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Monday, October 4, 2010

Look Over Your Shoulder

The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion. --Proverbs 28: 1 NIV

 I once watched a funny video of a litter of schnauzer puppies barking bravely at a cat (which was of course bigger than each of them).  They chased it as a group onto a woodpile, but when it turned and arched its back at them, all but one puppy turned and ran to the other side of the back yard.  The last puppy stood his ground for several seconds, barking at the cat, and then peeked over his shoulder.  Seeing that his siblings had abandoned him, he let out a long wailing howl as he fled at full speed back to the others.  I guess big words mean nothing when you have no backup!

Somehow I saw a bit of myself in that last puppy.  How many times have I been "ferocious" for a cause, but only as long as it felt "safe" to do so?  That especially came into play when I believed that other people were going to back me up.  Going further with that thought, how many times have I taken myself along as my own "backup," only to find my best skills to be inadequate protection for myself?  Of course I "ran," in whatever capacity it took to escape the situation.

It must be true that everyone has some innate need of "backup," just like that puppy.  If we don't see it, and we feel we've cornered something too strong for us, we run.

The Hound of Heaven

Turning back to Proverbs 28: 1, I guess the difference between the wicked man and the righteous one was what each saw over his shoulder.  The wicked man saw that he had no backup, and he was alone against the thing he most feared; the righteous man looked back and saw that there was no reason to run.

It wasn't until I heard of a poem by Francis Thompson called "The Hound of Heaven," (read it here) in a Ravi Zacharias book, that I began to understand that both the wicked and the righteous man saw the same face over their shoulder--God Himself.

When we have done what is right, we know we have not offended God, and therefore He is not angry with us.  When we have allied ourselves with God, He is the enemy of our enemy, and we are the enemy of His enemy (Deuteronomy 20: 3-4).  When we have stood our ground with God, we can boldly say, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8: 31 NIV).

However, when we have disobeyed God, dread of judgment comes over us wherever we are, and the slightest thing convicts us of our sins (Leviticus 26: 36-37).  When we are living in rebellion, we are forever faced with the certainty that we deserve what is coming to us, and the only uncertainty is "When?"  This feeling of dread is especially with our rebellious hearts when the sun comes up, and not even darkness can hide the enormity of sin from ourselves or anyone else (John 3: 19). When there seems to be no refuge and no backup, why wouldn't we run?

Yet, where can we run?  There is no backup that can stand with us against the truth.  It is an unshakable reality; we can't stop it or outrun it--it would be easier to outrun a beam of light.  All of our backup, whether it be "litter mates" or any other source of strength on Heaven or Earth, will crumble at the presence of the truth, and the One who holds it (Revelation 20: 11).

But there is still hope for those who are running.  The same God who convicts sin also can forgive us and remove our punishment from us.  We have to stop running from Him, though. As God instructed the prophet Samuel to say to an entire nation who were running away, "if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land," (2 Chronicles 7: 14 NIV).

Do you want to be healed today so you can stop running from God?  If you are running, I know your heart is in need of healing, just as surely as mine was when God caught up with me.  If this is you, I am telling you, God is not your enemy.  This enemy you've cornered is your own sin, but you don't have to face its reproach alone.  Let Jesus remove the sins in your life and your past from you, and don't look for them again.  He is close enough on your heels that He will hear you if you ask.  Let Jesus cleanse you and make you new; let Him take away the reproach, so that you never have to flee again!  

You'll be glad you did.
I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy.  Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.--Psalm 116: 1-2 NIV


Kamal Singarapu said...

This is a great read. Thank you Rachel. We all desire someone to be with us to back us up and when sin is chasing, there is no one who can back us up other than God. Thank you for making this point very clear.

As soon as I read the side heading "The Hound of Heaven " The Poem by Francis Thompson came to my mind and then I saw that you actually quoted his name. Thompson was an intelligent man and was a looser in so many respects. He faced a lot of rejection in his life and saught unhealthy means to run away from the reality and especially God. But then one day he penned those words of the poem "The Hound of Heaven" that tells us how God followed him all along.

Here are couple of lines I loved the most from the blog -

"When we are living in rebellion, we are forever faced with the certainty that we deserve what is coming to us, and the only uncertainty is "When?"" - I know everyone of us feel the same way.


"There is no backup that can stand with us against the truth."

His [God's] love overcomes us each time we find ourselves on the run away from His presence.

Rachel said...

Thank you for the vote of confidence, Kamal! I realize that I've never read much about Francis Thompson, but his poem is so important to this discussion that I wish I could have included more of it here.

I was really trying to emphasize here that the truth is relentless and that there is no use standing against it. In fact, Jesus called Himself the truth. He is the personification of it. I guess, just as "The Hound of Heaven" illustrates, God is relentless, but most importantly, He is merciful. There is no reason to keep running from Him!