Meditation or rumination can be a beautiful experience. As I have chewed on Hosea 2: 14-23, looking at it in different perspectives, growing my curiosity over specific words and ways that ideas were communicated – I am overcome with wave after wave of the depth of God’s love. Keep in mind that I am allowing myself to go back to the days of my abuse and hear these words from that perspective. And taking a bit of a risk, I am projecting how a woman caught in the claws of human trafficking and/or domestic abuse might hear this same passage.
Therefore, behold I will allure her (Israel) and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart.
The wilderness is often a subject of sermons and discussions among Christians. It has symbolized a place of wandering, exposure, despair, and testing. “Wilderness” is often likened to the experience of the Israelites after their exit from Egypt. A trip that should only have taken 3 days lasted 40 years because of their grumbling, disobedience and idolatry.
If you read Hosea 2 with that idea of wilderness, you might find it impossible for it to be alluring. How do you package rebellion, isolation, despair as something that would be fascinating or charming? How would the wilderness be desirable or a temptation to partake in?
For me “wilderness” symbolizes something entirely different. As a child I was content to be outside, sitting on a hillside alongside my constant companion Shalimar, a Pekingese we adopted when I was two. In my teen years I would retreat to the wild walks of Missouri searching for the flitting beauty of the birds, the precise construction of leaves, the simultaneous aroma of decay and life. It was in my wilderness that solitude with Christ restored and centered me.
You see, the wilderness for me took me out of the constant mental battle of all that was despised about me, the rejection, the false guilt, the control through coercion, the incongruence of the Christianity that was taught to me and the Christianity that was lived out towards me. It physically separated me from the spaces where 3-4 hour shouting, yelling, screaming arguments occurred and glasses were thrown in anger, and punches and kicks were distributed to those who dared to fight back.
The wilderness allowed me to focus on all that was good in this world. Though the birds endured greater hardship in the freedom of the wilderness they still sang. Though a tree was felled by a strike of lighting, its death would bring even more life to the ecosystem I observed. The wilderness offered me a place of hope, a place to heal.
So when Hosea 2 states that the Lord will allure her and bring her into the wilderness. I understood what a place of respite that would have been for her. In Gomer’s case, though frightened by intimacy (which is why I assume she left Hosea after bearing him 3 children) she would still long for the war in her mind to cease and the cacophony of the “life” to be made still. She would find it alluring to just “get away from it all.” Maybe a modern interpretation of her culture would be the blaring pounding beat of club music where she would be stationed to market herself to the next customer. Maybe it would be a way to escape from the demands of her customers, their compulsive desire to humiliate her, to have violent power over her. The wilderness would be an escape from the places where her instinct to survive suppressed the raw emotions of fear.
Perhaps the Lord allured her to the wilderness to give her a fighting chance to hear His tender and affectionate words while she warred against the fight or flight response of fear.
And what words would he speak? They were not words to her mind, reasoning with her about the abuse, logically categorizing her perpetrators into psychological families.
They were not words to her ego. For too many times comments about her beauty, her sexuality, or promises of another life that were broken immediately after he was gratified, were only another aspect of coercion and manipulation. Like me, too many gooey, dripping compliments were followed with constant criticism and an annihilation of anything that was good about me. Flirting and flattery were easily identified as poison, the effects were not immediately felt but were just as deadly.
The words the Lord spoke were to her heart. The center of her being, the place from which thought and emotion emerge. He spoke to the deepest part of her. Like deep calling to deep (Psalm 42:7)! He spoke of her value to him (Jer 31:3-4), of his intent for her life (Jer. 29:11.) He affirmed that she was not an object to be consumed (like a forbidden apple), or a possession to be used. He told her he would wait! Her affection, her intimacy would be her choice to give (Rev 3:20). It would never be manipulated from her. He would never promise something he didn’t intend to make good on (Psalm 145:13). And anything he gave her were gifts without strings (Matt 10:8.) He would give her blessings because of His compulsion to express how deeply he loved her.
Hosea 2:15 is a continuation of these tender words and how specifically he was speaking to her heart. And that is my next musing.
- Gomer, Israel and Me! (meakinsspeak.wordpress.com)
- Fears, Victories, and Wilderness Places (evermind.wordpress.com)
- Crosswalk Daily Devotional (momsfirstscreenn.wordpress.com)