Abraham – The Possessor of Nothing
I am rereading a devotional classic by A.W. Tozer, “The Pursuit of God”; a resource that has refreshed my soul each of the times I have returned to it. So much of our life is spent pursuing, maintaining, protecting, repairing and longing for things, rather than God. A chapter in the book is entitled “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing”. The central illustration looks at Abraham as he was confronted with God’s command to sacrifice his son Isaac (Genesis 22).
Commentary on the passage often focuses on the ethics and the implications for the nature of faith that God demands from Abraham. Tozer’s focus is on the influence this would have had on Abraham as he went forward from that event. Prior to this event, Abraham’s life had been focused on the promise of an heir, through whom God would fulfill the far reaching promises Abraham had believed. Well after the age of “normal” childbirth, Abraham and Sarah miraculously welcomed that heir, Isaac. For 12-15 years Abraham delighted in parenting a strapping son when he was old enough to be a great grandfather. Tozer proposes that this had a potential downside.
The baby represented everything sacred to his father’s heart: the promises of God, 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 last the relationship bordered upon the perilous. It was then that God stepped in to save both father and son from the consequences of an uncleansed love.
The danger was that this relationship would replace Abraham’s relationship with God. Is God so petty that He felt threatened by the rivalry? Of course He is not. God knows that if we possess all other things at the expense of our relationship with Him; we have nothing of value. If we possess Him, we have everything else. Tozer summarizes it this way…
After that bitter and blessed experience I think the words “my” and “mine” never had again 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 to them, but he knew that he owned nothing, that his real treasures were inward and eternal.
Our relationship with God is meant to liberate us from lesser “gods”. Those idols can be relationships with other people, our possessions, our prestige, our power or our productivity. When Abraham placed Isaac on the altar, he was surrendering the only rival to his affection for God. All else was included. It was excruciating. Anyone who has lost a child knows the agony of it, regardless of how it happened. I saw it when my parents lost my sister. It is unimaginable to fathom Abraham’s plight as he considered God’s command. The writer of Hebrews tells us that at some point in the process, Abraham concluded that if God’s promises were true about Isaac and God was truly calling him to offer Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead.
God didn’t need Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to know the extent of Abraham’s faith; but Abraham needed to be willing to sacrifice Isaac to free himself from the possessions that would limit his willingness to follow God wherever God would lead.
Do you have an Isaac? Or more than one? Are there things you cling to and put on a higher plane than your relationship with God? God knows where we stand and longs for us to be liberated to see all things as gifts from Him and for Him. That is when we are free to fulfill the design He has for our life.
This weekend we will be traveling through time with the Kingdom Kid’s as they take us “Back to the Cross” at both services. Please join us and bring friends!
Looking forward to seeing you!