A Tale of Holy Love, Unfaithfulness, Justice, Mercy, and Grace
Our God is a God of second chances, third chances, fourth chances, fifth chances, and more. He doesn’t give up on those He loves, but extends grace and offers them another chance to do things right. Even in the midst of holy anger, God was preparing to win back Israel’s heart and affection.
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.”
In this major drama and love story between God and Israel, this verse is the climax of the story where both estranged parties come back together. However, unlike most novels and movies, this story is true and actually happened. God was in the process of wooing back His unfaithful people, and the setting and place He chose to carry out this deed was the wilderness.
Throughout the Bible, there are stories where people were led into the wilderness and there met God. Jesus, Paul, John the Baptist, Elijah, Moses, David, and Hagar are just a few examples. The barren wasteland seems to be the favored place for meeting God.
The wilderness is often looked upon as a bleak and desolate area. A place mostly void of life, water, and vegetation. A barren wasteland filled only with the eerie quiet of emptiness. So why the wilderness? Why did God decide to bring His beloved to this desolate place?
Because there is nothing else in the wilderness but God. There are no distractions of worldly comforts, wealth, popularity, and fame. There is nothing of value in the wilderness, nothing worth seeing. It is a place of loneliness that no one would voluntarily journey into. But in this place, God has opportunity to speak. In the emptiness, God can grab our attention. In the eerie quiet of nothingness, we can hear God’s voice.
This is why God brought Israel to the wilderness, why the barren wasteland was the location He chose to woo her back. Israel had been enjoying a season of prosperity, wealth, and luxury. The comforts and pleasures of the world were intoxicating, and Israel had become quite addicted to them. She sought after them with all her heart and left her God and spiritual husband for these earthly delights. However, God did not give up on Israel. He brought her into the wilderness, where creature comforts and worldly pleasures were nonexistent and where only His awesome power and divine provision could be found.
So the stage was set, the location picked out. Now it was time to win back her heart. But how did God do that? What happened in the wilderness? And what was Israel’s response?
Hosea 2:14 says, “I will… speak tenderly to her.” This was God’s method for winning back the heart of Israel. But what does “speak tenderly” really mean? When I first read this verse, I got the picture of a mother gently speaking to her small and shy children. It was a visual of extreme gentleness, love, and kindness. However, after doing some original word studies, I found that “speak tenderly” has a much deeper meaning.
The word speak is the Hebrew word dābar which literally means “to arrange or to speak.” No surprises or unexpected treasures there. However, the word tenderly literally means “heart.” It’s the same Hebrew word that is used over 49 times in Jeremiah.
This gives Hosea 2:14 a whole new meaning! God wasn’t just going to speak tenderly to Israel, but He was going to speak to her heart. It was truly meant to be a heart-to-heart conversation, not just a loving and gentle chat. In the stillness of the wilderness, God was going to speak to the heart of His beloved.
What a beautiful picture! God wasn’t going to woo Israel back with gifts, flowers, mighty acts, or soft, loving words. But rather, with words spoken directly to the heart. The wilderness was the place in which God was going to do some heart transformation and renewal.
So how is your relationship with God going? Is He first place in your life or is the world and its pleasures your number one priority? Has God brought you into the wilderness for a season? Can you hear His voice speaking to your heart?
Sometimes God leads us into the wilderness to refocus our minds and hearts upon Him. However, other times His purpose is to strengthen and test our faith, draw us closer to Him, and reveal more of Himself. Israel was brought into the wilderness for the first reason, but if you find yourself in that lonely, desolate place it may be for the second reason. The wilderness isn’t just a place of discipline; it’s the setting where God often meets us.
So when your life’s journey takes you into the wilderness, listen for God’s still voice and be attentive to the heart-to-heart conversation He’s trying to have with you. In that barren and quiet place, just be still before Him and let Him work. Whether you see it or not, God is working in the wilderness. The question is, will you answer and respond with your whole heart? Israel eventually did. So, will you?
“And there [wilderness] 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.”