Abraham was old when Isaac was born, old enough indeed to have been his grandfather, and the child became at once the delight and idol of his heart. From the moment he first stooped to take the tiny form awkwardly in his arms, he was an eager love slave of his son. Gd went out of his way to comment on the strength of this affection. And it is not hard to understand. The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of Gd, the covenants, the hopes of the years and the long messianic dream. As he watched him grow from babyhood to young manhood, the heart of the old man was knit closer and closer with the life of his son, till at the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that Gd stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.
“take now thy son,” said Gd to Abraham, “thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (Genesis 22). The sacred writer spares us a close-up of the agony that night on the slopes near Beersheba when the aged man had it out with his Gd, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form wrestling convulsively alone under the stars. Possibly not again until One greater than Abraham wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane did such mortal pain visit a human soul. If only the man himself might have been allowed to die. That would have been a thousand times easier, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with Gd. Besides, it would have been a last, sweet pleasure to let his dimming vision rest upon the figure of his stalwart son who would live to carry on the Abrahamic line and fulfill in himself the promises of Gd made long before in Ur of the Chaldees.
How should he slay the lad! Even if he could get the consent of his wounded and protesting heart, how could he reconcile the act with the promise, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called?” This was Abraham’s trial by fire, and he did not fail in the crucible. While the stars still shone like sharp white points above the tent where the sleeping Isaac lay, and long before the gray dawn had begun to lighten the east, the old saint had made up his mind. He would offer his son as Gd had directed him to do, and then trust Gd to raise him from the dead. According Hebrew author, this was the solution his aching heat found sometime in the dark night and he rose “early in the morning” to carry out the plan. It is beautiful to see that, while he erred as to Gd’s method, he had correctly sensed the secret of His great heart. And the solution accords well with the New Testament scripture, “whosoever will lose for my sake shall find.”
Gd let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where he knew there would be no retreat, and than forbade him to lay a hand upon the boy. To the wondering patriarch he now says in effect, “It’s all right Abraham. I never intended that you should actually slay the lad. I only wanted to remove him from the temple of your heart that might reign unchallenged there. I wanted to correct the perversion that existed in your love. Now you may have the boy, sound and well. Take him and go back to your tent. Now I know that thou fearest Gd, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.”
The old man of Gd lifted his head to respond to the Voice, and stood there on the mount strong and pure and grand, a man marked out by the Lrd for special treatment, a friend, and favorite of the Most High. Now he was a man wholly surrendered, a man utterly obedient, a man who possessed nothing. He had concentrated his all in the person of his dear son, and Gd had taken it from him. Gd could have begun out the on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center. He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and to have it over in one sharp act of separation. In dealing thus, he practiced an economy of means and time.
It hurt cruelly but it was effective.
I have said that Abraham possessed nothing. Yet was not this poor man rich? Everything he had owned before was his still to enjoy: sheep, camels, herds, and goods of every sort. He had also his wife, his friends and best of all he had his son Isaac safe by his side. He had everything, but he possessed nothing. There is the spiritual secret. There is the sweet theology of the heart which can be learned only in the school of renunciation. The books on systematic theology overlook this, but the wise will understand.
After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words my and mine never again had the same meaning for Abraham. The sense of possession which they connote was gone from his heart. Things had been cast out forever. They had now become external to the man. His inner heart was free from them. The world said, “Abraham is rich,” but the aged patriarch only smiled. He could not explain it, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.
There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural, it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is. But its outworkings are tragic.
We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lrd out of fear for their safety. This is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears.
Our Lrd came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.
Our gifts and talents should also be turned over to him. They should be recognized for what they are, Gd’s loan to us, and we should never be considered in any sense our own. We have no more right to claim credit for special abilities than for blue eyes or strong muscles.
“For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7)
The Christian who is alive enough to know himself even slightly will recognize the symptoms of this possession malady, and will grieve to find them in his own heart. If the longing after Gd is strong enough within him, he will want to do something about the matter. Now, what should be done?
First of all, he should put away all defense and make no attempt to excuse himself either in his own eyes or before the Lrd. Whoever defends himself will have himself for his defense, and he will have no other. But let him come defenseless before the Lrd and he will have for his defender no less than Gd himself. Let the inquiring Christian trample under every slippery trick of his deceitful heart and insist upon frank and open relations with the Lrd.