In Pursuit

Posted by Ravi Zacharias on October 4, 2017

I believe one of the most profound poems ever written was penned by an Englishman named Frances Thompson. Thompson was a genius, but he became a drug addict and was on the run for many years. Towards the later part of his life he wrote the magnificent masterpiece he called “The Hound of Heaven.” The poem describes God as the persistent hound who, with loving feet, follows and follows until he catches up with this person who is trying to run and flee from him. Writes Thompson:

“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 midst of tears

I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.”

As the poem comes to an end, Thompson depicts the persistent cry of God to the one who flees his presence, the one God pursues to the end:

“Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me.”

With the wisdom of one who had found himself chased after, Thompson notes the heart of God and the contradiction of humanity. We run away, fearful that if we have God, we might have nothing else beside. And God says, “You were weak and blind and miserable when you were driving me away, because you were actually driving love away from you. It is Me you seek.”

Carlo Carra, Pursuit, collage: newsprint, charcoal, cardboard, tempera, 1915.

The life and ministry of the prophet Hosea is a fascinating, mystifying look at the love of God and human readiness to push that love away and hide from it. His message will send a deep ray of hope into our hearts if we listen carefully. Hosea was a prophet called by God to marry Gomer, a harlot who continually left the loving home Hosea had provided to return to her life of prostitution. One can almost hear the whispers among the people to whom Hosea faithfully preached, until someone was brave enough to ask: “Hosea, can you tell us how it is you continue to love this woman, a woman who has so betrayed you and repeatedly abandoned her commitment to you? How can a holy man of God like you be joined to a woman such as this?”

And Hosea says, “I will be delighted to answer your question if you will first answer a question of mine. How can a holy God like this love such a harlotrous people like us?”

The first thing about the nature of God’s relationship with us is that God gives to us a love that we do not deserve. We do not merit it. But not only is the love of God unmerited, it is also a love that grows and is sustained by relationship. The longer we walk with God, the more we understand how much of a gift this love is.

Through the prophet Hosea, God spoke graphically to a nation running from his presence. As individuals and as a collective whole, God chases after us, woos us into his arms, pays the price to buy us back, cleans us up, and brings us home. In Christ, God makes his love plain, shows us what it means to be human, removes the corruption of sin, and provides new life, hope, and meaning. God wants to see humanity flourish. Let us come to the cross as we are: children desiring love, sinners needing mercy, souls weary of running through our nights and days and ready to follow the one who ordains them.

 

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.