Victorian poet Francis Thompson ran from God. He wrote about his experience in his poem, “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 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.
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'.”
Thompson artfully describes how he ran from God nearly all his life, seeking hope in things that did not satisfy. All the while, God, the Hound of Heaven, was chasing him-not to hunt him down and tear him apart, but to hunt him down and lavish him with grace.
We see this grace at work in Jonah.
In our cancel culture, we expect God to shun Jonah and bid him good riddance for running away. We expect him to throw down his wrath. At first glance, that seems to be just what God is doing. He hurls a great wind upon the sea and sends Jonah into the craziest storm he has ever seen.
Surely Jonah will repent! Nope. The sailors with Jonah are certain they are going to die. Jonah couldn’t care less-he’s asleep in the bottom of the boat. When the sailors awake him, he runs again, imploring the sailors to save themselves by throwing him into the sea.
Jonah jumps the ship of his own undoing. Surely, God will cancel him now!
Jonah is sinking, certain he’s going to drown, certain that God has given up on him, when God mercifully sends a large fish to swallow Jonah and save his life. Even in Jonah’s utter rebellion, God pursues him.
When we run, the Hound of Heaven chases after us. When we jump ship, the God of the wind and waves pulls our heads above water. When we are sure all hope is lost, God swallows us to refuge.
God in His mercy pursues us in our doubt.
No one can outrun God. What would happen if we slow down and let him catch us? That may strike fear into your heart, but perfect love casts out all fears and God is the definition of perfect love. We need not fear Him.
The Hound of Heaven is not snarling and snapping his vicious teeth at us. He pursues us because his love is steadfast, his grace is lavish, and his mercy stretched beyond all we can imagine.
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Read the Rest of the Jonah Series:
Parts 3 and 4 coming soon!