The story I submitted last week about finding the coonhound trapped in the hollow log and dying was one I initially wrote in 1999. The incident actually occurred on Thanksgiving Day of the first week of the 1998 West Virginia deer season.
Over the years of telling the story people have often asked, “What eventually happened to that coonhound?” I have always been glad to tell it, but I have never written about it – until now. This is the written conclusion to the coonhound account.
It was getting close to the designated time that I had told my boys hunting at other locations on the farm property in Ritchie County to meet me at a certain location. It was my intention after freeing and feeding the happy coonhound that each of us go our separate ways. Besides, I had a ways to walk and thought I might jump a deer on the way out.
But, the coonhound wanted to stay with me. He ran excitedly around me, barking some, rustling the leaves on the ground noisily with its running, and sniffing whatever. He was still with me when I met up with the boys. He happily jumped on and around them, too.
Then, for whatever reason, the coonhound just ran off.
The following Sunday evening after church, I told the property owner where we had been hunting my encounter with the coonhound. He responded with, “That’s interesting…I just about shot that dog when it came close to my stand. I thought it was chasing deer.”
Just as Jim scoped the dog to shoot it, he recognized it as belonging to a down-the-road neighbor about ten miles away. Jim coaxed the dog close, got a short piece of rope around its neck, and walked the dog to his house. The neighbor came that evening to get the dog, and was glad to retrieve it since it was his best hunter. The neighbor said that the dog had been missing for several days.
But, the broader spiritual scope of comparison to consider involving this coonhound has the hallmark of relating to the intervention of God in our lives. God dynamically intervenes because we are naturally and deliberately careless in our hunts in life.
First, each of us is caught up in the eternal trap of sin. There is no way out. We are trapped and dying spiritually. But, God intervened in that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to do what was spiritually necessary to free us from the death trap of sin. Just like the coonhound could not get free from the log he was stuck in without my intervention, so it is that Jesus Christ did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He died on the Cross so we could be set free from the guilt and penalty of sin. The Cross of Christ is a critical point of divine intervention.
The second point of intervention must take into consideration the abundant mercy and grace of God. When Jim declared that he just about shot the dog, I broke in with, “Jim, I am so glad that you didn’t, because I had just saved the dog’s life!”
While God mercifully and graciously intervened in our life through the intercession of the Cross of Jesus Christ, He continues to mercifully and graciously intervene daily in our lives because of the continuing effect of the shed blood of Christ. Because of His mercy, God does not give us what we deserve. Because of His grace, God gives us what we do not deserve. On either account, it involves the dynamic intervention of God in our lives. Never should we take for granted the continued intervention of God’s mercy and grace.
Third, the intervention of God is manifested in His tender leadership. The Lord knows how difficult it is to find our way in life, and how far we sometimes have to go to get there. Thus, He intervenes by giving us the principles and expectations of His Word to lead us in hunts of life that are turned away from self-focus to hunts of life that bring honor and glory to His name.
The coonhound eventually died a couple of years later. But, the account of him still lives in my memory.
The Rev. Ron Branch is pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Mason, W.Va.