In the last several days, I’ve been savoring John Piper’s book of poetry, Velvet Steel, which he dedicated to his wife, Noel. I have always appreciated words penned from the inner pangs of a man’s soul. Such writing seems to capture the fervency of fire in mere words, and through them unleashes a blazing wildfire that inflames the heart of the reader who is unafraid to draw near to its heat. As I have enjoyed the writing of John Piper, I have often felt ignited by the spark of his passion and warmed by the heat of His God-ward affection. He is, by my estimation, a God-intoxicated man who burns brightly in his ever-increasing pursuit to know and reflect the flaming glory and grace of God. His poetry has been no different than his prose; it has been used by God to draw my heart nearer to the One I love, He that first loved me.
While most of the poems were written as the overflow of a deep, impassioned love for his bride, several of the poems were composed as an expression of heartfelt worship in response to reading the Scriptures. My favorite, thus far, are the two that follow.
The first, “Hosea and Gomer,” captures the essence of infidelity (a brutal picture of my own spiritual harlotry before God) and the power of redeeming love (as demonstrated so incorruptibly by Jesus Christ). My heart grows heavy and my eyes moisten as I read Piper’s words of Hosea’s intense and unrelenting love for Gomer, and it causes me to reflect on Christ’s love for His bride, the church. Oh, that I might honor my Savior and love others as He has first loved me.
Hosea and Gomer
“And when they looked into
Each other’s eyes, as they would do
At night they knew, as none could know
But they, that God would bend His bow
Against the charms of foreign men,
And take His faithless wife again.
They knew it could and would be done,
As surely as the rising sun
Drives darkness back unerringly
And drowns it in the western sea.
They knew, because they had rehearsed
The tragedy and played it first
Themselves with passion and deceit.
Hosea loved beyond the way
Of mortal man. What man would say,
‘Love grows more strong when it must wait,
And deeper when it’s almost hate.’
‘And children,’ Gomer said with tears,
‘Mark this the miracle of years.’
She looked Hosea in the face
And said, ‘Hosea, man of grace
Dark harlotry was in my blood
Until your love became a flood
Cascading over my crude life
And kept me as your only wife.
I love the very ground you trod,
And most of all, I love your God.’
The second poem, “Trust Him Who Cuts,” is about trusting God when things are hard. It reminds me that God is purposeful in every ounce of pain that my heart and life feel and that He cuts and carves so as to grow and strengthen and conform us to His will–namely, the glorious image of His beautiful Son. I praise God that He does not leave me–or us–crooked in our sin and depraved in our hearts. He is most gracious to cut, carve, pierce, break, and burn so as to heal, soothe, mend, and make us new. May I suffer well with eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross. May we entrust ourselves to the One who is eternally worthy of our trust.
Trust Him Who Cuts
“If I am like a bow bent tight
With hope, and strung with prayer,
And you my quiver, and the might
To bend me more and bear
With me the tautness of our bow
Then may we not, good mate,
Trust Him who cuts and carves, to grow
The arrows of our quiver straight?”