Therefore I am now going to allure her,God is speaking in these verses of how He is going to win Israel back to Himself by taking her out into the desert and then restoring what she had to her.
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards,
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
and in the day she came up out of Egypt. (NIV)
It struck me that God was going to lead Israel into the desert to draw them back to Him and restore Israel. By removing Israel from all the other distractions around them, God would be able to draw them back and then restore what Israel had that they had lost when they wandered away from God.
It got me started thinking about our lives. I think God still desires to lead us out into the desert at times, because He has plans for us that require it. But we seem to be very set on avoiding the desert, spiritually speaking, at almost any cost. It is not necessarily a pleasant place to go and so we try to keep ourselves from it. But, I have started to wonder what we miss because we try to avoid going there.
I know when I look back at my life, I can see how the times when I did end up in the spiritual desert were times that I grew the most and I left those times with far more from God than I went into them with. When we find ourselves in the desert we do not have anything that is distracting us from God and what He wants to say to us. We may feel like there is no way that God can be present in those times because all that we find familiar seems to be gone. But, it is in exactly those times that we are in the best place to hear from God because there is nothing to distract us from hearing His voice speaking tenderly to us.
Maybe, as followers of Christ, we need to change our thinking about spiritual deserts. Rather than seeking to avoid them at all costs, maybe we need to allow God to lead us into them when He feels that it is necessary for our growth. As we see in Hosea, God was wanting to use the time in the desert to draw Israel back to Himself. And I believe that He often does draw us closer to Him through those times in the desert, as we have nothing else to turn to so we turn to Him.
But, God goes on to talk about that which He desires to restore to Israel while in the desert. I believe God wants to use our times in the spiritual desert to restore things to us as well. As He draws us closer to Himself, He can restore a passion for His Word, for worship. He can restore an excitement for a dream He has given us. He can give us a desire for serving.
God does not lead us into the spiritual desert to be cruel. He does it to draw us closer and to restore to us things we have lost in the busy-ness of life. It is for our good, not our harm.
What would happen if we changed our view of the times in the desert?
It probably will still be hard to be in the desert. A desert is, afterall, a pretty harsh place to be. But, if we began to see the time there as for our good, rather than just to be cruel, I think we would begin to see things in our lives that we never dreamed of.
What is your response to being led into the desert? Do you try to avoid it at all costs? Or do you follow willingly?
What has been at the other end of the time in the desert in your life? Has is been worth that time in the desert?
What do you think would happen if the next time you felt like you were being led into the desert you went willingly, rather than trying to fight it?