God relentlessly pursuing us

We have just heard a song by Hillsong called Relentless. The chorus

You carry us
Carry us
When the world gives way
You cover us
Cover us
With Your endless grace

Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless
Your love is relentless

I woke up the other morning singing that chorus

We often read about how “someone found God”; usually after a life event that caused them to evaluate things. But did you know that God pursues us? Because of His very nature – which is love – He seeks to have a relationship with us.

God relentlessly pursues us.

The story of the Bible post the Fall is of God pursuing us to woo us to come back to him. The Book called the Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs is of God seeking his bride. It is a love story:

Song of Solomon 2:8 The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

9     My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

10   My beloved speaks and says to me:

“Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

11   for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

12   The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

13   The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

14   O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,

in the covert of the cliff,

let me see your face,

let me hear your voice;

for your voice is sweet,

and your face is lovely.

 

Our God is not a God who could not care less whether we love him or not. He pursues us as his first love.

Let me tell you some stories that illustrate that concept

The parable of the wicked tenants

Mark 20:9 A man planted a vineyard, and leased it to tenants, and went to another country for a long time. 10 When the season came, he sent a slave to the tenants … but the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 Next he sent another slave; that one also they beat and insulted and sent away empty-handed. 12 And he sent still a third; this one also they wounded and threw out. 13 Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 But when the tenants saw him, they discussed it among themselves and said, ‘This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance may be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.

God in this story is the landowner. He sent multiple prophets to bring people (the tenants) back into right relationship with him.  When we killed them, he sent his son and then we killed him too.

In all this God did not give up on us and relentlessly pursued us with his love.

The Parable of The prodigal son

Luke 15:20 20 So [the wayward son came home to] his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. 21 Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; 24 for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.

The parable is of the father running (something unheard-of in those days) to greet his wayward son. Of pursuing his son with a love that covered the sins of the son who hads wished him dead and wanted his inheritance before it was due. God is the father, we are the wayward son. God runs to us.

The parable of the lost sheep

Luke 15:3-7 …"What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, "Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!"I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

The shepherd is active in protecting and seeking out lost sheep.  He pursues the lost. He pursues us.

A modern parable

I have had a picture of God as a fly fisherman. He casts out his line and the trout takes the bait, but the fisherman cannot just crank away at the reel and haul the fish in with brute force, because a trout is soft mouthed and the hook will pull out.  The fisherman allows the fish to run, and when it tires, he winds it in a bit, then lets it run again.  The fisherman pursues the fish and gently brings it in to the land.  God lets us run, but he does not let us go. He always pursues us, and so gently, never imposing his will by force, he brings us to him.

 

The God we see in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, is One who loves despite… Despite our sin, our waywardness, our piety, our efforts, our failures, despite everything. From the complaining under Moses to the rejection of God as King, from idolatry under the monarchs to the compromise under the Romans, God across thousands of years has pursued a stubborn people called Israel. When all else fails, He appears in the flesh to knock on their doors, to eat at their tables, to call them back to Him. God will not let them go.

 

Similarly, He is faithful even when we are not. When we walk away, the Shepherd follows us. But “follows” is really too weak a word to describe this. The Psalmist tells us that “Surely His goodness and steadfast love yirdĕpûnî all the days of my life.” [7] We tend to translate yirdĕpûnî as “will follow me,” but all other uses of the root rdp (רדף) have a connotation of hunting, pursuing, even persecuting.

 

So the verse actually says: “Surely His goodness and steadfast love will pursue me relentlessly all the days of my life.”

 

God refuses to give up. Ever. On us, on those who leave the church, on those who have never been part of the community. He is the God Who Pursues Us Relentlessly. Until our last day, He will hound our steps with love.[1]

 Psalm 23:6a, says in the Message translation: Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life” 

We have a God that relentlessly pursues us with his Love.    

It does not matter who we are, God pursues us.

Think of Hosea’s wife who was a prostitiute and continued to go about her trade whilst married.  Hosea kept pursuing her and bringing her back to him.

The picture was of God and his unfaithful wife Israel. And God said

Hosea 2:14 “Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.
15 And there I will give her her vineyards
    and make the Valley of Achor[
a] a door of hope.
And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth,
    as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

16 “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

Let me close with a poem called the The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson (1859-1907).

Thompson wrote this poem at the end of his life in which he recognized that all his life he had been running away, and fundamentally the one he had been running away from was not his own father but God. His own life was secondary to the fundamental narrative, which was God’s relentless pursuit of him. The celebrated poem is called The Hound of Heaven. It begins, “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.” In the poem Thompson explains why he was fleeing: he admits, “though I knew his love who followèd, Yet was I sore adread Lest, having him, I must have naught beside.” Yet the hound of heaven pursued him with all “deliberate speed”.I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;

I am just going to recite the start of it – it is very long.

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 unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat--and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet--
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

And it continues.

God is the Hound of heaven that pursues us relentlessly.

And I personally am so glad that he did and does.

 



[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/fuller/2015/02/the-god-who-pursues-us-relentlessly/