This is the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard.

To have your attention grabbed, to have your current thoughts interrupted and dismissed because something new has arrived – this is one of the powerful things music can do. Jess Ray’s Runaway, from her 2015 debut album Sentimental Creatures, did this to me a few weeks ago. I’d like to share it with you and explain a little of what is going on in it.

The brief intro of acoustic guitar is unprepossessing but the first line is full of sorrow –

“I can see it in your eyes, that you’re gonna run, you’re gonna run”

This is familiar song-writing territory, the lament of the lover on the edge of loss. On it goes –

“I can hear it in the way you speak to me that you're gonna leave”

Lies, false promises, betrayal. From our own experiences and popular culture, we’re so familiar with this. Maybe we feel a twinge of guilt from being the cause of these feelings in another; more likely we sense our vulnerability and remember when our guts have been wrenched.

As emotive as this is, why did it grab my attention? I was listening to a playlist of songs recommended by Brett McCracken in an article entitled, “The Best Christian Albums of the 2010s” so I was not expecting to hear a love song like this.

But then – oh no – I realised what was happening -

“And as you slip away, I will say... As you pack your things, I will sing... Even if you run away from me, over the mountains through the valleys I will not rest but search east and west to bring you back with me”

And then this –

“Even if you sail away from across the oceans and the seas, I will move again like the mighty wind and blow you back to me. I'm gonna move again like the mighty wind and blow you back to me.”

Any human lover might make that first commitment – to search – but the second? Of course, we use metaphor to convey our intensity, we talk about “moving heaven and earth” and other things we cannot do. But now I was realising Who the abandoned Lover was, and tears stung my eyes.


The theme of betrayal runs through the Bible like an open wound. From the Garden to Golgotha and beyond, God experiences the heartbreak of our desertion. The people He rescued and made His marriage covenant with spurn Him for others. For all the good He does to them, they prefer the false promises of other gods, they follow their desires rather than Him. The prophets of the Old Testament feel all this particularly painfully. The language they use is raw and sometimes shockingly violent (Ezekiel 16:1-43, 23:1-49). Most famously, Hosea is told to marry a woman who he knows will leave him, to demonstrate what God’s people have done to Him (Hosea 1:2).*


All this is the setting of Runaway

“I have seen this all before it is all too familiar.”

Billions of times. Billions. Every time. How does His heart still beat?

“But you will never see the bottom of my storehouses of love.”

It’s such a skilful juxtaposition, speaking of deeper pain than we can understand and deeper reserves of love than we can comprehend. God’s storehouses are fathomless (Job 38:22, Psalm 33:7, 135:7) and so is His love (Psalm 103:17, Jeremiah 31:3).

Ray’s vocals rise to a fragile falsetto but their confidence deepens –

“Even if you make up in your mind, you don't want be by my side, I will leave behind 99 oh that you'd be mine.”

The 99? That’s the number of sheep that Jesus spoke of being left by a shepherd in search of one foolishly wandering member of the flock. The economic foolishness of this love climaxes with the sequel parable, the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-7, 11-32).

That’s is why I’ve called this the most beautiful song you’ve ever heard. I’m not talking about Ray’s song – beautiful though it is – but the Song she’s singing of. The Song of God, the Song of His unfailing love for people like me and like you, who turn from Him and yet He keeps coming after us. Again and again and again. Whether we run away in childish foolishness, adolescent lust or desperation, adult compromises or cynicisms, aged weariness or rootlessness. Whether it’s in a fit of hot temper or because our heart has grown cold. Whether it happened briefly or decades ago. Whether we felt – and feel – guilt, shame, anger, confusion… His commitment to this relationship far exceeds ours.

“I'm gonna love you and teach you to love me again.”

Will you let Him?

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10)