The Hunt for Souls

I have thought about the spiritual life as a battle before. It’s God v. Satan and your soul is the battleground. It makes perfect sense.

But I never thought of the spiritual life as a hunt. (Ok, well, John of the Cross does talk about Christ as the stag that the soul keeps hunting for, but that’s not the same.) In Ezekiel I found this passage where the prophet is prophesying against people who make cultic objects for the worship of false gods and he mentions “the hunt for souls” (Ezek 13:18). Through Ezekiel, God asks these people, “Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive?” Then two verses later he accuses them “You hunt the souls like birds, and I will tear them from your arms, and I will let the souls whom you hunt go free, the souls like birds.”

There are a couple other biblical mentions of the hunting metaphor that I can think of. Ps 91:3 says, “He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and the deadly pestilence.” (ESV) A “fowler” for all of us without enormous vocabularies is a dude who hunts birds. In Ps 91, he’s hunting with traps. One last hunting reference is 1 Pet 5:8 ESV, “Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

In all of these biblical pictures of the hunt for souls, the “hunter” is always the enemy of God and of the soul. God is always rescuing the “quarry” from the clutches of the hunter. But these images remind me of the famous poem by Francis Thompson “The Hound of Heaven.” In the poem, God is hunter, chasing the soul “down the arches of the years.”

I guess the important thing to grasp from all of these hunting metaphors in the Bible is that we are being sought after. Human beings are being chased by the world, the flesh and the Devil AND we are being “chased” by God. It is a competitive hunt and we are the quarry. It’s like an ad-campaign for a specific demographic. We are the human demographic and our souls are being sought for good or for ill. As the quarry, we must flee from temptation and sin (1 Tim 6:11), and then we must run toward our loving “Hunter,” because he is the God who loves us.

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