The Hound of Heaven
“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? Psalm 139:7
The brother of Christopher Hitchens, the well-known atheist who has made fame and fortune in denigrating the God he claims does not exist, has written his own book titled The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. At the age of 15 this younger brother, Peter, set fire to his Bible on the grounds of his Cambridge, England boarding school, and began as his brother a life of rebellion against the God who is there with all the concomitant positions accompanying those who attempt to excise God from their life and thought. The son of the anti-prayer-in-schools warrior, Madelyn Murray-O’Hair, defied his mother’s atheistic crusade, and came to faith himself. It is reported in recent years, with some controversy due to his age, that the famous author-scientist Antony Flew, long a champion of atheists, now admits that God exists. In a more spacious setting than this the examples could go on and on.
The inescapable subject of Francis Thompson’s (1859-1907) haunting lyric, The Hound of Heaven , is tireless in accomplishing His purposes in the lives of men and women upon whom He has set His heart. What has been called “the greatest ode in the English language has captured the feelings and reality of David’s cry above; or the cry of the Eternal Father Himself in Hosea, “O Ephraim, how can I give you up! Thompson encapsulates Paul’s experience in being transformed from enemy to ambassador in a relentless pursuit that reached fruition on a dusty road to Damascus. Perhaps there is something of the telling of the Hound of Heaven in your own conversion, and if not as much there, certainly in your continuing pilgrimage with the One who desires all of you. At times we are insensible to the relentless pursuit, until that something, whatever it is, gets our attention opening our eyes to what was there all along. For some it is the valley of the “big C or some similar physical malady. Christopher Hitchens has just been diagnosed with esophageal C! Whether or not it will get his attention is yet to be seen. We can pray so. But whatever it is in your own life, if you have been unconscious of the pursuit and purpose of His love towards you, perhaps, just perhaps, it is well past time for you to acquaint yourself or reacquaint yourself, as the case may be, with the truths of The Hound of Heaven.
“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 chasmed fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbed pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
“All things betray thee, who betrayest Me.
This first verse only introduces what is true in us; why Paul writes “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13). For others the terrifying thought of Genesis 6, “My Spirit will not strive with man forever, ought to chill the conscience of many a rebellious soul if they were not so dead-like insensible. Yet for those who, as Francis Thompson, recognize the pursuing footsteps in the ears of their spirit.
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!
“I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me; It was not I that found, O Savior true, No, I was found of Thee.
(1st verse of anonymous hymn, “I Sought the Lord, 1904)
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