Have you ever felt like you were in a season of wandering? I’m not talking about adventure seeking or site seeing, but true wilderness wandering. You’re stuck in the desert and can’t find your way out. No way home. Wandering.
There is some truth in the oft quoted Tolkienism, “Not all who wander are lost.” But in today’s text, Hosea isn’t talking about the kind of whimsical “off to find yourself” sort of wandering. What Hosea is describing to the Israelites is a hopeless sort of wandering, a diaspora. He’s predicting more of an Israelite refugee crisis than a couple weeks backpacking the Appalachian trail.
Why such harsh words? Didn’t God still love His people? YES! But the weight of their sin and the consequences of their actions were serious.
Sometimes we, too, need to pause and have a similar moment of startling revelation. You see, we have the benefit of being able to read this passage with the end of Hosea in mind (and with the Gospels in mind, for that matter!). Chapter 14 describes an opportunity for the people of God to repent and embrace blessing, but it is a difficult time. We know God loves His people and pursues His people, but Hosea shows us that His people need prophetic—and sometimes painful—moments to face the truth.
Sometimes we have to face the depths of our sin to know what exactly it is we are being saved from. If we were to jump straight from transgression to restoration, we might not ever break out of a perpetual cycle of the same sins.
True restoration comes in the wake of repentance—a repentance that understands the wrong committed, but also recognizes what hangs in the balance. The love of God, shown through the cross and resurrection of Christ, is never far from us. But the cross allows us to see the weight of our sin. Only then can we recognize that we can’t lift it.
God, in His love and wisdom, works toward our redemption through our repeated failures. This was the story of the nation of Israel: right relationship with God, followed by spiritual drift, followed by intentional rebellious sin, followed by prophetic truth-telling, followed by repentance, followed by restoration, and repeat cycle. In many ways, this mirrors each of our individual spiritual journeys.
While God’s restoring grace is a mystery to us in certain respects, there are a few things we can be sure of: 1) A healthy fear of God is never a bad thing; 2) understanding the weight of sin is painful and scary, but necessary; and 3) God, in His all-knowing and all-embracing love, is with us every step of the way, even if we don’t feel His presence.
Written By Andrew Stoddard