For it is by grace you have been saved...

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Hound Of Heaven

Every now and then I thoroughly enjoy going back through my music archives and pulling out stuff that was popular back in my “radio days” (i.e. the mid- to late- 80s when working at various Christian stations in college and after). Recently, I’ve been on a DA (Daniel Amos) kick.

One of my favorite songs has always been “The Hound of Heaven.” I just like the music. I like the hook line. But lately, I’ve come to be quite fond of the whole theology behind the concept itself.

The song is based on a 182 line poem of the same title written by 19th Century English poet Francis Thompson. The images Thompson weaves of a man on the run from God, looking to man and beast and indeed the rest of all creation for aid, is truly remarkable. Yet, at every step, he hears even bigger steps behind him, and a Voice letting him know how futile this flight is.

I wouldn’t expect you to read all 182 verses: but here is at least the beginning and the end (those who are non-poetry lovers or with shorter attention spans can skip to the conclusion below):

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.”

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
“And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught” (He said),
“And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited—
Of all man’s clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might’st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child’s mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

What a great and glorious God of grace we serve! A God who’s love and mercy will not let us go until He has accomplished His purposes. And then to look back over the course of one’s life and see that all those things we thought were struggles and difficulties, and maybe even “desertions” by God, were really intended by God to draw us closer to Himself.

1 Peter 4:19 reminds us: “Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” Seems to me to be an echo of the same thought. That God will use whatever means possible/necessary, even suffering, to ensure we are drawn to Him and “entrust our souls to a faithful Creator.”

Forgive me is this seems a little to melancholy. Getting nostalgic and listening to these old songs make me a bit more reflective than usual. But I for one am glad for a God of such persistence. In the end, the sound of those Footsteps breathing down my back has come to be more of a comfort than a fright. And I pray they will become the same for you, and that the Hound of Heaven will overcome you with His grace.

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