14“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. 15And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
16“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ 17 For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more. 18And I will make for them a covenant on that day with the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the creeping things of the ground. And I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land, and I will make you lie down in safety. 19And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. 20I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord” (Hosea 2:14-20).
“Soar back through all your own experiences. Think of how the Lord has led you in the wilderness and has fed and clothed you every day. How God has borne with your ill manners, and put up with all your murmurings and all your longings after the ‘sensual pleasures of Egypt!’ Think of how the Lord’s grace has been sufficient for you in all your troubles.” Charles Spurgeon
It seems as if I could say this about a thousand texts of Scripture, but I am astounded at how packed Hosea 2 is with meaning. I know… “all scripture is God-breathed and profitable…” but these few verses are among some of my personal favorites. God, through the prophet, has just cast His judgment (yes, I said that word) – His severe judgment upon His people. Israel’s unfaithfulness was notorious. Their willingness to walk away from the “love of their lives” over and over again was well documented. Yet, in the midst of God’s justifiable indictment of His obstinate people we as readers are blinded by the brilliance of His sovereign grace. He shows the greatness of His nature by choosing to write a “love letter” – a letter of reconciliation to those very same people who were “whores of faith”. So it is appropriate for Hosea to say in verse 14, “Behold!” – a word used not just to call us to look but to look intently because what we are about to see is breath-taking – unbelievable.
The first wonder we see is that God is going to faithfully husband Israel even though she has been with “another man”. He takes the initiative to “entice” her. What a picture into the nature of God. He is not blind to Israel’s unfaithfulness. In fact, it is in full view of her “slutty” ways that He intentionally sets out to draw her back to Himself.
Some of us know firsthand the devastation of having our spouse be sexually unfaithful and thus the thought of being the one to initiate restoration and healing is a difficult one to consider. Others of us have been spared such heart break but can certainly speak to those times where our mate has pushed us away, been unkind or was seduced by work, hobbies or even ministry. Our inclinations are to withdraw and say to ourselves, “She must be the one to make the first move; he’s the ‘unfaithful’ one – he needs to get it together! He needs to make this right then I will be drawn to him.” Not so with God. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).
It is taken for granted in our human experience that when one person hurts another there is a reactive recoil from the relationship. Not much to “see” there – it happens all the time. But what is worth “beholding” is when we witness someone rise above their mortal predispositions and love when it hurts, when offended and violated. This is not to say that the offender has no responsibilities – they do. But that is expected; not unusual. The miracle worth our long gaze and astonishment is when we see one take on the challenge of imparting the “undeserved enticement” found in God’s love. That is worth watching.
Shocker number two:
If a friend of yours came to you and asked, “I want to win the heart of my adulterous wife back. What should I do?” What would you say? Most of the time we would probably suggest a myriad of intimate, bridge-building activities to “fall in love all over again” and we would be right in saying so. But look where God is planning His “romantic getaway” with Israel.
The Wilderness – the desert.
He did not book a secluded spot on the beaches of Aruba or a romantic dinner of two in a fine restaurant or even some simple “coffee time” at that quaint little coffee shop in the artsy part of town. No God’s idea of “showing his girl a good time” was to take her to a place of desolation and discomfort!
I am reminded here of Jesus being “compelled by the Spirit” to go into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). The difference in these two scenarios is that Jesus had not been unfaithful but was “commanded” to go to the desert nonetheless. God will not always lead us into a hard place in order to show us His love but often enough He will use the most painful of circumstances to display Himself to us. In fact Hosea says God will speak “tenderly” to us there, as one lover to another.
But couldn’t He speak to us tenderly in a better setting than the wilderness? What purpose does God have in leading us into the wilderness? Doesn’t He know that we’ll be uncomfortable there? If He really wants us to hear Him shouldn’t we be in a more conducive setting?
Funny thing about deserts… they aren’t very good at providing a good WiFi connection; there aren’t many shopping malls (minus Dubai); traffic’s not bad but where would you want to go. The one thing that the wilderness provides is limited distractions. Really the only distraction you have in the wilderness is recognizing how many false lovers you have that have not traveled there with you.
It was true of Israel, it is true of us. There are far too many things that distract us from intimacy with the living God. Some of those distractions are the results of daily demands placed on us by living life – neither good nor bad. However, many “distractions” are the result of deliberate choices we make to remain distant. These choices equate to idolatry. In our modern/post-modern world we are not comfortable in describing our “choices” as potentially being idolatrous, but “it is what it is”. Anything we are enticed by other than God has potential to be a “golden calf”. Israel was already adept at practicing idolatry. God understood that for them to be “drawn” to Him again would require a removal of all of those sacred things they had raised up ahead of Him – thus the desert.
Similarly, there are seasons of “wilderness walking” in marriage as well; times when the work of married life leaves us parched and thirsty for an oasis of relief. In this place there is nothing left that will satisfy our thirst other than calling out to God. We can deny that we are in the desert and delude ourselves with the mirage of stability but the truth is the sun in still baking our backs. We can long for another time in life when we were refreshed, “comfortable” and full of life but the truth is we aren’t there any longer and we’re really tired. We can point the finger at one another for this place we’re in and continue wandering for “forty years”… or … we can realize that God brought us to this hard place so that He may indeed speak tenderly to us there. There is nothing more vital for us to understand than that God will take us into the desert places so that there is nothing left but for us to draw near to Him.
Lord, reveal in me the people and things I have enthroned before you. Do your surgical work in my heart and mind that these things may either be completely vanquished or that they may find their proper place in submission to You. As a result may my union with Robyn be all the more glorifying to You. To that end help me not to fear the wilderness but be all the more willing to listen to You there. In Jesus.