The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing – Tozer’s thoughts on Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac

This post is an excerpt from A.W. Tozer’s The Pursuit of God, The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing. I believe it to be some of the highest thoughts in all devotional writing.

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.

“Take now thy son,” said God 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.”

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 God, but respectful imagination may view in awe the bent form and convulsive wrestling alone under the stars.

Possibly not again until a 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 easier a thousand times, for he was old now, and to die would have been no great ordeal for one who had walked so long with God. 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 God 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 God had directed him to do, and then trust God to raise him from the dead.

This, says the writer to the Hebrews, was the solution his aching heart 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 God’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.”

God let the suffering old man go through with it up to the point where He knew there would be no retreat, and then 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 I 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 God, seeing that thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, from me.”

The old man of God 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 Lord 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 God had taken it from him.

God could have begun out on the margin of Abraham’s life and worked inward to the center; He chose rather to cut quickly to the heart and 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 and 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.

10 thoughts on “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing – Tozer’s thoughts on Genesis 22, Abraham and Isaac

  1. First, I am so glad that you are writing again. I, for one, have missed your insights. And it is probably not a coincidence that I am reading Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling at the present time. I’m only halfway through the book, but Kierkegaard, so far, has weaved a philosophical tale about faith wrapped around this bit of Scripture. Fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Well played, and thank you. This really helped me with the rut I was in with my devotion and took this morning to the next level. Now if I can only keep this in the forefront of my heart today…..

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  3. “He had everything, but he possessed nothing.”

    Foundational for the cultivation of a correct frame of mind and disposition of heart.

    Even if you have “nothing” from a material standpoint, this frame of frame of mind and disposition of heart should logically lead you to the place of “counting your blessings” and dwelling on what it is that we as believers do have; the presence and power of God with us active in our lives. That being said, we are given this as a free gift and are in turn expected to give it freely in return (Matthew 10:8). God wants to manifest/work in others through His body (us) and has (dare I say) commanded that we boldly step out in faith as moved by Him in obedience.

    The example that comes to mind is Peter in Acts 3 “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.” (verse 6 – KJV). Back up 3 verses and read through verse 6 and there’s a whole lot more to unpack.

    Really really great post Tim! Some real meat here to digest.

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      1. Doing great. Been working with the preschool class at church but otherwise “same ole same ole” 🙂

        Thanks for your posting – I don’t always comment but your words do not fall silently to the wayside.

        How have you been?

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      2. Hey Tim, good stuff. This caused me to think of the story of the Rich Young Ruler. “He walked away sad because he had many possessions.” The truth is we will always lack the material. But we have every spiritual blessing in Christ that we need. If our pursuit remains that of Christ alone first, then we will always be satisfied. We will also be ready to give God what He has always wanted from the beginning; our everything.

        Thanks man. Your writing caused me to reflect on what’s important in life. Appreciate your insights and heart. Love ya brother!

        Liked by 1 person

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