9th July 2018

The Hound of Heaven 

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:10 (NIV)

I’ve just completed another cycle of my weekly wash, now it’s time to hang up the washing to dry. On to the clothes horse go my shirts, underwear, jeans, a jumper, and seven pairs of socks. Hold on a minute; there are only thirteen socks! Why is it that not infrequently I’m missing a sock? Where on earth is it? Is it tangled up with another item of clothing? No! Have I dropped it between the washing machine and the clothes horse? No! Is it stuck inside the washing machine? No! That’s it, I give up. It’s gone the way of all socks; into some black hole. If you see me wearing a pair of odd socks you’ll know why.

I’m glad that God is not like me, for when I’m lost or estranged from him he doesn’t give up on me. He’s the Good Shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine sheep and goes after the one lost sheep until he finds it (Luke 15:4). He’s the woman who lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds the lost coin (Verse 8). He’s the father looking for his wayward son who is a long way off in the distance (Verse 20) and who comes out of the house searching for the equally lost older brother (Verse 28). He is the one who will go to be the guest of a sinner in order to bring salvation (Luke 19:7-9).

It reminds me of Francis Thompson’s poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’. This is what ‘The Neumann Press Book of Verse’, (1988) says of the poem: “As the hound follows the hare, never ceasing in its running, ever drawing nearer in the chase, with unhurrying and unperturbed pace, so does God follow the fleeing soul by His Divine grace. And though in sin or in human love, away from God it seeks to hide itself, Divine grace follows after, unwearyingly follows ever after, till the soul feels its pressure forcing it to turn to Him alone in that never ending pursuit.”  

The speaker in the poem is running from God, but God pursues him. Although aware of God’s love for him, he continues to run, believing that submitting to God means giving up worldly pleasures. He pleads with dawn to be brief so that darkness may come to hide him. He asks the evening to cover him. But God still pursues him, saying, “Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me.” The happiness he sought in the things of the world has eluded him. God explains that what He took from the speaker—the pleasures that led him in the wrong direction—was not intended to hurt him but to help him find his way to the right path. The happiness that you think you lost, God says, is not lost but “stored for thee at home.” “Rise, clasp My hand, and come!”

That was also the offer given to the older brother in Luke 15, to Zacchaeus in chapter 19 and is the offer given to all who are running away, who are lost pursuing the world’s pleasures. The question is, ‘will we take up the offer’?

Father, thank you that you never give up on me. Thank you that your divine grace pursues me, even in a black hole, in order to bring me home where there will be pleasures for evermore.

Study by Barry Robinson


About the Author:
Barry Robinson is an Elder in and pastoral worker in the Greater London area, particularly the Camberwell and North London congregations of the Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
Grace Communion International Central London
Indian YMCA
Mahatma Gandhi Hall
41 Fitzroy Square

Meeting Time:
Saturday 2:30pm

Local Congregational Contact:
Martin Ryan
Phone: 07958 386944
Email:   martin_ryan@wcg.org.uk

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